Monday, August 24, 2009

What are kids searching online?

Are you curious about what your kids are looking up online? Even at 15 months old, my little toddler is already fascinated by what's on my computer screen and enjoys watching kid-friendly videos on YouTube. But what will she be doing online in a couple of years?

Computer security company Symantec has compiled a list of the top 100 searches conducted by children online, based on 3.5 million searches made by OnlineFamily.Norton service users worldwide between February and July 2009. Apparently, "YouTube" was the most popular search term, which isn't surprising, since it's an obvious starting place for entertainment and education purposes. "Google" and "Facebook" came in second and third, respectively, followed by "sex"(!), "MySpace," and "porn"(!).

I'm not looking forward to having to "spy on" or "censor" what my kid does online, but it seems like it's necessary to set "age-appropriate" rules. Symantec's OnlineFamily.Norton service apparently gives parents the tools to manage how their children use the internet. Parents can see which sites they visit, how long they're online, who they chat with, and what information they're sharing with others. I guess the nice thing is that the service doesn't "spy" on kids -- it makes its presence known on the screen -- and when they're starting to tread towards forbidden territory, animated dog characters appear on the screen to warn them (I wonder how well that will work with teenagers). A Symantec Internet Safety Advocate even claims that the service gives parents the opportunity to broach "delicate" topics, such as sex.

Me: "Oh, what are you working on?"
Kid: {desperately tries to shut down computer} "Umm..."
Me: {glances at screen} "Daaahhh!!"
Kid: "I was just...curious..."
Me: {sighs} "Okay...maybe it's time we have a little chat about..."

Jessie, please take your time growing up.

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