Monitor and Filter Online Content
While no software program can replace parental involvement and oversight, there will be times when you can’t be there in person. That’s when parental control software comes in. These helpful programs provide easy and convenient ways to control the images, text, songs, games and videos that kids are able to access online:
- If you have a new Dell PC with Microsoft Windows 7, a rich selection of parental controls comes standard on your system. These controls allow you to set limits on games, determine when and how long your children can use the PC, and limit which programs they can use.
- Windows Live Family Safety adds a new layer of protection beyond the Windows 7 parental controls. It enables you to choose who your children can communicate with in Windows Live Spaces, Windows Messenger or Hotmail®. The Family Safety Filter must be installed on each computer your children use. If the filter is not installed, the safety settings cannot be enforced. You can also limit internet searches, receive detailed activity reports for each child and manage your filters anywhere you are online, using a PC or mobile phone. Plus, it’s a free download from Microsoft.
- Independent software programs can help you gain additional features to fit your individual online needs.
Keep in mind that children growing up with the internet may quickly gain computer skills that rival or surpass your own. Educating yourself about your PC can help you keep tabs on where your kids go and what they do online.
What Types of Content Can Be Filtered?
While the types of content filtered depend on the software you use, there are several broad categories of content that many programs can catch and exclude. These categories include the following:
Note that no filtering software is 100 percent foolproof. While filtering software is improving, no program can prevent access to all sites. One solution is to set up activity reports to monitor the sites your kids visit. Review sites on the activity report and set your content filters to restrict access to specific sites you disapprove of.
Recognizing Hateful Content
Be vigilant toward hateful content. Sites that promote bigotry, racism and hatred are often cleverly described with innocuous web addresses. Some sites are marketed as humorous, but actually contribute to an online culture where cruelty and xenophobia is accepted or even celebrated.
Adult Content and Pornography
It's no surprise that many adolescents and teenagers are curious about sexuality. This often leads kids in this age group to seek out (and in many cases, access) pornography. Talk to your teenagers about online adult content and pornography, and direct them instead to acceptable sites.
If you choose to enable parental controls in Windows 7, download Windows Live Family Safety to limit internet access or use independent filtering software. Make sure you clearly specify to your kids how the software will affect their browsing.