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'Protect your kids': Symantec tells parents to wise-up

New government measures gain security expert approval...
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor

New government measures gain security expert approval...

Security firm Symantec has given its endorsement to government measures announced yesterday intended to make web surfing safer for children, protecting them from the online advances of paedophiles. The UK government has invested heavily in the launch of an advisory website, Thinkuknow.co.uk (see http://www.silicon.com/a56940 for more), which is meant to educate parents and children about the risks lurking online. The new initiative is planned in particular to highlight the threat posed by paedophiles preying on children in chatrooms. Research released today by Symantec reveals one in seven children aged 14 or under have given out personal information online to strangers. The research also reveals one third of parents do not monitor their child's internet use. Directly related to this finding is the fact that one third of children say their parents have no idea what websites they visit. Kevin Chapman, consumer and small business director at Symantec, said: "We wholeheartedly support the government's initiative in making the internet a safer place to surf. It's an exciting and useful tool for children and they should not be discouraged but parents must take time to understand how their children are using the internet and educate them to the potential risks of divulging personal information, such as an address, telephone number or even information on when the family is going away." Symantec urged parents to instil in their children the notion that being online carries many of the same risks as being in public, and traditional rules such as 'don't speak to strangers' should be observed at all times. Chapman added: "We appreciate that it's not always possible to supervise children all the time - especially if a computer is not in the main family room - but there are software programs that can help parents manage the web content their kids access. This is not a replacement for parental responsibility or education but it can give peace of mind to know that children and their friends cannot access unsuitable material when your back is turned." Symantec also offered parents the following tips: 1. Make sure children are fully aware of how important it is that they do not give out confidential information such as passwords, last names, telephone numbers, addresses or photographs. 2. If your child uses internet chat rooms, try to limit the time they spend in them and make sure that they are using a moderated chatroom that is run by a respectable organisation. 3. If your child has online friends, it is a good idea to get to know them in the same way as you would their other friends. 4. Make sure children do not arrange to meet anyone that they only know through the internet. 5. Consider keeping your home computer in a public area of the house, rather than in your child's bedroom or a little-used backroom for example. 6. Encourage openness about the family PC. This will help you to be aware of what your kids are doing, as will monitoring the history file on your computer, which lists all recently visited websites. 7. Use computer software which will help limit the kinds of sites your child may visit and give peace of mind while your kids are online. You can also use the software to prevent your child from entering their name, address or other personal information, and block out spam email that may contain unsavoury language or malicious code. For independent advice on filtering software and more tips for protecting your children see: http://www.besafeonline.org and http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk .
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