I was 17 and working part-time at the local
library one evening when two young boys discovered some risqué reading
material in one of our back rooms. After noticing that they’d spent an
abnormally long period of time in the back with nary a parent in sight, I
headed in the direction of the giggling and whispering to investigate their
I apparently startled the youngsters, causing them to
accidentally drop the book they had been intently browsing and turn scarlet
with embarrassment. After staring awkwardly at me for a moment, they took
off without saying a single word, winding their way through the bookshelves
until they left the building and reached the safety of the parking lot.
Needless to say, I never saw those boys again.
In 2010, kids sneaking to get a peek at inappropriate
books at their local library is nothing compared with what’s available on
the World Wide Web. Parental supervision is now of paramount importance in
this society where our freedom of speech, as granted by the Constitution,
has been stretched to its furthest limit, and where our children are
learning about the information superhighway in school, on television, from
their friends, and through simple investigation. Their favorite stores
promote their company websites — encouraging modern-day Little Red Riding
Hoods to go skipping freely through the sites with hopes of finding all
their favorite things. Little do they know that Big Bad Wolf websites can be
found around every corner on the way to Grandma’s House — or, that is, their
The World Wide Web can be a parent’s best friend and
worst enemy. It parallels real life — complete with obnoxious and exploitive
people, as well as the “good parts of town” and the “bad parts of town.” The
key is to know where the bad parts of town are located and how to stop your
children from wandering into these off-limit areas and subsequently meeting
crude and exploitive wolves who take advantage of the Internet’s anonymity.
A History Lesson
In addition to issuing repetitive reminders to use great
caution when entering chat rooms and never divulging any personal
information while surfing the World Wide Web, parents can also do some
precautionary snooping. No flashlights or camouflage attire needed — just
one tip on how to retrace your kids’ steps on the computer. Don’t think of
it as invading their privacy. Rather, think of it as just being a little
nosy for their own good.
After your kids finish surfing the web, open the web
browser and click on the History button at the top, which will display a
list of the sites your child visited. This is how you can discern to what
extent your child’s Internet activity should be monitored.
A second option is to download software that will prevent
your kids from making innocent mistakes that lead to inappropriate results.
CYBERsitter (www.solidoak.com), Cyber Patrol (www.cyberpatrol.com), Net
Nanny (www.netnanny.com), and KidsWatch (www.kidswatch.com) are all websites
that provide concerned parents with software that will block adult-oriented
content and graphic file downloads, as well as filter offensive terms and
phrases from reaching your child’s curious eyes.
Watch the Mail
Another doorway through which Internet predators may
sneak is your child’s e-mail account. Along with those messages written in a
condensed anti-parent format that you haven’t quite mastered yet (ttyl, ruok,
lol, sup, bcnu, l8r — look familiar?), may also be pornographic messages
from unrecognizable sources. How do Internet companies gain access to your
e-mail address? In some cases, your “cookie,” an identity file in your
browser, is responsible for giving away your profile. Some websites track
your name, e-mail address, the type of computer you’re using, and even the
sites you’ve recently visited. Scary, huh? Again, cyberspace parallels the
Most often used to accumulate visitor data (or, as they
claim, “to give you a more personalized browsing experience”), your cookie
is solicited at most of the sites you visit. Therefore, if you visit the
wrong site, you may be bombarded with pesky junk e-mail messages that are
unavoidable. Arm yourself with cyberspace’s version of pepper spray —
anonymity. Conceal your cookie by changing your Internet security options.
The drawback: Being anonymous may prevent you from seeing or hearing some
interactive content unless you reveal your identity, and may turn your
cruising into a crawl. Also, make sure your child knows to use the Block
Sender option on all inappropriate messages.
Anyone concerned with a child’s welfare protects that
child from the imminent dangers that exist in the real world, and does his
or her best to prepare that child to venture out from under his or her
protective wing, but the danger is becoming increasingly invasive. It’s time
to apply the same caution inside the home by being wary of the “Big Bad
Wolf” who lurks in your very own den.