Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Steps for keeping your kids safe on the Web, conclusion

I live on the Lefty coast, and naturally I did hear some “negative feedback” from friends and neighbors who seemed to think my suggestion (in part 2) was out of line. Spy on your kids?? Appalling!! What about their Rights?! I said to them what I say to you: the Internet isn’t some Shirley Temple movie (and, consider this, would there have been a Columbine if those boy’s parents had taken one look at their Internet activities?) and you — as a parent — not only have the Right, but the Responsibility, to keep an eye on your kids. Just like in the rest of our modern world, on the Web you can find crooks and con artists, perverts and pedophiles, sickos and snake-oil salesmen — it pays to be cautious.

I will repeat: talk to your kids and tell them of the dangers. Tell them to not give out their address and phone number or post pictures of themselves. Here is in an excellent advice article on what to tell your kids, Top Ten Safety Tips.

Tip(s) of the day: Learn the lingo and find out what’s being said in the chatroom and IM’s. As I said in an early article, people in chatrooms/IM’s (and “texting”) don’t communicate in simple sentences and proper grammer, but use an abreviated code-language. This “code” is not meant for parents to understand.

Step 1) Restrict IM’s to known friends. There are many different ‘flavors’ of IM programs — AOL, Microsoft, Google, ICQ, ie. — and they all can be set to only allow incoming chats, or invitations to chat, from known friends (often called “buddies”). Make sure this feature is enabled when you install the program when you’re creating your child’s (Limited) user account (to read part 1 of this series, creating a user account, click here) by selecting the proper Privacy settings. Each IM is a little different, but these settings can usually be found under the Options menu. If you have any troubles, look in the IM’s Help files/FAQ’s for the specifics.

Step 2) Monitor both sides of IM converations: Most of the “Pro” (read “not free”) parental control programs allow you to record instant messages and chats. If you have one, turn that feature on. If you are using one that doesn’t, there are free IM monitoring software which I will point you to in the “today’s free link” area (below) which you should download and install. With the program installed and the feature turned on, you will see a “log” of your child’s online converations. This is eaves-dropping (with hard proof) I admit.

I will repeat my suggestion that, again, what you’re doing is really only keeping an eye out for risky behavior, and if you see it, you can then decide on your next steps. There will no doubt be quite a few “chats” in the log. (It is reported that the only thing kids do more than “text” and “chat” is watch television!) It will probably be as easy to read as Farsi, though you will probably recognize “brb” and “lol”. Find the ‘odd’ ones (it shouldn’t take you long to figure out which ones are from friends and schoolmates), or pick a few that are almost completely in “code”. Go to a lingo translator site, like Lingo2Word, and copy/paste a suspicious section of your child’s chat into the automatic translator. Now you should be able to understand the gist of the discussion.

If you run across a particular acronym, and want to know what it means, you can use a Lingo Dictionary like Net Lingo, which is often updated with the latest “codewords”. I should warn you that “urban” (read “hip”, “with it”, or “in”) language is quite foul and violent. It may shock you to hear the ways kids speak outside of adult earshot. (One benefit of the Hip Hop Culture.)

I sincerely hope your occasional monitoring of your child’s online activities turns out to be nothing more than a minor inconvenience to you. And please, don’t write me and tell me how wrong it is for me to post this advice … I’ve already been told.

Today’s free links: This page offers the free downloads for three of the more popular IM ‘flavors’. (If the IM your child uses is not listed here, use a search engine to search for “monitoring IM name chats”.) Click here, and scroll till you see the right IM, and click on the “free download” link.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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July 30, 2007 - Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, kids and the Internet, PC, security, security zones, tech, Vista, Windows, XP


  1. Harry did an interview on the Today Show with a woman who gave tips on child safety…worth watching, ro the same old stuff?


    Comment by Ian from | July 30, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the tips. My kids are too young for computers, but they’ll be of age before I know it.

    Another tip would be to configure your PC’s BIOS settings to power on/off at certain times of day. I think some wireless routers (Linksys) also offer time-of-day restrictions as well. These days, kids know more about these settings than adults.


    Comment by Mike McGinley | July 30, 2007 | Reply

  3. The interview shown in the link Ian has sent is worth watching, and will only take two minutes of your time.

    The woman is the founder of an excellent (and large)resource site for kids and parents.


    Comment by techpaul | July 31, 2007 | Reply

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