Email – keeping your children protectedBy Jonathan Stromberg
In the following article I will talk about a very common modern day 'digi-phenomenon;' Email.
I will outline the principle ways that Email can be problematic for children, and explain how CyberSieve can be of assistance to concerned parents.
There are two ways to get an Email account. The first option is to install a piece of email software on your computer, and get an email address through your Internet Service Provider. This method gives greater power in terms of the range of things you can do, and most companies and schools will do this to give their users an email account. The second option is to set up a web mail account with one of the many website services such as Hotmail or Yahoo.
These services are very popular, especially with young people, as the accounts can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection, including schools, libraries, homes and cybercafes.
When you have an email account with its unique address that you can tell to other people, you can write and send new messages, read incoming mail, pass on messages to others, and store messages.
Messages can be much more than just text as you can send "attachments" with them, and almost any kind of computer file (such as photos or sounds that have been computerized) can be sent.
The greatest problem of email is that children can give out personal information which can then be abused by others.
A big threat comes from those who take advantage of kids who naively reveal personal information about themselves. A child's email address is his or hers personal post box where he or she can be contacted at any time. It is very easy for a child to leave their email address where it can be found by others, who can then contact the child at any time. This person might have less than desirable reasons for making contact with the child and the child will have no way of knowing who that person is. There have been many incidences of 'cyber-crime' since the Internet came into mass use, in which unscrupulous people try to elicit personal information through email, such as credit card numbers, which they can then use to their benefit.
Many web sites try to elicit email addresses from surfers in order to use that address for advertising purposes. These addresses are then taken, and sold to advertisers of, among others, sex products and pornography. Computers without a filtering mechanism is completely open to receive emails from these companies, who invite your children to visit their sites and buy their products.
Misleading publicity is a danger in general of the Internet. While by no means all of it is illegal, it is not something parents want their children exposed to. Newsgroups or Usenet are the worst areas for this, with messages and material often posted in groups that have a totally unrelated subject matter, however in web-based email such as hotmail, unsolicited pornographic emails can be received at any time or if an unscrupulous person gets hold of a child's personal email address. Young people make friends easily, and are often willing to give out personal details like their email address, home address and phone numbers to characters they meet online, especially if the child is using the Internet from a place they think of as "safe", like home or school.
Rebellious preteens are especially at risk, because they may not take parental warnings seriously. Your first concern when you allow your children to use the Internet should be educating them to keep their personal information private. Under no circumstances should your children ever give out their full name, phone number, or address on the Internet.
Computer viruses are at least an irritation and can cause serious damage to your computer, and to your files. The most common way of spreading these malicious pieces of software is to conceal them in an 'attachment' to a piece of email. If you read an email, and click on the symbol representing the attached file, the computer opens the file and the virus starts to cause its harmful effects; for example, it might send a copy of itself, plus a link to a pornographic website, to everyone in your email address book. Often such viruses are spread through spam emails, and represent a genuine threat to your personal computer.
Children should be aware of the following points:
That they should not give out personal details
If someone asks their name, always get the OK from your parents/carer to guard their passwords, keeping them secret
It’s important to tell their parents/carers about anything that worries them
To delete emails from anyone they don’t recognize, especially with attachments
To never give out their email addresses online
To avoid opening attachments. Many viruses are spread in this way
To not reply to a spam message (it will usually only get worse)
Many schools nowadays are giving children access to email in a controlled way, with many education authorities giving an account for the whole class and individual accounts only for older pupils. Often pupils may only send email to others on the local council network and not out to the Internet, as a way to prevent them receiving email from the outside world. Schools sometimes also use software to filter out undesirable messages, to reduce the volume of incoming junk mail and to try to prevent children sending rude or abusive messages to others.
With CyberSieve you can also take control over your personal computer, and limit the danger that the Internet can pose to your children. CyberSieve enables you to block any word that you consider unsuitable, and so protecting your child from bad words that he or she can receive through email. There are 2 options related to this. You can block bad words altogether so that emails containing these words are not received, or you can allow such emails to come through, but the undesirable words are replaced by stars.
CyberSieve enables you to block very specific details from being sent from your computer, by email or otherwise. You can for instance block your credit card numbers. Thus it is made impossible for your child to give out such valuable information that may be misused by others.
CyberSieve has been devised over many years, and provides the most thorough and flexible system of filtering for your personal computer. It is an ideal program for enabling your child to use and benefit from email, whilst not being exposed to its less than desirable aspects.
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