For children internet safety must be of paramount importance Many of us have no idea of the range of harmful materials that are freely distributed and made available online; or of the many dangers an unwary child might face. When it comes to keeping our children safe online many of us feel slightly in the dark as to what we should do. Parental control software aims to relieve some of this pressure by monitoring and blocking your child’s internet access – but how effective is parental control software?
5 Tips To Use Parental Control Software Effectively For Children Internet Safety
Common Security Setups
In answering this question we’ll look at the ways in which parental control software works and the features it can utilize before analyzing the benefits and risks. The most common features of parental control software are search blocking, site blocking and usage tracking. Additional features can often include time restrictions, customizable allow and block restrictions and email/mobile phone direct updates.
Block out the Bad Stuff in Search
Starting with search blocking we can judge the effectiveness of this based on the number of keywords that the software uses to block. Basically search blogging uses a database of stored words that a child should not be searching for. This will include sexually related terms and other terms related to a wide range of inappropriate content. If your child tries to search for any of the words found in the database then they will be prevented by doing so from the software filters. This means that no results will display for any search terms they might input.
The effectiveness of this control mechanism is really judged based on how regularly the database of search terms is updated and how many search terms or keywords it currently blocks. If the software uses a large database of keywords then it will block all but the most dedicated searches but if it uses a small database it will be easy for your children to bypass.
Stop the Inappropriate Sites
Secondly we have site blocking. Site blocking works in much the same way as search blocking, except that it uses a database of web addresses to filter sites that have been judged inappropriate, or sites that contain harmful content. This database directly blocks access to websites and if regularly updated should prove a very effective control mechanism. The problem with this kind of approach is that new websites pop up daily that contain inappropriate or harmful content so unless the control software is regularly updated its site blocking may prove ineffective. However that is not to say that site blocking is not worth having, quite the contrary, it still will eliminate a huge percentage of potentially accessible sites.
Tracking the technology
Thirdly we have usage tracking. Usage tracking is simply the recording and monitoring of a child’s use of the internet. It can take the form of direct monitoring (where you can directly see what your child is doing via a second computer), report filing and data compiling. These latter two record websites visited, messages sent, emails opened and a variety of other internet based activities. Usage tracking does not necessarily provide you with direct defence but it does allow you to monitor your child’s activity and take fast effective action should you find them using the internet inappropriately. It is effective at keeping you up to date but does not provide direct defence.
Appropriate Parental Control
Having examined these main features we can see that each has its strengths and weaknesses. The problem is that parental control software can only be so effective. It serves as a fantastic additional layer of defence against internet misuse but it should only be considered as a secondary defence measure. Using parental control software is useful but it should be done alongside proper internet guidance, supervision and education.