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I my last blog, I talked about precautions I, as a user, take to protect my privacy on the internet. I go all sorts places in cyberspace, but they are all safe and secure places. Even if I read something in a post or article that directs me to another site, I leave immediately if I feel that it is in any way questionable. Threats to privacy are a legitimate concern, but do depend, to a great extent on the security of the sites I use and visit.

Perhaps 15 years ago, when the internet was new, and more and more interesting and helpful sites were going up, I thought it was neat. I began using it to collect information and ideas for teaching. I liked the idea that information could be shared worldwide, and that the more we could build our knowledge of important subjects, as well as of other people and cultures, the internet would be a positive thing. Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there who use the world wide web to disseminate harmful, dangerous, and distasteful content. Even criminal.

Today, I have serious doubts about children being left alone with internet access. As much as we warn them that there are places on the internet they shouldn’t go, bad guys are making it easier and easier for them to gain access to sites that are unfit for anyone, let alone children. The proliferation of porn on the internet is scary. If a child is on the web at home, at least parents can use a filter to control what they can see. Similarly using a device at school will protect them from dangerous content. But what happens to a child when they go for a sleepover, or just to stay with a relative who hasn’t taken the precautions parents may have? What about the increasing number of places that are wi-fi hotspots? What about kids bright enough to get around filters, because it can be and is done.

At this point in time, if I had a child who wanted a phone, a Kindle Fire, or a tablet (portable devices), I’d make them leave the latter two at home, and buy them a basic phone without a screen and wi-fi. An answer to this may lie with manufacturers. Children have a legitimate need these days for internet enabled devices. Some schools are even incorporating cell phones into their curriculum. (I might add, that other schools now have lockers for kids to deposit their phones in when the arrive at school, but some bright sparks  now have two phones so they can text each other during class.) If manufacturers were able to customize portable devices, even notebooks, with some kind of chip or embedded program which filters content, that would be a big benefit to our impressionable youth. Until then, children using internet-connected devices should be required to use them in a common area of the house where their usage can be monitored. If they want to take a device to their bedroom — for instance to read a book on their Kindle Fire, then it should be disabled on the home network.

Some of these precautions sound like overkill, but I beginning to believe they are not. Yes, it takes a little extra work to keep an eye on a kids using the computer in the family room, or disabling their internet access, but the pornocrats are devious and determined.

Any ideas reader want to share would be appreciated. I’ve got 10 grandchildren living in this wired world.

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