Our May PEACH Meeting featured some of our tech-savvy dads presenting their expertise and advice about how to use computers, tablets, and other digital technology in our homeschools.
Nathan Rambeck organized the meeting, and wrote the following article and helpful tips for a handout that was given to those who attended the meeting:
11 years old. That’s the average age American children are exposed to pornography online. Most of this early exposure is unintentional, but with 12% of all websites on the Internet being purely pornographic, it is hardly any wonder.
Did you know that pornographers purposely buy domain names similar to popular websites in order to seduce unsuspecting users into their perversion? All it takes is a spelling mistake in a browser address bar to cause a stream of vile filth to pour on to the computer screen.
To make matters worse, our culture is gradually mainstreaming pornography, so that certain forms of pornography are considered acceptable for “family” entertainment and advertising.
Below is a concise summary of things you can do to protect your family when they access the Internet.
Install a Software Internet Filter on Each Computer
A software internet filter is an application installed on each computer in your household and should have at least 3 features.
- Block objectionable sites using a continually maintained blacklist of bad sites.
- Provide regular usage reports that can be delivered to parents showing sites visited and any attempts to view bad ones.
- Password protected so that only parents can uninstall or disable the filter.
Since adult addiction to pornography is epidemic, the usage reports and password protection features can provide a great opportunity of accountability for spouses or other adults in the home.
CovenantEyes(PC) (http://covenanteyes.com/) They are a Christian company and have a particular focus on accountability, so the reporting they have is superb. They do have accountability software for the Mac, but the filter is only for PC.
NetNanny(PC/Mac) (http://netnanny.com/) You can protect multiple computers with one license. The Mac product is separate from the PC version however.
SafeEyes(PC/Mac) (http://www.internetsafety.com/) One license will protect multiple PCs and/or Macs.
BSecure(PC) (http://bsecure.com/) They dropped support for Mac recently and now only support PCs.
Add a hardware filter to your home network
A hardware filter will have many of the same features as a software filter, but instead of protecting just one computer, it protects any computer connected to the internet through your network. This means that if a friend or relative comes to your house with an unprotected computer, it can be protected even if it does not have a software filter installed. However, keep in mind that a hardware filter only protects computers on your home network. If you have a laptop computer without a software filter, it may be protected at home, but will not be protected when connected to the internet at a friend’s house, the coffee shop, or a hotel. Laptops can even easily connect to a neighbor’s wireless network while you are inside your own home. DO NOT rely on a hardware filter alone.
OpenDNS (http://www.opendns.com/home-solutions/parental-controls/) [FREE] OpenDNS provides a replacement to the a service that your ISP usually provides, called DNS. It can be configured on a single PC, or on a router by changing just a single setting. A web interface allows you to configure your filtering settings. For $20/year you can also add on usage reporting to this service.
iBoss (http://www.ibosswebfilters.com/home_overview.html) These guys filter internet access for large corporations as well.
Cell Phones and other web-enabled devices
The Internet is becoming ubiquitous in our culture. Cell phones, TVs, gaming consoles, iPods, tablets, eReaders and other electronic devices are, many times, now able to connect to the Internet. Unfortunately, for some of these devices, there are no filtering options yet. When purchasing a cell phone for children, find one without web capabilities or talk to your wireless provider about turning the feature off (sometimes this isn’t possible). When purchasing other electronic devices, always ask about their ability to connect to the Internet.
Don’t assume that your phone can’t connect to the internet if you don’t purchase a data plan. Most providers simply charge a per MB fee for internet data usage allowing anytime access to the web.
Some wireless carriers provide a filtering service for the web access they provide.
The software providers listed previously offer filtering products for smartphones and tables (usually limited to iOS and Android devices). These apps don’t provide protection to the entire device, but only provide a custom browser with filtering enabled. It’s important to lock down these devices with a password and disable other web browsers and even the app stores on the device to provide meaningful protection.
