The Internet is an “unlimited” information source in every sense of the word. Most parents want to ensure their children are only accessing age appropriate content and images.
The first and only method of ensuring your children only see what you deem is appropriate is to sit with them while they are on the Internet. But while it may be the only truly effective method, it may not be that practical as it limits their Internet time to when you are around. Most of us adults don’t have that much extra time to accommodate all our children’s time online.
The next method is to use an allowed list of sites that can be accessed from that computer or that user account. For example, our seven-year-old son has a web portal for his school that requires a login and has age appropriate games and learning based programs. I don’t have to be concerned about the content he is seeing and there is no concern that strangers are going to be chatting or emailing within the site. This method can also be used to set up a blocked list of sites. For example, some kids spend a lot of time on Facebook when they are supposed to be doing research for school homework. You can block access to the entire Facebook domain so that it will not be accessible.
You have two options to control what sites can be viewed by an Internet browser such as Firefox or Internet Explorer. You can go into each browser application’s settings or use a component plugin within the browser to set controls. Or you can program your router to allow or block certain sites. The router connects all computers within your home to the Internet.
The router option is a lot easier to set up in many ways because you can add a site you want to block one time and that site is not accessible to any computer in the house or through any browser. (Sorry if I am alienating the Mac users but I am not very familiar with their browser software, and frankly as a PC user I assume everyone uses a PC and Mac users are on their own. Actually this is just my way of getting back for all the funny Mac ads that make fun of Windows.)
The downside of the router method is that it blocks the site for everyone. It is not very practical if we want to have some sites blocked for some users based on age, for example. This approach is typically used when you want to limit the sites that can be accessed to a short list (say pick five sites that you will allow your kids to see) as opposed to blocking all the sites you don’t want them to see (which can be a very long list.)
If you want to have selective settings, using the router is not going to work. This is where the browser option is better. Here’s what to do:
SELECTIVE SETTING FOR INTERNET EXPLORER 7.0
If you want a separate list of controlled sites for each child in the house, based on age, for example, here are the steps for Internet Explorer 7.0.
Under the main menu heading “Tools,” click on Internet Options, and then select the Content tab. At the top of the page there is a button for Parental Controls. When you click on this you will be presented with a step by step process to create an account for each of your User Accounts. This makes it much easier if you want to have graduated controls for each age range and have your own user account with no controls.
Each User can have a login, and you will set up a password to protect the settings on the Parental Controls. That way, unless one of your children are an experienced hacker, you can have a reasonably effective control system, with minimal effort, for free.
I won’t go into the details on what the Parental Controls can do and how to set it up. There is a really good Help file in Windows on what restrictions you can create, how to set time limits, how to use age limits on games that can be accessed, and how to allow or block specific programs. There are also Activity Reports built in to help you double check the effectiveness of what they are accessing.
Most kids are smart enough to turn off their History so you can’t view where they have been. This is a better way to monitor each person’s activities.
PAR ENTAL CONTROLS FOR FIREFOX
Firefox browser has no built in parental control option. I did a search on “Parental Control Firefox,” and got a list of web filtering software. You have three main options to put controls on Firefox: You can buy the web filtering software. You can use your router, as we’ve already discussed. Or you can check out an OpenDNS free service. Visit this page for more information: Web_ Filtering_Software
If you are looking for something for Firefox, check out the links to the PC Magazine and The PC Magazine link has a good article on 12 tools to keep kids safe on the Internet. Near the bottom of the article, they reference a tool called iShield that can block pornographic images. It also has some recommendations on how you can limit time online.
As you can see this can get real complicated in a hurry. Most of the options I looked at are in the “under $50” and “under $100” range.
To summarize, the Router option is more effective in that it is the most difficult to circumvent and it blocks things