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Online Limits: Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet

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SPRINGFIELD (WGGB) — Keeping children safe on the streets or online – it’s a top priority for parents. However, as more and more kids surf the web, it’s becoming more and more difficult to make sure they don’t get into trouble.

For many of us, computers are something of a mystery.

Sure, we use them for email, Facebook, and shopping…but do we really know how they work?

Chances are your kids do, or at the very least, they know more than you.

And why shouldn’t they? They grew up with the technology. Ninety-three percent of kids 5 to 15 use the internet.

And the older they are, the more that goes up.

A full 99 percent of those 12 to 15 years of age go online, and last year, that same group spent the same amount of time using the internet as watching TV – 17 hours a week.

“I think parents are very concerned but they’re often less techno savvy than their kids are and so therefore they’re not really sure what they should do or even what they can do to prevent their kids from going to the wrong kind of websites either willfully or inadvertently,” said Stan Prager, owner of GoGeeks Computer Rescue in East Longmeadow.

That’s where computer experts like Prager come in. He says if your computer runs a Windows Operating System, and the majority does, chances are you can access something called Microsoft Family Safety.

It’s free parental monitoring and content-control software.

It can – among other things – only allow your children access to websites you approve. It can block social networking and adult sites, and block instant chat and emails.

Plus, it actively reports to parents websites visited, usage time, downloads, and games played.

“The newer versions of Microsoft Operating Systems, Windows 7 and above I believe have the parental controls built in. If not you can download them free from Microsoft at Windows Live Essentials,” said Prager.

Some folks may stop here.

Microsoft Family Safety offers a decent level of protection for your kids, plus it’s free, and it’s fairly easy to set up, but Prager recommends for those looking for even better control: Net Nanny.

It does everything Family Safety does – and more.

“It also allows you to set time limits. So if you want to say I want Jimmy who’s having trouble in school  – I don’t want him to be online more than 2 hours a day or not more than 25 hours per week or not during certain hours of the day or night. You can actually block that out.”

Net Nanny also lets you tailor each child’s online profile, allowing you to allow them more freedom as they get older, but it will cost you. Protecting one computer is about $40 a year.

Add more computers and the price goes up.

But whatever parental control software you choose: free or yearly fees… anything is better than nothing.

If you’re using – or plan to use content control software, Prager advises to keep the password secret. The program won’t be effective if your kids know what it is.

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