Protect Your Children On the Internet

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that websites geared to children are more likely to be tracking your kids' internet habits than those aimed at adults. This tracking information allows websites to feed advertisements and links back to the kids, some of which can contain malicious software or inappropriate content. But there are steps you can take to reduce the risks when your kids are online.

How are your kids being tracked?
With cookies. "Cookies" are small files that are placed on your computer by websites you visit. They allow the site to identify your machine and record your activity. Not all cookies are harmful. Many "good" websites place cookies on your machine to allow you instant access upon your return, so that you don't have to log in again. This is convenient. However, some websites place malicious cookies on your computer that serve up inappropriate ads and products, or links to websites containing viruses and malware.

How to Remove Tracker Cookies:

Clear cookies from your web browser:

On Internet Explorer:
  • Open Internet Explorer.
  • Click "Tools," in the menu bar at the top of the screen, and then click "Internet Options."
  • Click "Delete Cookies," which is located in the "General" tab.

On Firefox:
  • Open Firefox.
  • Click "Tools" and then click "Options."
  • Click on the icon labeled "Privacy" in the sidebar of the Options window.
  • Click the button labeled "Clear," located to the right of "Cookies" label.

Diligently run Anti-Spyware/Anti-Virus tools:
Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Edition and SpyBot are two free applications that are extremely effective in detecting and removing cookies. Download and run them once a week, at least, being sure to "update" the program each time you run a scan. Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 ($39.95) is another highly recommended spyware tool.

More ways to protect your children on the Internet:

Start with the Basics.
There's no substitute for hands-on parenting. Openly discuss "stranger danger" with your kids, so they understand that not everyone is who they claim to be on the web. Remind them (often) to never give out their names, addresses, passwords or any other personal information. Other good tips include:
-- Don't put a computer with Internet access in your child's room.
-- Ask your child to create a list of the identities and emails of their friends.
-- Monitor your child's browsing habits.

Create separate User Accounts for your kids.
On Windows systems, parents can create separate User Accounts for their children. Having different log-in accounts for the kids allows parents to limit access to undesirable websites and software downloads, and even lets them set limits on how much time kids can spend on the computer.
Learn how to create User Accounts and set Parental Controls in:
Windows 7 | Windows Vista | Windows XP

Install Parental Control software.
For even greater control, you can purchase and install parental control software that will allow you to monitor and manage the computer usage in your household. See PC Magazine's recommendations and reviews of the latest parental control software.

Install AdBlock plug-ins on your browser.
Ad-blocking extensions are fantastic! These are free "add-on" programs that can be added to your browser that not only remove online ads and banners from being displayed on websites, but they also block known "malware" domains, and prevent Flash, Java or malicious programs from being downloaded.
AdBlock Plus for Firefox
Ad Blocking instructions for Internet Explorer 8

For more information:
Yahoo's Tools, Tips and Guides for Children's Online Safety
Children's Online Privacy: A Resource Guide for Parents
The FBI "Parent's Guide to Internet Safety"