Ask the School Psychologist...|
by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.
Internet Security for Kids
Judy Lastrina wrote to me about a solution she developed to increase the safety of Internet use for children: she created a safe, secure, fun Network, called Kidsworld. "Kidsworld is not a Web site," says Judy. "It is a portal into a private Network for kids."
Here's the story behind the scenes: Judy's daughter was on a Web site in a "kid" chatroom and a predator approached her. She didn't realize it at first. He said he was her age, and she talked with him for a long time. Then things got "weird" and he offered to pick her up and take her out to the mall. Fortunately, Judy and her daughter have an open, honest relationship, so her daughter called her mom into the room. Judy pretended to be her daughter and kept the conversation going before asking him his exact age. He said he was 27. At that point Mom informed him he was talking to her and that she was going to report him. Nothing ever happened, and he never tried to reach her daughter again. The incident, however, inspired Judy to develop a new, more secure Network for kids.
"I don't know what this world is coming to," says Judy. "The Internet is wide open for anonymity, with little regulation. Kids have said they like visiting our Network because it's 'cool and just for them.' My hope is that Kidsworld will be one of many Web-based solutions that will help protect children."
After two years in the making, Kidsworld is a reality.
Kidsworld!, launched by Specific Horizons, Inc., a New Hampshire based company, is a Secure Network that targets children ages 5 to 14 and offers them a secure custom browser and access to a wide range of activities, games, secure email, educational resources, content developed by industry leaders, and locked instant messenger. "One of the things we find most exciting about our network is the level of parental control which is offered. Parents control the content that their children view, approve their buddies for chat, and can turn off or on features of the network. As the child grows, the parents can add on additional features, which target the older audience."
On August 1, 2002 Specific Horizons, Inc. received their third party testing results from Etesting Labs, a California based company. According to Etesting Labs, Inc. "We were impressed with the KidsWorld ability to maintain "lock down mode" restricting access to the outside World Wide Web, as well we did not find any undesirable content or links within the KidsWorld application." KidsWorld is unlike any other network or portal for on the Internet for kids.
Child safety on the Internet is a real and growing concern for parents today, according to the company's Cofounder and President Judy Lastrina. "Unfortunately, most adults are unaware of the influences and dangers, which are present, every time they allow their child access to the Internet."
In recent studies conducted by the US Customs Department last year, one in five children received a sexual solicitation or approach and one in thirty children reported an aggressive approach, meaning that someone asked them to meet off line, received a phone call or were mailed money or gifts. The US Customs also reported that less than 10% of solicitations are reported.
"As parents it is our job to keep our children safe, but as children strive for independence it can sometimes be a difficult task," says Lastrina. "Kidsworld offers parents a worry-free environment for their children to learn, create and grow!"
To learn more about the Kidsworld initiative you may contact their Customer Service Department toll free at 866-924-3600 or in New Hampshire 603-924-3600. You may also visit their website at www.kidsworld.ws or www.kidsworldcentral.com.
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