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Friday, 18 August, 2000, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Do you know what your children are up to on the net?

More than one in seven parents have admitted they do not know what their children use the internet for, according to a survey.

Homework, e-mailing friends and checking out websites to do with their hobbies were reasons given out by more clued-up mums and dads. But how close an eye do parents keep on their family's internet habits?

Do you monitor your offspring when they're surfing the net, or do you leave them to get on with it? Do you use any form of screening? Tell us your views and experiences. HAVE YOUR SAY

I'm surprised at the lack of concern about monitoring that is often being expressed here

Andy, England
I'm surprised at the lack of concern about monitoring that is often being expressed here. It's not just a few pictures of naked ladies that your child may be looking at. They may be conversing with a paedophile, viewing live sex acts, child pornography, learning how to make a parcel bomb, buying drugs or perhaps being recruited by a weird cult. And you will not be able to trace what they are doing. Are you not just a little concerned?
Andy, England

It's good to see that parents trust their children to surf - perhaps now employers can start trusting their employees...
John, UK

Net filtering software like net nanny is not usable because it even blocks Christian sites! Many good sites are blocked and it allows pornography through. Their choice of sites is very incorrect. Education is the old solution which works.
Alfred, Malta


The computer in the main living room so we can monitor what they are accessing

Trudie Johnston, England
Yes we have installed a password system for the internet so they have to ask us when they want to use it and the internet is installed on the computer in the main living room so we can monitor what they are accessing.
Trudie Johnston, England

Many parents would be shocked and disturbed to learn the extent to which commercially available filters censor web content, often to fulfil commercial or political agendas of the corporations who own the software houses which produced them.
In one celebrated case, one of the market leaders was found to censor all material relating to all non-Christian religions.
These programmes represent censorship gone mad, and are the real danger to our children - the danger of growing up in a world stripped of its diversity and richness.
Ben Evans, UK

My last phone bill contained a number of premium rate calls which turned out to be "adult material" obtained from the net. My son owned up that he was the culprit and I showed him the bill. The threat of deducting the cost from his allowance was enough to ensure he wouldn't be repeating this venture, because he knows I will track him down if he does!
Alison Colliver, UK


Children should be encouraged to see what's really 'out there' but not in an intimidating way

Carly, UK
I have personally taken my children (both under 18) to pornography sites to show them how funny it is. Let's face it if you are not turned on it is just all very funny - even boring. Children should be encouraged to see what's really 'out there' but not in an intimidating way.
Carly, UK

There should be an appropriate age category for the internet and young people.
L. Koronewskij, Canada

Parents can never be too cautious concerning the internet. I'm sure plenty of kids see things that they really shouldn't. Parents must be made aware of this problem and be introduced to packages such as 'net nanny' which restrict internet access to those 'undesirable' sites.
Stuart Winchester, UK

I do not pry or spy, but I do pop my head in once in a while and see what is happening. As long as a kid keeps talking and sharing news, views and the net with parents -there is nothing to worry. When he/she stops talking watch out!
Uma Nair, India


It isn't going to take them long to figure out how to /delete the browser history...

Derek Jones, United Kingdom
Lets face it. The kids of today are very swift learners. Even if you do look through browser history files or filters, it isn't going to take them long to figure out how to /delete the browser history...
Derek Jones, United Kingdom

Monitoring software is always subject to commercial priorities (such as Mattel's software filtering sites critical of it) or poor design (such as Scunthorpe being blacklisted, or sites discussing breast cancer). Speaking as an IT professional and a parent, monitoring software is a poor substitute for parents explaining the risks honestly and some parent-child trust.
David K, England


Discuss the dangers with the children and educate them before someone else does!

Steve Banks, United Kingdom
Children will by their very nature explore the net and you can bet that their friends will be happy to exchange information about interesting sites. How can you stop it? You can't, as constant monitoring is impracticable and shows lack of trust. Discuss the dangers with the children and educate them before someone else does!
Steve Banks, United Kingdom

People are too paranoid. So your kids may find pornography or a nazi website or something like that. Part of growing up is finding that stuff being shocked or upset and finding out for yourself what's good and what's bad. Net nannies and filtering probably make the kids more curious!
Chris Chow, UK

If people were to educate their children right from wrong and explain the dangers this will have a much greater effect than any software block. The internet is not longer about community, it was once about 4 years ago, now its all about money and to a lesser extent sex. The only people excited about the net are either people who have never used it, just got online or are going to profit from it. Its amazing how quickly you can tire of it.
Matt, UK


On the whole I agree that guidance is the key word - not restriction

Simon, UK
I have used the internet for many years, and I have come across some quite disturbing material. I have also been able to radically change my life for the better, using resources in the privacy of my own room, which my parents to some degree may not have wanted me to. I guess it all depends on the age and the maturity of the child in question, but on the whole I agree that guidance is the key word - not restriction.
Simon, UK

The internet is a very, very dangerous place. Filtering software does not work, it isn't policed, there is no watershed and there is content on the web that would never make it on to a television screen. My message to parents is 'educate yourself!' Even the most innocent query on a search engine can throw up links to hard core web sites. Checking the history/temporary internet directories after your child has been surfing won't work either - they can be cleared at the touch of a button.
JD, UK

As a father of 3 sons (10 - 16), I am now leaving them on their own after I trained them the use of the browser and told them about inappropriate, shocking material. They have their own email accounts (part of my master account), and I have no parental controls on my ISP account. I do however use the history monitor once in a while and "audit" what they are up to. Rather harmless. They have hobbies and 80% of the sites relate to those. Internet use and upbringing are closely knitted. If you have good communication, you will know and they do not need to be sneaky.
Han de Min, UK (was Netherlands)


I tell my kids that I do not approve of them seeking out such material and warn them (on penalty of losing their computers) not to get caught!

