Security Awareness Blog

Two Lessons Learned for Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

As a security awareness officer I'm always interested in new ways to improve awareness training. As a father of three I'm always doing the same, but for my kids. In many ways securing your kids at home faces the same challenges at work. You create an Acceptable Use Policy, you ensure your kids understand and follow the policy, and over time you update the policy. I've recently learned two new tricks to help kids follow such a policy.

  1. Homework Account: One thing I always recommend is having a dedicated computer just for kids. This way if one of your children accidentily infect their computer, it does not impact any of the sensitive online activity you or your spouse does, such as online banking. In addition I always recommend a separate account for each child, so you can track and limit what each child does (such as time limits). In our house each child gets 30 minutes of fun computer time on weekdays and 60 minutes on weekend (they are all boys so its all about gaming). The problem was homework or online learning, that activity would use up their precious fun time. Solution? Create a generic homework account that has no time limit, this is where they do their homework or online learning (khanacademy.org, wikipedia.org, etc). For their personal, fun account they get access to what they want (with blacklisting thanks to parental controls and opendns.org) but limited time. With the homework account they get unlimited time but only for educational programs (such as MS Office) or educational sites via whitelisting. So far this balance works out well. It allows them to have some fun, but also encourages them to maximize computer time for educational benefits.
  2. Bullying: Okay, this one caught me by surprise. Cyber bullying can be a very destructive problem, so just like you I'm always on the lookout for any signs or problems. However I realized I was looking for the wrong signs, I was looking for words like 'bully' or 'mean'. However this younger generation is very tech saavy, and may use different words. Just recently my eight year old was telling me about kids who were online 'trolls' or 'griefing' each other. Wow, I did not know kids used those words. However, this made me realize that this newer generation has a different vocabularly, and to support them be aware they may use different words than you expect.

2 Comments

Posted January 9, 2013 at 10:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

Chris

Wondering if you have any recommendations for add-on software to help with this. Any freeware or anything inexpensive that you would recommend? Any cloud services that you recommend for Internet proxy to control website usage by category rather than white list?
Thanks,
Chris

Posted January 10, 2013 at 2:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

lspitzner

Chris, the big one I always recommend is OpenDNS (www.opendns.org). What I love about this service is not only is it so simple and powerful, but free. It not only protects against malicious sites, but you can select what types of other categories you want to block also, such as porn or hate sites. Also, be sure to check the parental controls for your system. For example Mac OSX and Windows both have new and powerful features. Finally, I'll be dead honest I have yet to find a commercial solution I'm impressed with. You need to install the software on all devices kids use (much harder then you think) and I'm always dissapointed in the reporting. Educating your kids and talking to them is really the best defense I have found.