Parents, do you know what your kids are doing online?

By Karen Galarpe,

Posted at Aug 05 2010 03:38 PM | Updated as of Aug 06 2010 12:50 AM

MANILA, Philippines - With computers now an essential part of children's lives, there is a need to be more vigilant about the potential dangers lurking on the Web, said one Web expert.

"What are kids doing online? They are playing games, connecting with friends on Facebook, chatting in chatrooms and downloading files," said Sonnie Santos, head of BusinessValues 2.0, a company that aims to promote the integration of "spiritual intelligence" (values based success principles) and social Web in the corporate culture.

Parents should be aware of the dangers on the web, said Sonnie Santos of Business Values 2.0, at a free seminar dubbed "Keep Your Kids Safe Online." Credit: Business Values 2.0's Facebook page


"One danger for them is revealing too much information," Santos said. Parents should warn their kids about posting information about themselves as pictures and other details may be passed around and land in the hands of unscrupulous people.

Another real danger is getting addicted to games. "If the child is into violent games, there is a tendency that the behavior may be affected," said Santos. "You have to get hold of them."

You know a child is addicted to gaming, he said, when the child does not eat in school and just uses his baon money to play at an Internet cafe, or "kapag nangungupit para may pang-Internet."

Other warning signs include spending much time on the Web such that there is no interest in TV. "Children like to watch TV. So if a child is not interested in it, there is something there," Santos explained.

Still other signs include cutting classes, declining grades, having inconsistent study habits, not eating on time or not doing household chores just to be able to play games.

One other danger Santos pointed out is the danger of getting malware as a result of spending time online. "Puwedeng manakaw ng malware and private info," he said.

What parents can do

Santos, a father himself and a blogger, too, shares the following tips for parents on how they can protect their kids from Web dangers:

1. Warn children about posting information about themselves such as where they go to school, what time they will be home, who their family members are.

2. Protect your password. There are stories of children hacking their parents' passwords, allowing them to go around instituted parental controls on the Web browser. Passwords may also be used to buy items online without parents' authorization or knowledge.

3. Use Open DNS software. This allows parents to control the use of the computer remotely. Santos said this can be device-based or network-based.

4. Identify violent games and restrict children from playing them. Games from the US and Canada have ratings from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB): E--everyone; T--teen; M--mature; AO--adults only. Allow children to only play games that are appropriate for their age.

5. Allow the use of social networking sites only when the child has reached a certain responsible age.

6. Block certain sites from your browser, particularly those that are for dating, pornography, and gaming. With online gaming, you have no control over what may pop up during a game, and what your child may access.

7. Be careful how you allow third party applications to access your account information. Certain games such as Farmville on Facebook need your authorization for them to access your account.

8. Be aware of Internet trends. For now, it's Facebook, but Tumblr is where young people go for privacy. "They say na-invade na daw kasi ng oldies ang Facebook," said Santos.

9. Install anti-malware, anti-spyware, anti-virus, and firewall software.

10. If you can afford it, have a PC "na pang-kaladkarin" or can be used by everyone at home for social networking, et cetera. "Then have another PC that's for research or work," advised Santos, to protect important files from being exposed to malware and other dangers.

11. Back up important documents.

"It is our responsibility as parents to prepare the next generation. The Internet penetration rate in the Philippines is bound to grow, and more and more kids will be exposed to social web at an early age. If the parents are tech savvy, guiding them will not be a problem. Unfortunately, only a few parents have crossed over to embrace social web. But some of these parents have not understood fully the power to build, if social web is used proactively, or to hurt if social web is used out of ignorance or used irresponsibly," said Santos.

A free seminar series dubbed "Keep Your Kids Safe Online" will be conducted by Santos and other speakers on the following dates:

August 14 -- Victory Christian Fellowship-Greenhills, Victory Center, Upper Level, Promenade, Greenhills Shopping Center
August 28 -- Alliance School
August 31 and September 14 -- Word for the World-Makati, ACCM Bldg., 102 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati
September 25 -- Christ's Commission Fellowship, St. Francis Square, Julia Vargas Ave., Mandaluyong City

Interested parents may register online at [email protected]