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Computers, Children, and On-Line Content: How to get kids online and keep them safe

“Companies are getting better [at implementing child safety on the Internet], but , engagement with the child, showing them how to get to the right sites, and stay away from the bad ones is the key to success.”

Introduction The Internet is an excellent place for finding information, looking up phone numbers, and looking at silly cat videos. But, as everyone knows, there is a dark side of the Internet. It isn’t very well policed and even trying to look for useful information can put you on a wrong website. Children, through mobile devices, game systems, and also old-school desktop computers can pull reports back from the web in record time. How do you ensure that the sites they receive are not riddled with bad images and information? How do you keep your kids safe on the Internet?

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) The summary of this rule is: “COPPA imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age.” COPPA is the primary driver for setting the line at 13 years of age for companies to collect information. Let’s think about it this way. Your child downloads a game from the Internet onto your tablet. Your tablet has all of your accounts stored in cookies, making it easier to shop at Amazon, buy a pizza, or do just about anything. The game your kid installs can do “in-app purchases,” allowing them (if the credit card information on the device) to make purchases on your behalf and sometimes without your approval, racking up hundreds of dollars in fees. Also, it is unsettling that the maker of these free games are capturing behavior statistics about your children, without your knowledge, because they like to play a particular app. Another example has to do with pedophiles and other strangers who can have access to your child without your knowledge. As a parent, you need to know who is contacting your child, when, how long, and what they are saying. COPPA can protect kids, but nothing beats parent engagement with the child, demonstrating through action on acceptable Internet usage. Most companies have implemented COPPA follow the same process:

  1. The child creates account,
  2. The parent receives email from child, via the company product or web resources, to get access,
  3. The parent grants access to the child to obtain the company’s product, and
  4. The parent receives a weekly log, monitoring the child’s movements on the Internet (or within the program).

Family On-Line Safety Institute (FOSI) As a parent, digital literacy, knowing how things work in the electronic frontier is key to understanding how to work with your child. FOSI focuses on the three P’s: Policy, Practice, and Parenting. COPPA only works until they are 13, then after that, they are on their own. Teaching them how to be a good digital citizen today will shape their view of the Internet in the future.

“The Family Online Safety Institute is an international, non-profit organization which works to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes leaders in industry, government and the non-profit sectors to collaborate and innovate new solutions and policies in the field of online safety. Through research, resources, events and special projects, FOSI promotes a culture of responsibility online and encourages a sense of digital citizenship for all.” — FOSI Mission Statement


Microsoft Child’s Account Microsoft is the dominant operating system on the planet for desktop computers. Most of the time, we do not have passwords on the computer to make it easier for other family members to use the computer. Although the ease of access is excellent, the level of tracking to keep your kids safe is just not there. You can check the router to see the traffic flowing through it. Windows 10 is the current flavor of the operating system from Microsoft. The link below shows you how to set up a child’s account within Windows 10. WIth a Windows 10 Parent account, you can set up:

  • Spending limits,
  • Content limitations,
  • Screen time limits,
  • Duration of activity on each device by Host Name, and
  • Web Search information.

GCF Learn (the website below) will take you step-by-step through the process of creating child accounts on your computers. All of this information is free, and they have thousands of lessons on the latest technology.

“For more than a decade, the program has helped millions around the world learn the essential skills they need to live and work in the 21st century. From Microsoft Office and email to reading, math, and more, offers more than 180 topics, including more than 2,000 lessons, 800+ videos, and 55+ interactives and games, completely free” — GCFLearnFree Website

Google for Families Google’s approach for implementing COPPA requires you to download the “Google Family Link” application. According to the frequently asked questions (FAQ), Family Link is for Android N, Apple IOS, and the web browser.

“As your child begins using their first Android* device, you can create a Google Account for them that’s like your own, and the Family Link app from Google can help you set certain digital ground rules that work for your family — you can manage the apps that your child can use, keep an eye on screen time and set a bedtime on your child’s device.” — Google Family Link Website

For those devices that do not meet the requirements for Family Link, they provide an FAQ page: .
YouTube Kids Works with the Google Family Link app in ensuring you can set what kind of videos they can watch. You must install the YouTube Kids app on the device for it to work with Family Link.


Amazon Households Amazon, you might have heard of them, they are a worldwide retailer of everything on the planet. As Google did for “Family Link,” Amazon has created a super account to handle sharing of Prime and Family Library. Within one household you are allowed:

  • Two adults (18+), each with an Amazon account,
  • Four teen profiles (13–17), each with login to shop or stream, monitoring activity, and
  • Four child profiles (12 and under) Freetime, but no shopping
“Amazon Household allows you to share Amazon benefits with another adult, teens, and children in your household. Both adults share select Prime Benefits, digital content using Family Library, and can manage the profiles of teens and children in the Household. Teens in the household can share select Prime benefits too.” — Amazon Households site (link below)


Facebook Facebook does not allow 13-year-old and under people to join. Why? Facebook collects data from you as soon as you log into the computer. Everything that you post, every ad you interact with, is read, stored, and sent back to you as a targeted ad. Adults understand that kind of data collection and mining is happening behind the scenes and accept it to be a part of the broader Facebook community.

Monitor Web Traffic through your Router The example that I use below is for the Linksys router, but every home router should have this capability. You might need to log into the router to ensure that logging is enabled. Your interests are in the “Outgoing Log,” which is the web address requests made inside of your house to the outside world. The log should be overwritten every couple of days as there are only a few megabytes of room to store traffic records on the router.


Conclusion The best way to keep kids from the Internet is to block it using your Router. A few weeks ago, I talked about how to prevent specific sites using your router (HTTP). Companies are getting better, but as I mentioned before, engagement with the child, showing them how to get to the right sites and stay away from the bad ones, is the key to success. Learn how to use your router to log all Internet traffic, regardless of device. Use time restrictions to keep the kids off of the Internet when they are supposed to sleep.

Next blog The next blog entry is going to be about “Ten Minutes to Re-Ignite Your Life.”

Comments If you have any TTP (tactics, techniques, or procedures) concerning keeping kids educated, informed, and out of harms way on the Internet: please leave a comment and let everyone know.

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