Humour, Politics and Kids online

Published: 2007-08-25
Last Updated: 2007-08-25 07:42:38 UTC
by Mark Hofman (Version: 1)
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Humour and politics don’t usually mix, but when you start getting closer to an election things just get a little bit more interesting.   In Australia we are getting closer to a federal election and as the day dawns things are heating up.  One of the topics that had some traction for a number of parties was protecting kids online, an admirable goal.  The current government is therefore now spending AUD189 million to help protect kids online.  AUD84 million was set aside for filtering products for the home computer, to be made available to all Australians for download (some of you are probably already seeing where this is heading). 

A few products were selected (but not endorsed by the government) and made available to the public for download on the 20th of August.  The products are available for various flavours of Windows and Mac and perform the filtering and reporting functions you would expect of this kind of product.  Five days later, you guessed it.  A 15 year old has found a way around the filter (full story here), leaving enough in place for the parent to have a false sense of security and he is able to get to all those nasty little places on the internet.   The relevant vendors are no doubt working hard to fix the issue, but funny nonetheless.  As we all know it is not really a question of if the product can be circumvented, but how fast (something that is actually stated on the governments own site).  In this case my guess was closest with 4 days, so the pot is mine!

Now to be fair to the government the program they implemented was not just an attempt at retaining votes (although I’m sure that it was part of the idea).   When you look closer at it, it is actually a well thought out program.  There are sites for kids and parents to visit to learn about responsible internet use, things to look out for.  The main issue I have with schemes like this is that they are unlikely to reach the people that really need the information.

As for my kids, they know what they can and can’t do on the internet, they also know that dad watches everything, new sites are vetted before they can use them and they know that if they come across anything that makes them uncomfortable they are to let me know and teach them about security issues.  I asked my 8 year old the other day for her email password so I could check it (it’s easier to ask her, she uses a 8 character password with numbers and special characters, maybe I taught her too well....).  She said “I’m not supposed to tell you daddy”, luckily for me social engineering your own child still works, but she has the right idea.

In the real world it is easy to tell your kids don;t talk to strangers, don't walk down dark alleys, don't go to that part of the city.  On the internet it is not often clear where the dark alleys are and who the stranger is.



Mark H - Shearwater

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