A major European campaign, Safer Internet Day (SID), kicked off today, with the intent of teaching children aged five and up the importance of protecting their online identity and not talking to strangers. Microsoft's Internet Explorer team, in association with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), took the opportunity to launch a new version of IE8 that makes it easy for youngsters to find information about staying safe online.
The family-friendly version of the browser gives the user one-click access to reporting tools that allow them to flag inappropriate websites to the authorities, and seek help and advice on how to cope with cyberbullying or unwanted online attention. Help tools include advice on what to do about viruses, as well as tackling hacking and problems with mobile browsers.
If you're interested in trying it out yourself, it's available for download. Those who do not want the whole browser because they already have IE8 installed can simply grab one or more of the following CEOP tools for IE8: Add the 'Click CEOP' button to your toolbar, Add CEOP Search to your toolbar, and Add Internet Safety and Security Search to your toolbar.
The Click CEOP Button is an Internet Explorer Web Slice, meaning it's like a super bookmark. When you click on it, you're shown a mini CEOP webpage with a bunch of links. The top bar takes you to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. Below that are six links that take you to portals on the site to help you out with a given topic: cyberbullying, viruses, harmful content, hacking, mobile problems, and sexual behavior. At the bottom, there are also five pages that get you started based on the type of user you are: children aged 5-7, 8-10, 11-16, parents, and teachers.
The other two features are simply Internet Explorer search add-ons. The Search CEOP adds a CEOP entry in IE8's search bar in the top right. Using it redirects you to a Bing search page that looks at pages from ceop.police.uk and thinkuknow.co.uk. To get an idea of how it worked, we did a search for sex, which turned up a list of parent education and safe surfing sites. The Internet Safety Partners search add-on does the same, except that it searches a lot more sites, including iwf.org.uk, getsafeonline.org, and others. Here's the corresponding sex query.
The only other things the bundled IE8 browser offers are a few favorites to some of the aforementioned sites. It's really just like the customized IE8 that you can get for eBay, Yahoo, or MSN: the actual browser doesn't do anything different, it simply has a few extra links and add-ons.
This Web Slice and search add-ons are intended to help your kids stay relatively safe online. They're a great place to start learning about safe surfing, but parents are still expected to take the initiative and monitor their kids online. It's an education push more than anything.
If you believe these tools will be useful to you and your kids, we definitely recommend you go ahead and use them; they look like good resources. That said, we'll repeat what we've said many times before: software is there to help you parent, not meant to do the job for you.
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