|Parents who cannot directly supervise all
of their kids' hours online should consider
using software to help control web surfing.
Similar in some respects to controls on TV
viewing, the software can:
However, even the most sophisticated
control software has limitations:
- block specific websites entirely
- mask offensive content within sites, like
certain words, phrases, or images
- prohibit web usage at set times of the day
- permit e-mails only to or from a list of
addresses that you approve
- track web usage after the fact, including
the sites visited
Software vendors use three strategies,
or in combination, to evaluate websites:
- No software is likely to mimic your own decision
making process perfectly.
- Some web content that you would find inappropriate
will get through.
- Some acceptable web content will be blocked.
- Tech-savvy kids might figure out ways to
circumvent the software.
- The software is only a tool. You cannot delegate
all decision making to it.
- Human reviewers evaluate websites, preferably
along several dimensions (e.g., sexuality,
violence), and suggest age restrictions.
The vast, growing, and changing web means
that only a very small percentage of sites
can be reviewed. You also cannot be certain
in advance if a given vendor's reviewers
reflect your values.
- Computerized reviews search for words and
phrases that suggest questionable content.
This also is imperfect: the word "adult"
in a file name might block a site about adult
education, for example. Meanwhile, because
computerized reviews of photos are in their
infancy, inappropriate image content can
slip through if there are no taboo words.
- Self-ratings from website owners are collected
by the Internet Content Rating Association
(ICRA), but this group does not guarantee
accuracy or consistency.
To learn more, continue to Choosing and Using Parental Control Software