Kindle Free Time
Amazon has done more for their Kindle Fire tablet than any other tablet maker to provide parents with controls to protect their kids. With the FreeTime feature built into the Kindle Fire you can disable web browsing and give your kids access to only a few select apps. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008GFUA4C/
Because many marketers use sex to sell products, even browsing a news site or social network may bring up an offensive advertisement. Because of this, I recommend using an ad blocker for your browser. An ad blocker will allow you to browse web pages without having to view any of the ads. I recommend using the Firefox web browser with the Adblock Plus plugin, or the Chrome web browser with it’s Adblock extension.
Firefox – http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/
Chrome browser – http://www.google.com/chrome/
Adblock Plus [Firefox/Chrome/Android] – http://adblockplus.org/
Ad blocking for IE – http://www.ehow.com/how_5842736_block-ads-internet-explorer.html
Younger children should never be left alone on the Internet
It is not wise to allow young children free access to an internet-connected computer or device when they are alone or by themselves in a room. Internet filters can work very well, but they are not perfect. Also, industrious young people can find ways around the filters. I suggest keeping family computers in living areas with lots of traffic and only allow laptops to be used in public areas.
Talk to your children about the dangers of pornography
When your kids reach an age at which sexuality becomes an attraction, talk to them about the dangers of pornography: how it will harm them, their future spouse, and even those women exploited in the pornographic material.
Mr. Rambeck also provided some information and links to educational sites and apps that parents can use in their homeschool:
Apps for Homeschooling
A website that reviews tablet apps for homeschoolers. You can filter by age, device, etc. http://appsforhomeschooling.com/
Guide to Using Apps
A quick guide for how to use mobile/tablet apps in your homeschooling.
Schoolhouse Review Crew/App Reviews
Amazon is the leader in eBooks. They have eReaders starting at $69 and have the best selection of eBooks online. Books that are in the public domain can usually be found for free or just $0.99. For example, search Amazon for “Free Kindle Classics” to find dozens of classic books totally free. http://www.amazon.com/
This non-profit organization uses volunteers to digitize public domain books. You can find everything from popular classics to hard-to-find books. Most books are available in multiple formats.
Borrow eBooks from your library
Many public libraries now allow you to borrow eBooks that can be read on an eReader or other device. Greene County offer a digital collection for library card users-
[Elementary to High School] Very popular online videos that teach the foundations of a wide variety of topics. It also offers interactive courses that track student progress. Parents/teachers serve as coaches guiding students through the courses and assisting along the way. Completely free. https://www.khanacademy.org/
MIT K-12 Videos
[Elementary to High School] Video courses for all ages provide by MIT. Completely free. http://k12videos.mit.edu/
[Elementary to High School] Online foreign language program. Free through your local library. http://www.mangolanguages.com/
[Preschool to Elementary] Online courses and mobile apps for teaching young children reading and phonics. Mostly free with some low-cost resources. http://www.starfall.com/
Time 4 Learning
Customize lessons for your children and it will guide them through lessons and track their progress.
[Elementary] Create custom worksheets for handwriting exercises. Free. http://handwritingworksheets.com
[Middle School to High School] Online courses taught by college professors and offered for free. No college credits.
MIT Open Courseware
[Middle School to High School] Actual MIT course materials available online for free. http://ocw.mit.edu
Academic Earth aims to provide everyone with the opportunity to earn a world-class education by offering free online classes and online learning tools.
Homework and Study Help – Free help with your algebra, biology, environmental science, American government, US history, physics and religion homework
Everything you need to teach CS in your high school or start learning at home. We’ve been teaching at Stanford for the last 3 years, and we’re creating the best possible online learning experience inspired by our work there. http://www.codehs.com/
Teach basic programming concepts through videos and interactive lessons. All done in the web browser. Starts at $25/month.
Online, interactive courses geared toward learning web programming and technology. Free. http://teamtreehouse.com/
IT Courses and mentoring by the Maxwell family (popular homeschool speakers). http://itonramp.com/
[Middle School to High School]
A $35 computer, especially created as a learning resource for young people. Required accessories will bring the cost up to $70.