Controls Are Only As Good As Your Password!
by Colin Gabriel Hatcher
Many parents use and indeed rely on the various technological measures used by
internet companies to prevent children's access to adult materials. These
include parental access controls, blocking and filtering software, and activity
logs. But some parents can forget that since they have to use a password in
order to access, edit or set-up these features on their internet service, that
password is the only thing preventing their children from getting the same
There are two important issues when it comes to choosing a good password.
Firstly, what word will you use? Secondly, will you write it down and if so
where will you store it? Children are often very clever at guessing or working
out what password you chose, and if they can't guess it, they might also be good
at finding it where you hid it. Many parents keep their passwords in a nearby
drawer, in their purse, or even written on the underside of the keyboard!
Imagine how easy these are for children to find!
First then, what is a good password. A good password is at least 7 letters long
and includes both letters and numbers. Try to avoid choosing obvious words like
the names of your family, or your favorite food, and avoid using numbers of your
family's birthdays and anniversaries, or your favorite number - these will be
the first words and numbers your kids will try! Avoid also using one word - use
two words that connect in some way, like a plural noun and an adjective, but
pick word combinations that would not normally be used together, e.g. "redmoons",
"peculiaroceans" or "bizarredolphins" (but not "bluemoons",
"deepoceans" or "blackcats" - these are guessable!). You
could even pick these words from a dictionary at random.
Now add some numbers (at least 2). Pick them truly at random - roll a dice! Now
that you have your numbers (let's say 2 numbers for this example), use them at
the beginning of the password and also again at the end, e.g., if you roll 6 and
2 on your dice, make your password "62peculiaroceans62", or
"62redmoons62". If you are feeling enterprising you could even use
them 3 times, like this: "62bizarre62dolphins62".
An alternative password making technique is to think of a sentence with words
and numbers in it, and then reduce the words to their first letters. So for
example: "66 chickens running over 7 hills dropping 6 eggs" becomes:
"66cro7hd6e". These kinds of passwords are called "mnemonic"
passwords. But be careful: if you forget the sentence you originally thought up
you will forget the password!
Now what about writing it down? Well the best rule is don't! The idea is that if
you create a memorable password you won't need to write it down, because it will
stick in your mind. On the other hand if your password is complex and illogical,
e.g., 6rtt577y8tu889, then it may be effective but you may need to write it
down. Remember, if it's written down someone can find it (Your child may not be
able to find their socks, but be assured they will find your password!) If you
really have to write it down in case you forget it, don't keep it at home where
your child can find it, but instead give it to a friend you could telephone in a
password emergency. (Don't give it to a friend whose house your child regularly
visits. Remember, children like to search and they are very good at it!)
A final piece of advice. Even after all your efforts, your child might still
crack your password. It is possible for example for your child to obtain
software from the internet that assists a person to crack a password, by trying
literally millions of combinations of letters and numbers. So the rule is: NO
password is foolproof EVER. In other words, NEVER rely on your password alone to
protect your child. You should also keep a careful eye on things. Remember,
there really is no substitute for active parental involvement in what children
are doing online.
About the author: Colin Gabriel Hatcher, a California attorney is the Founder
& CEO of SafetyEd International www.safetyed.org.
He is also a Martial Arts Instructor (he holds 5 black belts). Colin can be
reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.