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
My two teenage boys undoubtedly view inappropriate material on the internet, and it would be naive of me to deny it! But how many of us passed around, or at least looked at, that much thumb stained copy of Playboy when we were kids? I tell my kids that I do not approve of them seeking out such material and warn them (on penalty of losing their computers) not to get caught! Going further than that would be counter productive ... like in the old days when the BBC banned a song, thus guaranteeing it being a number one hit!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

Trying to filter the creative mind of a child is like putting a fence around the sand-pit. They want to climb over and they will! My preferred approach is to use monitoring, this way I can easily retrace my kids steps without limiting them. They may hit unsuitable content, but I can address the issue in the early stages. I hope that I am wise enough not to be led into that false sense of security that so called "filtering software" can give. It is always out of date and how does some clerk in the US know what is acceptable for my child. My youngest is 4 and he already knows how to browse the net!
Jonathan Hobday, United Kingdom


Parents would probably never allow their young children to walk around town alone because of certain dangers

Patrick Seurre, UK
Parents would probably never allow their young children to walk around town alone because of certain dangers. They should equally supervise their children directly when they are on the 'net rather than rely on some Mickey Mouse filtering software which doesn't normally do too much of a good job anyway.
Patrick Seurre, UK

What's the point of monitoring your kids? Instead of imposing restrictions, we must understand what makes them want to see "inappropriate" material. The thing is that they WILL get it despite all our efforts. Just with the Internet they don't have to trade a month's allowance for a pornographic picture.
Andrej, Russia

Working as an IT professional, I strongly believe that if a child has the intent to surf inappropriate material on the web, no amount of monitoring will prevent them. It is simply a discipline, just as any child can watch television after the 9:00 pm watershed if they so wish.
David Knowles, UK

A simple Ctrl+Alt+Del will let you shut down most filtering software. Don't waste your money. Learn what your computer can do - and teach your children how to use it too. Or ask them to show you . . .
Nigel M, UK


It could be unwise relying on internet filtering software. This software often blocks access to perfectly inoffensive material

Rob, UK
It could be unwise relying on internet filtering software. This software often blocks access to perfectly inoffensive material while still permitting access to pornography and other unpleasantness. If you're already using filtering software you may find it blocks you from seeing those sites, presumably because the companies writing the software don't like their customers reading critical reviews.
Rob, UK

I'm in favour of using a 'net nanny' for children but I know it isn't going to be perfect. We all peeked into places we probably shouldn't have as children, its part of growing up and learning about the world. I think we have to take a liberal and balanced view of this and not overdo the restrictions we place on children. Too much restriction would be just as unhealthy as heavy exposure to hateful or foul sites.
Judith, England

Politicians love the fact that parents worry about this issue. It's a good excuse to restrict everybody's freedom of speech.
Jack, UK


Even the built-in facilities in the popular web browsers leave a lot to be desired

Al, UK
I use a commercially available web filter, but it is always days behind the launch of new web sites. Even the built-in facilities in the popular web browsers leave a lot to be desired. I monitor fairly closely, but even a teen chat-line can hold hidden dangers. As my children use e-mail, I have ensured that they have accounts with e-mail forwarding services, to ensure that real names and addresses are never revealed.
Al, UK

This guide from Demon Internet has a few good tips for parents: http://www.demon.net/community/safeusage/ Personally I think the best thing that parents can do to monitor their kid's internet access is to put the computer in the living room.
Phil Harrison, UK

At home we use a monitoring software, having tried filtering packages and software before we found it quiet restricting and quiet a lot of bother really let us to trying a product uc2 from a company called Netsiren, yes we are happy with this and so is my 14 year old, it has got a word search and monitors all sites visited and email sent received which is really great.
Kenny, UK


Any sort of filtering system that is not open to review by the users is very bad

Gerard Davison, UK
Web filtering tools can give rise to suitable censorship. For example what if a parent wants to find out what sort of websites a filter bans. You tend to find that the sort of sites that give you this information are also censored. Any sort of filtering system that is not open to review by the users is very bad. What if the writers of the filtering software want to edit a religion out of the internet? Easily done and nobody will know the difference...
Gerard Davison, UK

My daughter age 13 uses e-mail and chatrooms on the net. Although she knows what not to divulge to other people in these chat-rooms which are connected to the like of Trouble TV and the like. I still have cause for concern as one never knows if other children in these chatrooms are in fact children.
Robbie, United Kingdom


It is possible to examine the temporary internet directory and other locations, for web sites, cookies, etc.g

Colin, Netherlands
I can see this being a problem for parents. However, it is possible to examine the temporary internet directory and other locations, for web sites, cookies, etc. This way, you could find out where the whole family has been looking!
Colin, Netherlands

I don't have children, but if/when I do I won't allow them to use the net without some fairly heavy controls until they know what is safe and what is not. The reason is simple - I wouldn't want them giving their details out to strangers, or browsing hardcore porn.
John B, UK


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See also:

09 Aug 00 | Education
Online children leave parents behind
26 Jun 00 | Education
Parents opt out of censorship
19 Feb 00 | Education
Children warned against net predators


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