Spam And Your Children

Spam: definitely not children’s stuff!

If you have children in their early teens and you have access to the Internet, then three undeniable facts are apparent.

  • They can’t conceive of a world without the Internet and email. They virtually live online. They can look up anything anytime and they communicate with everyone via email.
  • They’re probably more tech-savvy, and definitely more net-savvy, than you are. You might even have turned to them on occasion for help with the computer, and you’re definitely not alone.
  • Their level of technical sophistication is not matched by their level of emotional sophistication. They may be children who are good with the PC, they may be children who are just plain good, but they’re still children who aren’t mature enough to handle all that the Internet can throw at them.

Teens are on the front lines of the battle against spam. Remember, they’re the ones spending all that time online, engaging in electronic back-and-forth with their friends. They’re the ones with – depending on which research report you read – at least one email account they use every day. Research indicates that most of them generally don’t ask for parental permission before posting their email address and other personal information online. They have probably never had their parents sit down and talk to them about spam, and probably wouldn’t take it seriously even if they did.

What all this means is that they’re getting tons of spam daily and, as you know from your own inbox experience, a significant portion of it is totally inappropriate for children. Recall your reaction to the first time you got an invitation to visit a site featuring “horny co-eds”. Now, imagine your 12-year-old getting the same message.

There’s more to spam than porn, and much of it carries risk. For example, there’s any number of “free” offers that sound irresistible. “Just fill out this box for a chance at a free DVD player!” What pre-teenager can resist? Another example: the success of online dating services has spawned a deluge of “relationship-related” emails, and many young people can’t pass up the chance to pretend to be older online.

So what can I do?

It’s safe to say that keeping your child off the PC, or even just off email, isn’t an option. Emailing, instant messaging, and the Internet, for all their faults, are useful and here to stay. The genie can’t be put back in the bottle. Besides, these really are marvellous inventions, with enormous potential for learning and communication.

So do as you would with any other potentially dangerous situation. Educate yourself about spam and then talk to your children about it. And use technology to keep your PC safe.

McAfee Internet Security Suite for Sky Broadband customers offers a set of must-have protection features for families. The SpamKiller feature protects you from spam. The Parental Controls feature provides child-specific settings for websites, objectionable word / image filtering, online time limits, and more.

The Privacy Service feature prevents your personal identification and financial information (name, phone number, address, credit-card, and bank-account numbers), as well as other specified pieces of information about you or your family from being transmitted out over the Internet without your knowledge or permission.

You can customise the Parental Controls feature for each child by adding words or websites that you want to prevent your child from seeing when surfing the Internet. It provides the protection that you need while still allowing your child to use the Internet safely.

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