Creating a safe internet environment at home – Part 1/3

The Internet has truly changed how we interact with the world around us. A hard bound encyclopedia seems like a concept as antiquated as stone tablets. Email? We all know what that is, but our kids will probably ask us someday what was meant by “Mail”-did you  write letters by hand and actually get news about your friends from something that took a week to move from one city to another??

The world our kids are growing up is very different and for them to thrive, they need to be connected to google, skype, whatsapp, facebook, wikipedia, twitter, flickr, scribd, burrp (!) whatever. We need to allow our kids to access all the good stuff the internet has to offer yet, somehow we also need to protect them from the seamy side of the internet – porn, malware, phishing sites, etc.

This is more difficult than one would think.

For one, technology evolves very quickly and for various reasons, we are generationally challenged in keeping up with changes as compared to our children. In other words, as far as internet technology is concerned, they tend to be smarter than us and the gap, unfortunately keeps getting wider as the years go by.

Secondly every parent has a different view on what type of protection their kids need. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and that makes it necessary for parents to more than just install a piece of software and forget about it.

Third, the open and unstructured nature of the internet implies that a perfect solution is just about impossible to implement. There is no automated solution that can filter out everything a parent might consider objectionable and yet leave the internet usable. Technology just hasn’t evolved to that level and may never do so. One can get close, but can never achieve complete protection. Just like in the real world-you can make it difficult for your children to be exposed to bad stuff but you cannot completely prevent it without locking  them up, which of course, is undesirable.

So what does a busy parent do who wants to ensure his family can make the best of the internet, yet stay safe? I have been confronted with this problem as I see my kids growing up. I have looked hard on the internet but have not found any completely satisfactory solution that a non technical parent could easily adopt. There are good solutions and bad ones and it takes a lot of effort sorting through the jargon and technology to understand what works.

In my subsequent post I will try to share how I have tried to address this problem. My aim is to present the solution in a manner that is easily understandable to most parents.

I hope this will be helpful to harried parents who want a safer internet environment in their homes.