Last week I had the honor of attending the 20th Annual Crimes Against Children conference, hosted by the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center and the Dallas Police Department. It is billed as “Providing Professionals the Instruction, Information and Strategies They Need to Protect Child Victims and Prosecute their Offenders.” This is an amazing event geared towards those incredibly strong people who investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases. The participants included over 2,700 folks from the fields of law enforcement, medicine, and social services. Since many of these crimes are initiated via the Internet, the major players in this space also participated in efforts to help the community. We had representatives from AOL, MySpace, Google, Yahoo!, and of course, Microsoft. Since Microsoft is a key sponsor for the event and seeing that I’m based in Dallas, I was asked to help represent us at the event. We’ve also got representation from those organizations such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the FBI, and a few others. A a matter of fact, the current Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, delivered the opening keynote on Monday
Content That Disturbs and Sickens
Just a quick perusal through some of these sessions is enough to make you sit up and take notice. I saw some of the darkest and most evil places that exist on the Internet. I’ve had the chance to watch law enforcement in action and I am truly thankful for these brave officers.
Here’s some of the workshops and labs that I attended last week:
- Introduction to Second Life
- IRC Investigations
- Microsoft XBox Forensics
- Windows Forensics Gems: Windows XP and Windows Vista
- Internet Registry Artifacts
- Case Study: Blue Diamond - Child Prostitution
- Hunting the Predators: Special Movie Screening
NOTE: If you’re interested in reading the eye-opening abstracts for each session, you can go to the public site here. I toyed with the idea of posting the video links and session abstracts here, but even the abstracts are a little risque’ for a Microsoft blog. I have a strong personal passion around this topic and if anyone is interested, they can contact me.
I sat through only a small handful of sessions and it is enough to make you realize that this is a crime that is far more dangerous than say identity theft. We’re talking about harming innocent kids here for Heaven’s sake!
What Can We Do To Protect The Kids, Kai?
- You can start by setting up appropriate filters to protect your kids.
- You can sit down and see where your kids are going and what they’re doing. You wouldn’t blindly throw your 16-year old the car keys and say “Seeya when I seeya.” would you? You’d want to to know where they’re going, who they’re going with, when they’ll be home, etc.
- You can get invested with your kids and not assume that it’ll just “figure itself out”.
One of my personal goals this new Fiscal Year is to get more involved with our Microsoft Citizenship Team in the area of Online Child Safety. I also plan on working closely with the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center to help get the word out in my local community. Parents need to understand the risk!!
Here are some sites that will assist you in protecting your kids from the dangers that are out there:
NetSmartz – Highly recommended! Great age appropriate stories for kids and parents as well.
StaySafe.org – Great site that helps kids deal with cyberbullies and online etiquette. Should probably be required reading for schools.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) – These are the folks that help track down all the kids.
Microsoft’s Protect Your Family – Our work in this area and one I hope to contribute to this year as well!
Here’s some age-specific things you should be doing as well:
Online safety tips for kids up to age 10
If your children are between the ages of 2 and 10 years old, the Internet is a great place for them to learn and to play.
Here are some safety tips to consider when you go online with your 2-10 year old:
1. It's never too early to foster open and positive communication with children. It's a good idea to talk with them about computers and to stay open to their questions and curiosity.
2. Always sit with your kids at this age when they're online.
3. Set clear rules for Internet use.
4. Insist that your children not share personal information such as their real name, address, phone number, or passwords with people they meet online.
5. If a site encourages kids to submit their names to personalize the Web content, help your kids create online nicknames that give away no personal information.
6. Investigate Web filtering tools (such as Windows Vista Parental Controls or Windows Live OneCare Family Safety for Windows XP SP2) to help you engage with your kids and aid in parental supervision.
7. If you use family safety tools, create appropriate profiles for each family member based on their age. For more information, see Windows Live OneCare Family Safety or Windows Vista Parental Controls.
8. Help protect your children from offensive pop-up windows by using the pop-up blocker that's built in to Internet Explorer. You can also help block pop-up windows that appear when you're not surfing the Internet with Windows Defender. Windows Defender comes with Windows Vista. If you use Windows XP SP2, you can download Windows Defender for no charge.
