Net Security for the ‘digital natives’

I’ve been reading with interest the many articles floating about around protecting yourself and your kids on the net. This is becoming particularly relevant in my household at the moment as eldest daughter is asking to use MSN Windows Live Messenger (N.B. not any other IM client – it has to be MSN as all her friends use that!) and my wife who is hearing all these scare stories about kids being lured into all things bad by strange men is concerned about her being ‘safe online’ within some kind of walled garden.

walled garden

I’m kind of in the middle of this as on the one hand I think eldest daughter is a digital native and knows a lot more about the pitfalls of net behavior than the older generations. After all she accesses her schoolwork, finds out about events at the school and engages in discussions using Moodle and checks and accesses all her homework online using a product called Planner Live! but I am concerned that she is a bit ‘…yeah Whatever’ about the consequences of ID theft or net bullying or …etc. (although she is taught about them at school)

An analogy for me is having a wallet. When I first got one I was quite relaxed about leaving it lying around (despite my dad telling me about the dangers). I then got it stolen one night on a night out and spent a couple of frantic weeks worrying about it, making a statement to the police and stopping my cards. In the end I did get it back but without the 50 quid cash that I had in it, a valuable lesson learned!

– I got it stolen once more a few years later even though I’d taken a bit more care (I left it out of sight but in a coat and I left the coat behind in an office) and the second time they tried to book a 2K holiday on my credit card….without success….as I had learnt to contact my company early to stop my cards.

So to cut a long story short it took me to have experienced the problem to fully understand it. My eldest daughter thinks she knows the dangers of the net but really she is very naive but I don’t want to be the person who is seen to be the enforcer and keep her locked away from the lovely pastures of the internet

lock and chain picture

So I’ve been looking at ways to make her internet experience wholesome but with some security. At the moment I’m favouring Microsoft’s Family Safety (for Instant Messaging) but I’m still open to exploring what other stuff is out there. I’m also conscious that eldest daughter might see this as us trying to pry on her and tweenagers are a distinctly paranoid species so I’m taking steps to reassure her that this is for her protection and that we trust her implicitly and have no interest or desire to spy on her.

I do feel a little uncomfortable with this stance because I do think digital natives generally understand the net well and do know the dangers and would avoid them so part of me wants to let her roam freely without protection. I’ve read many articles on this recently by psychologists and the overwhelming opinion is that using protection software is generally something that doesn’t make much difference and doesn’t decrease online addictions or decrease other online issues from taking place  in the long term, in fact it may increase them (referring back to my ‘pastures of the internet’ from earlier).

It is a placebo for parents. Nothing more.


About willwoods
I'm Head of Learning and Teaching Technologies in the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University.

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