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Child-proof your computer

  • Published Nov 30, 2001
Child-proof your computer
Computers offer a world of educational opportunities for children, but they aren't child-ready machines by nature. From the dangers of playing with cables to spilling juice on the keyboard, for the fear of your child accidentally erasing critical files to dropping in on Internet pornography sites, parents need to safeguard the home computer.

Parents play the biggest role in determining appropriate use of the computer. Encourage your children through word and example to use the computer as a tool and not become a slave to it.

  • Physical risks:

    • Don't allow your child to have food or drink around the computer.

    • Wash hands before using the computer. This keeps the keyboard and mouse clean and free from germs.

    • Check that all power cables are securely plugged in and there are no exposed plugs or wires.

    • Be sure the computer has room for the internal fan to keep the machine cool.

  • Data loss:

    • Invest in a tape backup system.

    • Install control software such as KidDesk and configure each child with appropriate access to computer resources.

    • Teach your children which programs on the computer they are, and are not, permitted to run.

  • Online dangers:

    • Spend time online without your children. It will make you aware of the hazards and of sites you want your children to explore.

    • Talk to your children about online dangers. Clearly establish the boundaries of what is acceptable computer usage.

    • Move the computer to a public area in your home. By housing your computer in a closed room, you make it easier for children to explore the seedy side of the Internet without getting caught.

    • Limit computer time. Be sure that time on the computer is part of a planned, active learning event. Like television, computers are enticing but can become high-tech time wasters.

    • Don't give out personal information. By posting your address, phone number, or the name of your child's school, you make it easier for predators to target your children. Instruct your children not to give such information to anyone online.

    • Never allow children to arrange phone calls or face-to-face meetings with people they have met over the Internet.

    • Be wary of chat rooms. Whether you choose to block chat room access or to simply monitor time spent in it, be careful. They can be a lot of fun, but chat rooms can also become hotbeds of obscenities and child solicitation.

    • Never reply to offensive or suggestive email messages. Forward them to the system administrator for official action.

    • If you have reason to believe that your children are in danger, contact appropriate law enforcement officials. The FBI has established a CyberTipline at 1-800-843-5678.

    • Install Internet filtering software. Some software programs allow parents to control computer use by limiting usage time or by blocking potentially offensive Web sites. They are not foolproof, so don't be lured into a false sense of security. SurfWatch, CrossingGuard, and Cyber Patrol are good software programs that help filter Internet access. To obtain a free copy of CrossingGuard, visit the site (

  • From Parents' Computer Companion by Jason D. Baker. Used by permission of Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Mich. Copyright (c) 1999 by Jason D. Baker. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company.

    Jason D. Baker is an educational consultant at Loyola College in Maryland. He holds an M.A. in education from George Washington University. He and his wife, Julianne, and their two sons live in Baltimore. You can contact Jason by email at jdb\ or on the Web: