Sunday, 27 October 2013

Keeping your child safe online

Safety for kids online?

We are told by society to "monitor our kids online"; to spy on their online activities is akin to good parenting, these days.

My children, 9 and 11 years old, just got android tablets and this is one of the issues I have been forced to grappled with. The great thing is in Google Chrome and Google plus you can age limit content, in the same way you can limit searching to safe searches.

The Google Play store also can be limited to age appropriate apps via their settings. So I felt sure my kids would be protected from the worst internet abuses.

I also deployed Norton Family software which is free and can be controlled by me to limit their browsing ability without it getting flagged to me on one of my mobile devices. I have to admit that this software, although buggy, is very useful and worthwhile.

Feeling like a prison warden who had locked down everything possible,  having added extra security including a range of AVG security and privacy downloads. It came as a shock to find that a game both my children played called "Paplinko" by Game Circus LLC provided them with an advert for hardcore pornogrphy to a site called "Harcore Tube" which my 11 year old pointed out to me and I since recreated whilst playing another version of the game on my mobile device.  I enclose a screenshot of the offending advert as a warning and have tried to blur the most offensive elements of it. The game is a simple kids game and has no age category restrictions on Google Play!

The Paplinko Game
Game Circus LLC the App makers

A blurred image of the offending advert

As a single dad I am left with a dilemma. Do I carry on allowing my kids potential exposure to the bad side of the Web or do I take their beloved tablets away from them? My conclusion, for anyone what its worth, is to let them continue but inform them again on the potential dangers so they will continue to flag things to me which I hope they never have occasion to do. I cannot pretend the Internet is a safe fluffy cloud and they need to know the dangers and most importantly what to do.

Of course, I am left wondering what else I can and should do to preserve the safety and innocence of my children.

There is also a wider concern, namely as adults we have to have some idea what our young children are being exposed to. Since this initial post was put up I played the game again and was provided with a betting advert. I trust that the site has somehow read my Google profile and things I am over 18, but I wonder how many other adverts and sidebars include inappropriate matter for children in games designed for children.

I suspect also that Game Circus might have little or no control over the adverts that are placed through the ad additions included in the software which are AdMob, MoPub and Tapjoy (thanks to Norton Spot Ad Detector for this information). I suspect that if Game Circus LLC contact me they will respond that it is all out of their hands and the ad companies fault. We are in a vicious circle or denial of responsibility and I hope that Game Circus LLC will suspend use of the offending ad company and launch a full investigation. Somehow, I suspect this might not happen.

The majority of the children in my children's classes (i.e. Primary and Secondary) possess tablets and many own mobile phones.  The school encourages the children to use online resources in their homework and luckily often provide the searches for the children, but I am concerned that these online resources will be the next element to be attacked.

Saddest thing for me, is that I am a great believer in freedom of the Web.  The last thing I would ever advocate is Government intervention clamping down on ISPs and website owners to enforce some arbitrary rule which might be applicable for a few but really fail the majority. I suppose this is a wake up call that today's children have already seen things I have probably never seen and have no wish to see by the time they are in their early teens.  I just wonder how this will affect them in adulthood, which ties in nicely with one of the books I am reading at them moment called Future Minds: How the digital age is changing our minds, why this matters and what we can do about it by Richard Watson.