(Long Island, NY) The big Long Island news is the underage sex bust conducted by Suffolk police. An undercover operation had adults posing as minors in internet chat rooms to catch adult sex predators. In the wake of the arrests, which include an Army Lieutenant Colonel, many parents are wondering how to better protect their kids.
This isn’t a case of hysteria over foul-mouthed cartoons or racy daytime talk shows. The threat is real. The worries, as evidenced by the arrests, are very well founded. What is a parent to do? It’s impossible to stand over a child’s shoulder the entire time they are online to make sure they aren’t being lured into dangerous territory online. Or is it?
Computer hackers have long known about a little type of program (and more recently, a piece of hardware) called a keystroke logger. This software or hardware device is installed on your computer and will literally record each and every punch on the keyboard. Every website, every email, every web search will be instantly recorded and stored awaiting your examination. These devices are legal, available as both freeware, (sometimes with limited functions) purchased software, and commercial sale hardware. You simply obtain the keystroke logger—sometimes called a key-capture or keyboard monitor—and install it on your machine.
This program, all by itself, will NOT keep your children away from dangerous situations on the internet. Those parents who enforce strict access rules for their computers—specific hours and time limits, for example, will get the most from a keystroke logger. After all, you can check to see what has been done between the allowed hours online, and check to make sure no violations of your access rules have occurred.
The keystroke logger is often simpler to use than it may sound. With many of these programs, you will look at specific times and see lists of computer activity simply displayed in easy-to-read layouts. You won’t be simply pouring over huge strings of text in endless paragraphs. But buyer beware—make sure you know what you are getting in that department. Read product descriptions carefully and gravitate towards products that advertise themselves as being designed for parents and other concerned computer users.
Keystroke logging is only one tool you can use to increase your peace of mind and your child’s online safety. If you are truly worried about the potential for internet predators or inappropriate net viewing, the best solution is a combination of factors. In addition to keystroke logging, have a single computer in a high-traffic area like the living room or dining room for your children to use. It will be more difficult to conceal ‘after-hours’ surfing when the computer is right out in the open for all to see.
You can prevent ‘unauthorized’ net surfing simply by pass-wording your computer at start-up and putting an additional password on screen savers. If you have a single password known only to you that gives access to Windows, you can control when and how your children use the computer. It may be a hassle to be responsible for the kids’ access to the internet each and every time they want it, but those who are truly concerned about internet predators and inappropriate websites will get used to the inconvenience in exchange for the peace of mind.
There are no easy solutions to the problems of web predators, but much like television, the only way to make a difference in your child’s life is to be in control of the box and not the other way around. The more involved you are with your children’s viewing and surfing habits, the more peace of mind you will have. Fortunately, unlike television, there is a wide variety of software and hardware on the market that can help give you that peace of mind, and usually for a reasonable price.