9. All family members should act as role models for young children who are just starting to use the Internet.
Online safety tips for kids ages 11 to 14
Children who are 11-14 years old generally have accepting attitudes. Kids at this age may be very capable at following commands on the computer, using the mouse, and playing computer games.
They are, however, highly dependent on adults or older siblings to help them interpret online information.
Here are some safety tips to consider when you go online with your 11-14 year old:
1. It's a good idea to foster open and positive communication with your children. Talk with them about computers and stay open to their questions and curiosity.
2. Set clear rules for Internet use.
3. Insist that your children not share personal information such as their real name, address, phone number, or passwords with people they meet online.
4. If a site encourages kids to submit their names to personalize the Web content, help your kids create online nicknames that give away no personal information.
5. Use family safety tools to create appropriate profiles for each family member.
6. Set family safety tools on the medium security setting, which should have some limitations on content, Web sites, and activities.
7. Keep Internet-connected computers in an open area where you can easily supervise your kids' activities.
8. Investigate Internet-filtering tools (such as Windows Live OneCare Family Safety) as a complement to parental supervision.
9. Help protect your children from offensive pop-up windows by using the pop-up blocker that's built in to Internet Explorer. You can also help block pop-up windows that appear when you're not surfing the Internet with Windows Defender. Windows Defender comes with Windows Vista. If you use Windows XP SP2, you can download Windows Defender for no charge.
10. Encourage your children to tell you if something or someone online makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Stay calm and remind your kids they are not in trouble for bringing something to your attention. Praise their behavior and encourage them to come to you again if the same thing happens.
Online safety tips for kids ages 15 to 18
Children this age should have almost no limitations on content, Web sites, or activities. Teens are savvier about their Internet experience; however, they still need parents to define appropriate safety guidelines. Parents should be available to help their teens understand inappropriate messages and avoid unsafe situations.
Parents may need to remind teens what personal information should not be given over the Internet.
What teens do online
Boys in this age group are more likely to look for humor, gaming, or other media sites. Girls are be more likely to build and participate in social networks.
Here are some safety tips to consider as you guide your teens online:
1. Continue to keep family communication as open and positive about computers as you can. Keep talking about online lives, friends, and activities, just as you would about other friends and activities.
Encourage your teens to tell you if something or someone online makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. If you're a teen and something or someone online doesn't seem quite right, then speak up.
2. Create a list of Internet house rules as a family. Include the kinds of sites that are off limits, Internet hours, what information should not be shared online, and guidelines for communicating with others online, including in chat rooms.
3. Keep Internet-connected computers in an open area and not in a teen's bedrooms.
5. Help protect your children from offensive pop-up windows by using the pop-up blocker that's built in to Internet Explorer.
You can also help block pop-up windows that appear when you're not surfing the Internet with Windows Defender. Windows Defender comes with Windows Vista. If you use Windows XP SP2, you can download Windows Defender for no charge.
6. Know which chat rooms or message boards your teens visit, and whom they talk to. Encourage them to use monitored chat rooms, and insist they stay in public chat room areas.
7. Insist that they never agree to meet an online friend.
8. Teach your kids not to download programs, music, or files without your permission. File-sharing and taking text, images, or artwork from the Web may infringe on copyright laws and can be illegal.
9. Talk to your teenagers about online adult content and pornography, and direct them to positive sites about health and sexuality.
10. Help protect them from spam. Tell your teens not to give out their e-mail address online, not to respond to junk mail, and to use e-mail filters.
11. Be aware of the Web sites that your teens frequent. Make sure your kids are not visiting sites with offensive content, or posting personal information or photos of themselves.
12. Teach your kids responsible, ethical, online behavior. They should not be using the Internet to spread gossip, bully, or threaten others.
13. Make sure your teens check with you before making financial transactions online, including ordering, buying, or selling items.
14. Discuss online gambling and its potential risks with your teens. Remind them that it is illegal for them to gamble online.