My kids are approaching the age where they want to use the Internet. I have a spare computer with Linux on it. What are the things I should do make the Internet safe for my kids?
As the administrator for a company proxy, I have a slightly different view of this. I'll step forward and say it's not going to be a popular one, but it's one I've given much thought to over the years for the same reason.
The best filter and access control setup to use ...
The crux of the matter is very similar to the issues surrounding antivirus updates. No matter how good the detection engine is, no matter how often you update, there is always a window of "vulnerability" between when when a "problem" is released onto the internet in general, and when it is detected.
Proxy filtering software is a reasonable approach. Everyone that has suggested these answers has done the right thing - use a form of content filtering that makes sense for you. (Yes, I gave everyone a +1 that mentioned this). But the same issue remains - there are new sites coming online every day, and old ones that go offline. During this time, you need to be able to known about these and block them. So there is always a window of opportunity to stumble into "inappropriate material" or "web exploits".
Being there with your younger child as they surf around is a great idea. It is difficult to substitute adult experience with a piece of software, and being able to spot a problem and steer the child away before it becomes an issue is something that no proxy can deduce. And if by unfortunate luck you end up clicking a "disguised link" or end up under a cross-scripting attack that spawns 100 bazillion popups/installs/downloads, you'll be able to respond in seconds...instead of minutes after the fact, when your child comes to you and says "I keep seeing funny pictures of people without clothes, and now I have a funny purple gorilla that keep bugging me to see things. Make it stop (mom/dad)!"
As kids get older, you can keep the proxy in place and reduce the filtering, but the occasional pop-in and "hey, whatcha up to?" is worth its weight in gold. It's not so much snooping into their personal lives - a sensitive issue for many teens and one they would resent greatly - as it is a quick "check for trouble". For older teens, I might even forgo the filtering, provided they agree to have the URLs logged via the proxy (possibly through a squid setup that has minimal controls but logs each visit). This is a good tradeoff between keeping tabs on where they go, but still giving them enough privacy in their communications (because it only logs the URL visited, not what they send or post online).
In the end, I suppose that most people will just install a basic filter and get on with life, but for me, and my kids, being there as they explore and learn is something I would never miss.
I think you should take it out of the system and onto the network instead. It would be a bit trickier to implement, but with OpenDNS you can select filters to activate, and boom, your child is safe from all the stuff you don't want him/her to see.
For more information, take a look at this explanatory page for parental controls.
Pardon if this escapes the scope of the question, as this would be more of an network implementation (changing DNS servers for that user) instead of a software solution.
You want to use a reliable and well supported distribution, such as Ubuntu and OpenSuse (or Edubuntu as suggested by Charlls). Firefox browser would be included by default.
You need to have some form of parental control, and fortunately, there is a Firefox plugin for that purpose. Learn to use it. Install a content filter too that can prevent your kids from surfing undesirable websites (dansguardian does the job well)
Since you want to protect your children's privacy, use a software such as MoBlock.
You would like to have a virus scanner that prevents virus and spyware from infecting your computer, clamav would do the job.
Qimo is linux distribution, made for small kids based on ubuntu. Very intuite nice interface.
Wouldd't Moblin or Ubuntu Netbook Remix be a nicer version for children?
Off course, I'm not familiar with what packages you can install, but I would imagine you could install most of the Edu-packages in UNR as well?
+1 for the DansGuardian idea, it even keeps me "safe" at work!
I like the idea of children using Linux, since not a lot can go wrong and they need a password to really change anything. The only thing you could do is set-up a remote access to the machine, so you can take over if they need help or you need to settle quarrels ;-)