Monday, May 9, 2011

Guest Post: Nolan on The Internet, Your Children, and You

My name is Nolan and I am married to Sara, your regularly scheduled writer. I work at the Univesity of South Dakota and do some web maintenance for Elegant Mommy. I was asked to write a post about internet privacy and protection, as computers are both an interest and a job for me, and so I present to you my thoughts. Look for Shelly and Sara to be doing follow-up posts of their own views on raising children in the digital age.

It is 2011, and the internet is accessible from home, the closest laundromat, fast food restaurant, or your mobile phone. This provides incredible power, but with that power there must be a sense responsibility. As users and parents of users, matters of internet privacy are should be a growing concern. The internet is a tool. Like a hammer, it can be used to build, encouraging education and development. But, like a hammer, it can also be used to destroy things – identities, finances, friendships, and families. What can we, as users and parents, do to ensure the privacy and protection of ourselves and our loved ones?

Also known as censorware or web filtering software, content-control software aids in controlling what a user may or may not view. Schools and libraries use tools like these to filter out pornography, block access to chat rooms, and to cut back on students using computers to update Facebook when they should be working on their research papers. Employers use content control for many of the same reasons. Parents and other individuals concerned with what is accessed on their computers have ways of implementing content control, as well. Below is a short list of content control software with brief descriptions of what the software does.

K9 Web Protection from Blue Coat Systems – Serving more than 2 million homes, K9 offers an excellent service at no cost. The software can be installed on Windows PCs, Apple computers, and even the iPhone and iPad. There is no database installed to eat up system resources that can be put to better use; the software is linked to an online database that is updated in real time. It provides categorized blocking of sites related to drugs, gambling, pornography, and violence in addition to blocking of known malware/spyware and phishing sites. The only potential downside is that it does not currently offer per-user filtering, so the same set of filters is applied to all users, children and parents alike. Whether you want to protect yourself or your children, K9 is an excellent starting point. For details, please visit the product website at

System Surveillance Pro from Golden Plains Software – If you are looking for a solution to multiple privacy and protection concerns and are willing to pay $50, System Surveillance Pro is a robust piece of software that may suit your needs. It comes with internet site blocking and tracking, tracking of instant messages, time limiting, a keylogger, and a host of other features. The power of this tool, like the internet, also presents an opportunity for discussion of proper use. Do you need a keylogger to track accounts, passwords, and everything your child types or is there more trust in your relationship? Do time limits need to be enforced by software or by rules? These are questions to consider when using any content control software, but the more powerful the solution, the more invasive it may be, the more you need to consider your precise views on what is and isn’t appropriate for your child. For more details, please visit the product website at

ZoneAlarm SocialGuard by Check Point Software Technologies – Facebook provides opportunities and dangers. Amazing powers of communication and community are offset by shifting privacy policies, social engineering being used to spread viruses and malware, and the potential threat of bullying and directed predatory behavior. SocialGuard offers a targeted solution for Facebook users and parents of Facebook users, providing tools to detect cyberbullying, dangerous links, strangers attempting to contact your children, inappropriate content, and signs that your child’s account has been hacked or compromised. In addition to SocialGuard, ZoneAlarm has other excellent offerings to protect your privacy, your data, and your children. For more information, please visit the ZoneAlarm website at

I’m not here to preach about how much or how little you should be involved with what your children are doing online, I’m just here to provide some useful tools that can help protect the privacy of both you and your children. The most useful tool I can provide you with is an education. If you have not seen it, please take the time to watch the PBS Frontline special “Growing Up Online”. It provides excellent, factual, and frank insight into the lives of the Internet Generation, material both shocking and relieving. As our children are not the only ones online, PBS produced a follow-up covering more details of the “Digital Nation”. Information is the most powerful tool in the universe; with it comes knowledge and understanding, and only by understanding a problem can we properly address it.

1 comment:

Elegant Mommy said...

Great Post Nolan! Thanks for opening the door for discussion for many parents!