Can there ever be a final word on internet safety and young people? As the summer holidays approach and children have more time to spend online, the dangers of the info superhighway get closer home. But help is at hand.

The Louisiana Attorney-General's High Tech Crime Unit and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, says there are three basic dangers a child faces on the internet: inappropriate material and messages, vulnerability to exploitation by sexual predators and being cheated by con people .

Many internet safety sites have free software that can be used to ensure safety. The Safer Internet Project (http://www.safer-internet.net/) has the Safe Eyes parental control software that runs both on Windows and Macs. Designed to be a family Internet manager rather than parental control software, this centres around music downloads, games and instant messaging rather than just restricting sites.

The K9 Web Protection (http://www1.k9webprotection.com/) is a free download that is both an internet filter and a program controller. Besides blocking more than 70 categories of sites, including pornography, gambling, drugs, violence/hate/racism, malware/spyware and phishing, it also does a Force SafeSearch on all major search engines.

Chat monitoring

The free trial version of Kids Watch Parenting Software (http://www.kidswatch.com/) is a good primer in handling and using such software besides maximising the efficiency of time children spend on the computer. It is very popular for its chat monitoring reports that allows parents to see the complete dialogue of chat conversations on Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo, AIM and MSN.

As the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, U.S. says, “It's difficult to manage wired kids especially if you didn't grow up with the same technology.” As parents do their best to check internet usage and make sure children surf wisely, internet predators also work hard to stay one step ahead.

Experts say no matter how many online parental controls are used, the best protection is always the parent. Like everything else it's important to talk about internet safety issues. For tips on starting the conversation, look at http://watchoutkid.com. ‘If a stranger writes to you, give him the warmth of your cold shoulder!” says the first of “7 Smart Steps” found on the home page. The site also has a source to help kids deal with worrisome stuff online. Anyone with an issue can write into report@watchoutkid.com for clarifications.

There are many aspects to using the internet. With blogging, games and internet on mobile phones, it can be difficult to really track use. For parents the Netsmartz.Org (http://www.netsmartz.org/Parents) is a crash course on the dangers that these options involve and ways they can educate children to stay safe.

It is easy to be unfamiliar with the many terms used in the cyber world today. For any question you might have always wanted to ask but didn't there is Thinkuknow (http://www.thinkyouknow.co.uk/Parents/), an education initiative by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, U.K. Their sections on grooming, mobile phone and gaming safety have useful resources.

Safety pledge

The Family Internet Safety Gameplan is a pledge that children and grownups sign promising to stay safe online. Print your copy to hang over the family computer at http://www.internetsafety. com/internet-monitoring- game-plan.php.

Parents and caregivers need to understand the way computers work. And this is not always easy. The Enough Is Enough project developed the Internet Safety 101 Program to equip parents and educators with the knowledge and the resources they need to protect children from pornography, predators, cyber bullies and threats associated with social networking sites, online gaming and mobile devices. An exciting, new, multimedia resource, the program site at www.internetsafety101.org is designed to make technology easy. After all, ignorance can't get in the way of keeping young users safe.