This week, PCMag.com is running an informative article called “Child-Proof Your Computer.” The article is geared toward protecting your younger pre-school aged children from the dangers of the internet. School aged children and teenagers bristle at the idea of having any kind of restrictions placed upon them, especially if those restrictions apply to texting or visiting their favorite social networking site. Our responsibility as parents is to protect our children to the best of our ability, even if it means restricting certain activities. Sometimes, we need “Parental Controls” to help us along.
What are Parental Controls?
Parental Controls are tools that allow parents to choose appropriate content for their children. Parental control software is available for almost anything electronic, everything from TV (remember the V-chip) to the internet and cell phones.
The article mentions three “big-kid parental control systems.” These are Net Nanny 6.0, OnlineFamily.Norton and Safe Eyes 5.0. We use Safe Eyes 5.0 in our home and it works pretty well. We receive reports weekly detailing our internet use which capture website visits, applications used, instant messenger conversations, and much more. Safe Eyes runs on the PC or Mac and has a mobile version available for iPhones. At the time of this post, Safe Eyes cost $49.95/yr and may be installed on up to 3 computers.
I have no experience with NetNanny, but know it costs a little more than Safe Eyes for 3 computers. OnlineFamily.Norton surprised me. Symantec is not currently charging for the service. It is free. I read some posts on the Norton website that it was only supposed to be free for the introductory period which expired on Jan. 1st. But to the surprise of everyone on the forum, a Norton representative posted that they were not going to start charging for the service. I did read that users are saying the software is kind of buggy, but Kudos to Norton anyway! I may try it for myself when my new laptop gets here.
Regardless of the tool, they all provide similar services such as:
- Content controls where you select the types of website that are appropriate
- Block unwanted email
- Program controls: Control Instant Messengers, File Sharing, and other harmful programs
- Time controls: Control the amount of time spent online, and the times when the internet is available.
- Usage logging: Create and review logs of websites visited, programs used on the Internet, and Instant Messaging Chats
- Usage alerts—Be notified instantly via email, text message, or phone call when someone visits inappropriate websites
Because your desire is to keep your family safe, please consider getting one of these for your home. Since Norton is free, it’s probably not a bad idea to give them a try first. See how it works for you and sleep with the peace of mind knowing you’re doing everything you can to protect your family.
You do have a couple of alternatives also. If you are on a home network that has a router attached to the Internet, most routers allow you to create security policies to restrict internet access or impose time limits. I’m not going to tell you how to do that here, that could be an entire post just by itself. If you’re brave enough to try, read your manual for directions. But keep in mind, that router security policies won’t filter out the bad websites. You may be able to maintain a website filter list in your router, but there are so many out there, keeping up with it is a nightmare.
The last line of defense for today’s discussion is to take advantage of the parental control features your wireless carrier offers. All the major cell phone providers offer them. Be aware though, the cell phone needs to be compatible with the service and additional charges apply. Check with your wireless carrier for details.
I don’t post on Sundays, but next Monday, I’m going to talk about a very disturbing trend that we don’t hear very much of—cell phone “sexting.” You may be surprised at what I’ve discovered.