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Teaching kids about computer viruses

Most parents spend a lot of time worrying about protecting kids from online predators. But what about protecting the family computer from kids who download games or ringtones that disguise viruses or malware? Here’s how to keep the computer — and the kids — safe.

Tween boy on computer

If your kids use a computer, then you probably know all the basics about keeping them safe online. You’ve told them not to give out their real names in chat rooms, you make sure they use the computer in a central room in the house, and you keep tabs on their email and instant messages. And you might be tempted to think you’re doing everything you need to do.

But, of course, nothing about this parenting gig is easy. While you’ve been busy worrying about keeping the kids safe online, you’ve most likely overlooked the need to keep the computer safe as well.

>> Kids on the internet: Safety tips for parents

Understanding the danger

What exactly could the kids do to the computer that doesn’t involve chocolate syrup or soda? Plenty, as it turns out. Even on kid-friendly sites, there may be clickable ads; bright, flashing banners informing kids they’ve just won a new iPod; or invitations to vote in an exciting new survey.

A couple of clicks later and your child has entered his mailing address — because how else will he get his free iPod? — and your computer has a fresh bath of spyware installed, unbeknownst to you. All this in the time it took you to go to the bathroom, and from a “safe” site.

>> Kids and website safety

Setting limits?

What’s a concerned parent to do? Some respond by simply forbidding kids to use the internet at all. That works right up until your kids go to school or a friend’s house and get online. On top of that, says Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO and founder of Comodo, a computer, internet, and enterprise security company, “the internet is a fabulous resource and learning tool. We don’t want to create technology and then not allow our children to benefit.”

“You cannot expect children to be security experts — it’s totally unrealistic,” Abdulhayoglu says. “You can teach them to avoid pop-ups and banners, but you must accept the fact that they will never be able to manage their own online security,” he says, adding that his own 7-year-old son searches online for games and homework solutions as well as exploring other interests.

>> Get some ideas about teens and online privacy

Take control of the computer

As Abdulhayoglu says, “the door to the internet is already open.” Short of slamming it shut and bolting it — not a great solution — what can parents do? One solution is to start using an online security provider such as Comodo Internet Security. The latest release — which is available as a free download — includes easy-to-use parental controls that can put you back in charge of your children’s internet experience.

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Of course, a software solution doesn’t eliminate the need for watchful parenting, but it’s an important part of your total internet security plan. With parental controls in place, you’re back in the driver’s seat, even if you leave the room for a moment while your kids are online. Proper protection lets you block confidential information and helps keep your computer safe from criminal hands.

For more on teaching kids internet smarts:

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