Your children may be getting even more spam than you do—and much of it is probably totally inappropriate
If you have kids in their early teens and you have access to the Internet, then three undeniable facts are apparent.
First, 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. Second, 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. Third, their level of technical sophistication is not matched by their level of emotional sophistication. They may be kids who are good with the PC—they may be kids who are just plain good—but they’re still kids who are not 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 are 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.
During a hearing on the subject of unsolicited email, Senator Charles Schumer of New York informed the public that his 14-year-old daughter has been virtually inundated with spam, much of it leading to pornographic web sites. Senator Schumer is a powerful man and there’s a lot he can get done. But in this case, as he found to his consternation, there’s absolutely nothing he can do. There wasn’t a single law prohibiting spammers from sending out vast quantities of porn spam, even if much of it goes out to an unintended audience: children.
It’s probably true that most pornographers don’t have any real interest in soliciting kiddie business. Their objection isn’t moral; it’s just that most kids don’t have credit cards, which are needed to get into these sites. However, in many cases the subject lines in these messages are pretty graphic to begin with, and the web pages they lead to have enough prurient content to make it completely out of bounds for all children.
There’s more to spam than porn, and much of it is 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.
“Speaking for myself, I can’t just look at all this as a technology problem—I’m a parent too, and the idea of my kids, or any of their friends, receiving this stuff is absolutely disgusting to me,” said Bari Abdul, Vice President of World Wide Consumer Marketing, with computer security company McAfee®. “We have to do our part as parents to make sure that we protect our PCs just as we safeguard our homes.”
So What’s To Be Done?
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 marvelous 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 kids about it. And use technology to keep your PC safe:
McAfee Internet Security Suite offers a set of must-have protections for families. These include a real-time external security alert system that assesses, informs, and warns you about your PC’s security vulnerability as well as parental controls that provide child-specific settings for web pages, chat filtering, objectionable word filtering, online time limits, and more.
Another key feature prevents your personal identification and financial information (name, phone number, address, credit-card, and bank-account numbers), and other specified pieces of information about you or your family from being transmitted out over the Internet without your knowledge or permission.
You can customize McAfee Parental Controls for each child by adding words or web sites that you want to prevent your child from seeing when surfing the Internet. McAfee Parental Controls provides the protection that you need while still allowing your child to use the Internet safely. For the most complete way to keep your children safe online, use McAfee Family Protection. McAfee Family Protection is proven to be easy-to-use and built to empower parents to say “yes” to their children’s online interests knowing they will be safe as they learn and explore. Our unique YouTube filtering technology prevents exposure to objectionable content yet gives children access to appropriate videos.
If you are always on-the-go, you can be notified instantly by email or text messaging that your child posted personal information on social network sites and if any access to inappropriate sites is attempted. With McAfee Family Protection, you have the peace of mind that your children are safe to learn, explore, and enjoy the Internet.