4 Signs Your Kids Might Be In Danger Online

By Linsey Knerl on 14 September 2010 2 comments
Photo: iStock

The internet can be an amazing opportunity for children and young adults to explore, connect, and learn. It can also harbor a world of stranger danger, viruses, and information that is inappropriate for little eyes. Check out this preview of 2 of the 4 red flags for internet safety from our recent My Life Scoop article, and how you can protect against them.

Warning Sign #1: Your child is old enough to know how to restart (or even hack) a computer.

If you kids has reached an age of computer savvy that’s on par with an adult (for many this is as early as seven years old), beware of attempts to work around your existing security software. For many kids, it may be as simple as pressing the power button and logging in as a guest. For others, it may take a more sophisticated method of using a bootable "Live CD" with Linux or even Windows operating system: Insert the CD, press the reset button, and they're online with no security. Because the PC's normal operating system is not active, this method (which exploits "console vulnerability") leaves no trace on the PC.

The Fix: You can prevent future “hacks” in two steps, according to David Witkowski of OKU Solutions, a Silicon Valley consulting group. "You need to implement domain-name service (DNS) blocking in the network router, which keeps sites from ever reaching your PC." Do this by visiting www.OpenDNS.org and signing up for a free FamilyShield account. OpenDNS will then allow you to select what types of sites you want to block, and will provide instructions for modifying your network router's settings. (You can also shop for a router that offers built-in DNS blocking). You must also prevent the block from being removed through a "factory default reset" (pressing that little red button on the router, itself). This can only be done by physically securing the network router in a locked cabinet or room.

Warning Sign #2: Your child is younger than 13, and has friends that are using networks like Facebook and MySpace (or has an account themselves).

It’s becoming fairly common to hear of kids with their own social networking accounts, but that are too young to use them legally under the terms of the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). In response, many children (often with their parent’s permission) are getting accounts by fibbing on their birth date during the registration process.

The Fix: Read and understand the terms of COPPA, as well as for each site frequented, and explain them to your child. If a site requires that you child be of age to obtain a membership, carefully weigh whether they need one before the legal age and understand there may be consequences. (Facebook, for example, specifically prohibits anyone under the age of 13 from accessing the site, and provides a report link to notify them of such activity.) Let your child know that their private info should never be displayed online. 

Do you have concerns about your child’s online safety? Learn about the other two warning signs in our original article!

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Guest's picture

Completely stupid. Just because your child knows how to turn on a computer or get on facebook doesn't mean hes in danger of the internet. It just shows they know how to work a computer. It's the adults job as a parent to decide to let their kids do it in the first place.

Guest's picture

I'm stunned at the stupidity of this article. Also bios locking the boot order with a password would be a much easier fix for #1 then dns blocking at the router and physically securing it