Monday, February 12, 2007

Children and the Internet

I mentioned in my last post that I was in San Francisco last week for the RSA Security Conference. Organizers estimate that there were over 15,000 security professionals in attendance. For those who don’t know, RSA stands for Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman, the three MIT mathematicians who in 1977 invented what is known as the RSA public-key encryption algorithm. Unless you have an interest in mathematical cryptography, that fact probably doesn’t mean much to you, but for those interested in network security, those guys are legends in their field and it is very interesting to listen to them and others of the same caliber talk security.

While most of my readers could probably care less about cryptography, they should be very interested in one of the general sessions that took place at this year’s conference. On the second day, they had a panel discussion called, Pandora's Box: Youth and the Internet. During that session, the moderator and panelist revealed several startling statistics. Perhaps you have seen stats like this before, but I think you will agree they bear repeating:

The number of children between the ages of 10 and 17 who have received an unwanted sexual solicitation over the Internet is 1 in 7. Think about that ratio in conjunction with the number of children at your church or school.

The percentage of those children who report that solicitation to their parents is only 27%. So, just because they are not saying anything about this does not mean nothing bad has happened.

The average age a child first sees pornography on the Internet is age 11.

This last one is hard to believe but the moderator claimed that research says that children are the largest audience for pornography on the Internet.

As someone who has a seven year old boy, these are shocking and sobering statistics. My son can already open a browser and type in – all on his own. He can surf the site and find the Bionicle section without any problem. If we were to let him play on the computer without restraint, I’m sure he could accidentally surf to any number of inappropriate web sites. We would all do well as parents to closely supervise our children’s Internet usage.

When kids get older, new online communities present additional hazards. One of the panelists talked about how registered sex offenders use to target young children and teens. Parents, you need to know who your children’s MySpace friends are and what sort of pictures they are posting.

Also, according to the panel, teens tend to let their guard down and are often much less reserved on the Internet. It is not uncommon for straight-laced, honor students to be downright sleazy in their online persona. Remember, these are not uptight fundamentalists talking; these are the observations of secular professionals who have studied the phenomenon. If pastors and church leaders fall in this area, and they do, how much more concerned should we be with our children?


At 9:30 PM, Blogger Don Johnson said...

Andy, I agree with your sentiments. We can't let our guards down.

I am wondering what you think of the various proxy server programs and the like, like Hedgebuilders, for instance?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

At 6:41 AM, Blogger Andy Rupert said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger Andy Rupert said...

Yes, I wonder what is the best protection, too. I'm currently testing a program called Safe Eyes ( which blocks certain types of web sites and limits the amount of time each user is on the computer. Anyone heard of this one? (

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Don and Andy,

I'm not familiar with Hedgebuilders or SafeEyes but I will check them out. I used to use a Internet service that Dr. Minnick recommended several years ago, something like Clearmountain?, but it didn't work very well.

When I worked for Coca-Cola, we used a corporate edition of WebSense to filter Internet access for all the employees. In addition we ran a daily keyword search on the web logs to find inappropriate web usage that got by the filter. It was amazing to me how much junk did not get filtered properly by our expensive software. I say all that to say that filtering, in general, is not nearly as good as it needs to be.


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