Here is a funny story that has a point.
There once was an individual that worked at a children’s home. (NO, it’s not me) He decided we wanted to have a wireless network so he could work on his laptop anywhere in the house. He bought a router, plugged it in, and got everything hooked up and working. A knowledgeable person (Me), told him for months that he needed to secure his network to keep other people from using it, but of course he didn’t listen.
Anyway several people on campus and in the neighborhood have been using his Internet connection. In fact about a week ago, one our college kids came back for the weekend and brought her notebook computer with her. She and several other girls proceeded to access the Internet and view large quantities of inappropriate material. The housemom caught them and contacted administration. Needless to say, that individual came and asked me how to secure their network today.
Moral of the story is, if your going to have a wireless network make sure it is secure. Wireless devices are easy to get and can be used with any computer. A smart kid can get hold of a USB network device and use it to connect virtually any computer to your insecure wireless network without your knowledge, even the old donated desktop unit they use to play games on.
Securing a wireless network is real easy and is explained in the manual or quick-start guide you get with the router. Things to remember are:
- Change the ssid. Anybody that knows anything about wireless routers, knows that the default ssid is “default”
- Do not broadcast your ssid. Unless you own a business that offers wireless access, there is no reason to broadcast your ssid.
- Encrypt your signal. The easiest way to keep somebody off your network is to require a key. This will also provide some protection to the personal data on your machine. There are so many insecure networks out there that a hacker will most likely leave your machine alone and move onto easier pickings if you require a key to log on.
Let’s not make it easy for our kids to get in trouble – secure that network!
If you are concerned about the things your children see on the Internet and want to try and protect them from it, don’t count on technology to do it for you. I work at a children’s home that uses the most current filtering software to try and protect our children from the bad influences of the Internet. I found out today how easy it is to defeat.
You would think that since I work with the Internet everyday that I would know about these things, but I had never heard of tunnel proxies until today. Tunnel proxies are what our children use to access blocked sites such myspace.com, penthouse.com, and all the other sites that our filtering software is supposed to block. Type in “unblock myspace” or “tunnel proxy” in a search engine and you will get listing after listing of different sites that offer a free tunnel proxy to allow your children to access material you thought was being blocked by your filtering software.
Using several of these proxies I was able to view several of the sites that our filtering software was supposed to be blocking. Just so you know, we use top of the line filtering software installed on our server and updated daily. I am sure there are other programs that can be used to stop these proxies but I am also sure it will just continue to be a tit for tat game of cat and mouse that will continued to played with us putting up blocks and somebody else writing software to defeat it.
So the realization that I came to today as did our administrators is that protecting our children from the Internet comes down to good parenting skills; you can’t rely on technology to do it for you.
So what can you do?
- Be clear with your children and explain to them your expectations and under what conditions they will be allowed to continue to use the computer.
- Keep the computers in the public parts of the house. Children are less likely to view offensive material if they have to do it in a public place.
- Do not be a afraid to look over their shoulder when they are viewing the internet. Accountability goes a long ways in helping somebody make good choices. If they suddenly close the browser as you approach, don’t be afraid to look at the history and see what they were viewing. There are also programs that run in the background that can record sites viewed and everything typed by the user.
- If your child continues to view inappropriate material don’t be afraid to block them from the computer. There are several good programs that can be used to limit access to the computer and internet. At the facility I work at we use “Computer Time” and I highly recommend it.
- Don’t bury your head in the sand and think your children are immune from the garbage on the internet, turns out every kid on campus over the age for 13 knew how to do this. Be proactive, and most of all spend time with them, get to know them, and know what they are doing (have a relationship with them).
- Continue to use filtering software; it still works great for protecting younger children from the perils of the internet.
I believe these measures can be effective whether you are a birth parent trying to limit the offensive material your children have access to or a houseparent trying to do the same for the children in your care.