Most of us know computer programs exist that will stop curious minds from browsing to offensive web sites. It would indeed be helpful if a single product addressed all computer risks that family members are subject to... the next best thing is for Computers of South Dublin and a responsible parent to address these risks one at a time.
Backups... why are they necessary for "family" security?
When the family computers are used by young students, they contain notes, documents, and source material for projects that must be backed up deliberately. Establishing a backup policy is an essential part of the family computer setup, and teaches responsible use of the computer when the students are involved in implementing the policy… many adults learn their lesson about backups only after suffering a catastrophic loss.
COSD can show you how to use memory sticks, optical media, external drives, backup software & scheduling, and personal cloud services like Google Drive to implement whatever backup will allow your computer's personal data to be restored completely in a disaster recovery.
Software downloading risks: divide and conquer
Most computer virus infections begin with accidental or ill-advised software download, so this problem can be limited by assigning a limited account to each young family member and reserving the fully privileged accounts for the parents. A parent's intervention is therefore required to install software, so any extra presence on the computer can be understood by all family members, rather than the computer's growth being dictated by anonymous software providers at the expense of family security.
This also has the educational and lifestyle benefit of allowing each young member to customise their desktop environment to their liking. More practically, it allows each family member to
- use their own email program, avoiding web-based mail with its constant exposure to advertising messages
- use the appropriate backup software for their own mobile phone, protecting their personal data
Content filtering and spam protection
Some parenting styles are inclined towards the Net Nanny software product which COSD can install and configure. Its default settings work well enough immediately after installation if parents are simply interested in blocking grossly offensive web sites and search results, and if family accounts are separated above then the blocks can be made more or less restrictive for each family member.
For filtering out sexually suggestive unsolicited email (spam), the only system that works with 100% reliability is Gmail itself, and COSD can help all family members move to a Gmail account without losing their old email address.
Ethical and practical issues: from piracy to privacy
Parents concerned about the technical and legal consequences of what mass media may indiscriminately call "piracy" (free sharing of copyrighted information through peer-to-peer, or P2P, networking) can schedule a consultation with COSD to survey the methods the family appears to be using, then install necessary software and establish guidelines based on family values and parenting style.
If the family adopts a conservative approach, P2P software will be identified and removed, with accounts set up on iTunes, NetFlix, and other canonical sources of commercial media, with training on how to use these services. If not, any dangerous P2P software will be replaced according to safety standards, with demonstrations of how to access P2P online media efficiently, sustainably, and privately.
- Contact COSD for a free email Q&A about establishing and maintaining your family's computer safety
- Read on to Mobile devices & email
- Last Updated: 12 May 2012