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Parental Alert 1    Back

Your Kids Were Online, But Do You Know Where They Went?

It is all very well for parents to be told that they must supervise their children's activities online, but not so many parents have the time to literally be around when their kids are surfing the web to make sure no inappropriate websites are visited. There are several solutions to this problem. One of the simplest is to sit down on the computer after your child has gone off to do something else, and take a look at a snapshot of where they went. How do you do this? Easy. All you have to do is check 2 folders inside the WINDOWS folder of your computer hard drive (C drive). One folder is called "Temporary Internet Files" and the other is called "History".

NOTE: Following techniques assume Internet Explorer 8 (other versions or Internet browsers may vary)

Temporary Internet Files
The Temporary Internet Files is also known as the "Cache" and it stores records of websites you visit while you visit them. When you connect to a website your computer starts to display the pictures and graphics on that website, but it also downloads a copy of them to the Cache, so that if you come back the next day to the same website, the site will load and display much faster, because now instead of your computer having to load the pictures and graphics from the website, it simply displays the copy from its Cache. By looking at the Cache files you can get a sense of where your child went on the web.


The Cache also stores another kind of record of a visit to a website. These are called "Cookies". Cookies assist websites in "remembering" information about visitors to make subsequent visits easier. For example when a website remembers your password each time you visit, that is cookie technology. To "set a cookie" the website actually transfers a small piece of data to your computer hard drive. Next time you visit that website the website looks at that cookie on your computer and makes use of the information it placed there before. That means by looking at the cookie files in the Cache, you can get a clue about where your child has been on the web. Bear in mind that not every website your child visits will set a cookie.

Looking In The Cache
Open Internet Explorer, click on Tools on the Menu Bar in the top left-hand of the display & select 'Internet Options'. A new dialogue box titled 'Iternet options' opens up. Select the 'General' tab and click on the 'Settings' button in the 'Browsing History' section. Another dialogue box titled ' Temporary Internet Files and Settings' opens up. Click on the 'View Files' button.

The window that opens has an "Internet Address" column and a "Last Modified" column. These are the only two columns you really need to look at for cookie spotting. You can sort the files in the Cache folder by clicking on the title bar of the "Last Modified" column. This will sort by date.

In the Internet Address column cookies are listed with the word "Cookie:" followed by an email address. BY looking at the email address, especially the bit after the @ symbol, you will see a list of domain names (website names) where your child has been. The part before the @ symbol will be you or your child's Internet username. For example, if for the date I am checking I see the following listing in the Internet Address column:


This tells me 4 websites where I went and which set cookies. If that cookie list was your child's you would probably have some words with them about that last entry.

The rest of the Cache will have web pages, pictures & files that make up the browsing experience. Now if you look in the Internet Address column you can see which websites these pictures & pages came from. Sometimes the web address will be obviously a website that you do not want your child visiting. Sometimes you may have to go visit it to see what it is.

The History Folder
Have you ever revisited a website and started typing in the web address (the "Url") only to have your web browser complete the address for you? How did it do that? That's the role of the History Folder. it keeps a record of the web addresses you visit in order to speed up the typing in of the address when you come back. And of course that means that in the history folder you can find a trail of where your child went.

Open Internet Explorer, click on Tools on the Command Bar in the top right-hand of the display & select 'Explorer Bars' and then select 'History'. A new pane opens up on the left of the web page. You can view the sites that have been visited by opening up 'Today' or 'Last Week', depending on how much History has been saved.

So there you are, a simple way to keep an eye on where your kids are going on the web!

My Cache And My History Folders Are Completely Empty!
Oh dear. It looks like your kid got there before you!

Both the Cache and History folders can be purged (emptied) by anyone, including your child, if they know where to go to do it. This can be done by going to 'Internet Options' (as described above) and choosing the 'delete' button in the 'Browsing History' section. The history and Cache can also be selectively edited, so remember, just because you don't find any evidence of strange websites, that doesn't mean nothing is going on. It may just mean you have a smart kid!



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