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When You Can’t Build The Great Firewall Of China…

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Yesterday marked the celebration of global Safer Internet day. This year’s theme “Create, connect and share respect: a better internet starts with you”, is a call to action for parties across the world to play their part in creating a safer internet environment for the youth of today. More than that, it is an invitation for everyone to join in and engage with others in a respectful way, in order to ensure a better digital experience for all!

As with the real world, the Internet has its dodgy, grimy side – and it’s all too easy for kids to stray into it. Click-click and a Paw Patrol fan’s search for “cute puppies” turns up raunchy pictures of women wearing nothing but their birthday suits. Porn, questionable characters, hate groups and misinformation flourish online. To preserve the best of what’s online for your kids and avoid the garbage, Anne Reeks from have come up with a very helpful list, since we can’t jump in and build a great firewall like China did…

1. Step into their cyberworld
“Parents have to get involved. Just as they know every detail of the playground around the corner – the jungle gym, the swings – they need to know their kids’ online playground as well,” says Tim Lordan, staff director of the Internet Education Foundation, a non-profit group that produces the online safety guide GetNetWise. It may be hard to keep your eyes open after visiting what seems like the 100th website devoted to Barbie, but playing co-pilot to your child is the best way to make sure she gets a smooth ride. By the time she’s 7, you won’t need to be glued to her side, but you should be somewhere in the room or checking in frequently.

2. Set house rules
Decide how much time you’re comfortable with your children being online and which sites they may go to. You might post a short list or even a signed contract (like the free ones at next to the computer. So, there’s no confusion, talk about the rules – and the consequences for breaking them.

3. Teach them to protect their privacy
While they won’t fully understand the consequences of revealing personal information online, you should still make sure your children know:

* never to give their name, phone number, email address, password, postal address,
school, or picture without your permission.
* not to open emails from people they don’t know.
* not to respond to hurtful or disturbing messages (and goodness are there

* Keep them OFF Facebook! Like cellphones in our time, they can be in high school
before having the privilege of their own social account.
* not to get together with anyone they “meet” online.

4. Know that location is key
Keep the computer in a central spot, where it’s easy to monitor its use. See no evil, hear no evil, do no evil does not work when it comes to cyberspace!

5. Turn your ISP into your ally
Before buying a safety product, experts recommend that you work with what you’ve got, starting with your Internet service provider (ISP). MSN, SBC Yahoo!, EarthLink, and others have reliable, free parental controls that can limit children’s access to websites and communication features.

6. Make your browser work double-time
If your ISP lacks that capability, you still have some safe-surfing options at hand on your browser (the program that enables you to view web pages). Internet Explorer has Content Advisor (under Tools/Internet Options/Content), which filters out language, nudity, sex, and violence on a 0 to 4 scale. Netscape and Safari (for Mac users) have parental controls like filtering as well. Using your browser won’t get you the comprehensive results that a safety product or your ISP would yield, but it can be suitable for the times you’re sitting next to your little one surfing the net.

7. Tune up your search engine
Your search engine can be pressed into service for free. (But be aware: A savvy child could switch the settings back.) Once you set restrictions, Google will block sites with explicit sexual material (Preferences/SafeSearch Filtering). AltaVista puts several types of offensive content off-limits with its Family Filter (Settings/Family Filter setup).

8. Call on software for assistance
While no technology is fail-safe, it does add another layer of protection. “The key is to make sure you have something that reflects your values and is just technological help, as opposed to trying to take over your role as a parent,” says Parry Aftab, executive director of, a non-profit Internet safety and education organisation with several websites. So, make sure you can make changes to fit your family’s needs. Though these tools will cost you, most offer a free trial period, and all are champs at doing your bidding. Just ask yourself, what’s your primary goal?


You are still the parent and teacher in control… don’t let the dark web of misinformation be you or your child’s downfall!

When You Can’t Build The Great Firewall Of China…


Inge Liebenberg




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