School is almost over and summer is right
around the corner. That means children will be spending time
in front of the computer surfing the net. Parents can’t
keep an eye on what their children are doing at all times.
More children are becoming technology savvy, thus making it
easier to view graphic inappropriate material. Although parents
can block certain sites, children are still receiving spam
junk via e-mail. How can children be protected from this type
Parents teach their children not to talk
to strangers or open the door when they are home alone. Most
parents also monitor where their children go, who they play
with and what television shows they watch. So why should it
be any different when it comes to their email account?
Today, 70% of Canadian children ages
9-19 have their own personal email account, according to a
report from Media Awareness Network, entitled ‘Young
Canadians in a Wired World.’
That means they are getting spam (or
junk mail) messages.
According to material provided by BrightMail,
one third of the 30 billion emails sent each day are spam
messages, messages involving invitations to view sexually
explicit material or offers to enlarge or lengthen one’s
physical anatomy. That’s a scary fact. Especially if
your children are seeing this material.
And that’s not all.
“Children are being scammed into
opening mail with embedded links leaving them only one click
away from viewing disturbing photos or content,” says
Kathy Wing, Parent Expert for Media Awareness Network. “They
are also being misinformed and hoaxed into buying products
or donating money to fake causes.”
Media Awareness Network conducted a study
in 2001 of children’s internet use. “We found
that 53% of the children interviewed receive pornography on
a regular basis; 78% of those children said they didn’t
tell their parents,” adds Ms. Wing.
Current “net nannies” protect
children from entering prohibited areas on the Internet but
what is preventing obscene information from entering their
Well that’s where anti-spam products
come in. There are a number of solutions available on the
market for parents.
One approach is black listing, the process
of blocking mail from certain email accounts that are added
to a so-called ‘black list’. Products by McAffee
and BrightMail use black lists to eliminate spam. But the
blacklist system is not 100% effective. Spammers just keep
changing the email addresses from which they send spam messages,
so those nasty messages just keep coming.
Another approach involves filtering.
Filtering blocks out any emails containing certain words such
as “sex” or “viagra”. This ensures
that any email with sex in the Subject line will not enter
your mailbox. BrightMail, PowerMail and SpamCop use this concept
in their applications. But even filtering is not completely
effective. Those persistent spammers just keep changing the
words in the headline or adding symbols between each letter
in the word.
A third approach is white listing or
permission-based anti-spam. These involve creating a list
of pre-approved senders. If a message is sent from an email
account that is not on the ‘white list’, the message
is declined. That means your child doesn’t get email
from anyone except who you approve. For example, Cousin John
is allowed to send emails. But if Aunt Mary tends to send
graphic jokes then “little Tommy” won’t
get any emails from her. And no spam messages will get through.
One new product that uses white-listing
is iPermitMail (www.ipermitmail.com). It combines a white
list with adaptive inheritance technology, which allows your
child’s email inbox to share a white list with your
email account or with another child’s account.
All these anti-spam options are useful
in their own approach. And while some are more effective than
others, none are 100% fool-proof. Perhaps the best approach
is to use multiple products to ensure complete coverage for
your child – from any angle that the spammers try to
“Parents need to utilize as many
tools as possible when it comes to protecting their children
from spam,” says Tristan Goguen, president of Internet
Light & Power, the creator of iPermitMail. “And
they need to be aware. Encourage your child to avoid giving
out their email address when entering contests or filling
out information online. Tell them never to answer spam emails.
And be sure they never post their email address on public
forums such as chat rooms or websites.”
Implementing an anti-spam application
and practicing safe-surfing means no worries for parents who
want their kids to be technology savvy without being targeted
with inappropriate material.
iPermitMail – www.ipermitmail.com
BrightMail - www.brightmail.com
SpamCop – www.spamcop.com
McAffee – www.mcaffee.com
PowerMail – www.powerdns.com