Software for Parental Control - What you Need to Know

By: Ron King

Children and adults alike are spellbound by the world of the Internet. Unfortunately, there are times when children can become exposed to material and information that is not appropriate for their age or experience. In addition, youngsters can unknowingly disclose sensitive personal information to an unscrupulous "lurker," revealing credit card numbers or other data without being aware. Because of these potential risks, PC computer security is vital, and software for parental control is a necessary component for an all-ages household.

The first line of part of your job is to teach your child how to use the Internet safely. Children are fascinated with computers and the Internet as early as age 2, and young children can be easily guided to appropriate web sites that provide entertainment and education.

As children get older, however, it becomes more difficult to know about all their online activities. By adolescence, they may engage in looking at pornography or chatting online with potential predators. Sometimes they'll post photos of themselves and provide information that could allow pedophiles to try to meet them offline.

Being involved with your child's online activities helps reduce some of these risks. Keeping the computer in the where you can see it or just being interested in what they view may be enough to help children resist the lure of 'forbidden' sites.

It's usually not possible, though, to supervise 100 percent of your child's total online activities. Frightening thought, but when you're at work or shopping you can't know what your child is being exposed to.

Or can you?

In fact, there are a wide range of PC computer security software and hardware tools that can limit your child's Internet access or monitor his or her computer activities. Most cost very little, some are even free, others are simply pointers for how to restrict access.

HOW FILTERING SOFTWARE WORKS

Filtering software works by blocking certain web sites or specific keywords. Parents can specify them or use a pre-built list. For example, a list of pornographic or otherwise inappropriate sites is given by the software vendor and can be updated from their web site. Any time your child tries to access one of these web sites he or she will get a 'HTTP 404 Page Not Found' or similar message.

Filters can also be set up to prevent access to certain types of Internet traffic such as instant messaging, newsgroups, e-mail, or peer-to-peer (P2P) hosting. The latter is often used for file exchanges.

These filters aren't perfect and it's next to impossible for a database to be totally up-to-date because new web sites come onto the Internet all the time, but they help.

Another type of software for parental control records all your child's computer activity - sites visited, e-mails sent or received, programs run, even individual keystrokes in some cases.

Another option is to install software which only allows computer use to certain times during the day. The computer shuts off at scheduled times or when a certain amount of data has been downloaded from the Internet. Actually Windows has built-in facilities for doing this, but configuring it requires a level of expertise beyond the average user. You can search for parental control software ratings, as features vary from one manufacturer to another.

Software for parental control exists which can block your child's name, address or other personal details as specified by the parent from being sent. Be sure to do a parental control software comparison to determine which type of software is right for your family.

UPS AND DOWNS OF BROWSER PROTECTION

Some browsers are specifically created for children that incorporate many of the PC computer security filters discussed above. They're easier for children to use than Internet Explorer or Firefox but don't rely totally on this type of browser, however. Internet Explorer can't be uninstalled from the Windows operating system and any net savvy kid will probably know how to gain access to it.

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