Can you protect your kids from the perils of the internet with software alone?
It’s happened all over the world millions of times, and it goes like this; your child has been lobbying long and hard for a PC and has just hit a milestone like passed her exams with good grades, made honor roll or turned 16 or has just worn you down with months or even years of nagging.
Now she has a brand new system, and it’s connected to the internet, oh joy!
But then, as you set it up, all kinds of questions rear their ugly heads:
- Will my wonderful, innocent child abuse this privilege?
- Will she spend hours playing online games rather than doing homework?
- Will he communicate with predators?
- Will she have her identity stolen?
- Will he post indecent pictures of himself thinking only his special friend will see it?
- Will she see the mountains of horrendous pornography that flows around the sewers of the internet?
All of this happens in real life, and it could happen to your precious child. But we’re in luck: The PC vendor, OS developer, the game industry and our ever-vigilant government wants to help us protect the innocent. They have something called parental controls to help us limit the risks described above.
Now we don’t have to worry about these terrible things that can happen; in fact they happen to other less diligent people than we don’t they? So you set up the system and carefully retain administrator rights to the machine so nothing untoward can happen and if it did we would be right on top of it immediately.
But we have planted the roots to our own demise. We are on a business trip and get a call from home that the controls are too restrictive and even googling “American Revolution” blocks legitimate sites. So you give them the admin password, and the controls are loosened.
Every thing’s going along fine until you realize that even though have the system set to turn off at 9 p.m. each night, your child seems to be able to use the computer whenever she wants.
We log on and find there is a new admin account with your child name on it. How'd that happen?!?
Well, it turns out that the internet will also tell your offspring how to defeat the very controls you put on the machine, and the OS vendor (in this case Apple) can’t stop someone overriding the boot up sequence.
What’s the lesson
? Parental controls are a myth. Protecting your kids is only as good as your own vigilance and how you talk to your children about using computers. It’s no different than how you talk to them about crossing the road when they’re in kindergarten and learning to drive when they’re in high school.
If you have found a better way to guide children on the use of computers please weigh in! We could use the collective wisdom!
David Blaza is senior vice president of UBM Electronics (the company that publishes
EE Times and
EDN). David has over 20 years of sales, marketing, and publishing experience in the technology sector working for companies as diverse as IBM, Motorola, Mars Electronics, CMP, and now United Business Media. He is a graduate of the University of Bradford, England (BS, Materials Science) and the University of Stirling, Scotland (MS in Economics & Technology).