As a father of five daughters, I understand that even as sophisticated as the World Wide Web has become, it is still a vast environment with ambiguous boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate, safe and unsafe information and media.
Recently, I addressed the interest in, fascination with and complex nature of the online social networking community called MySpace. I referenced parental controls and how to find out more about them in order to provide online safety for children.
Apparently I struck a chord, as the questions are still coming in and every inquiry is centered around the subject of parental controls. So, as a dutiful columnist looking out for the best interests of his readership and their families –- here you are!
I referenced two Web sites specializing in parental controls and information. Here they are again: www.software4parents.com and www.k9webprotection.com. MySpace recommends these two sites, however the list of software specializing in internet security and parental controls and monitoring is long.
A very popular program is Net Nanny: www.netnanny.com. Additionally, head over to www.parentalsoftware.org and look at their offerings SniperSpy and WebWatcher. Also, Sentry Remote, KidsNet, Spector Pro, Eblaster 3.0, Spector Classic, Enuff and IamBigBrother are offerings you may want to look into to provide yourself with a well-rounded perspective of this important subject. Simply use your favorite search engine to locate the URL’s for these programs. Keep in mind, product reviews are subjective and user-experiences vary. Do your research and determine which program seems to fit your needs. Most offer a free trial so you can “try before you buy.”
Before moving on and in the tradition of providing valuable resources to the readers of Tech Talk, I would like to make mention of a free program, which, when installed, resides in your browser as an always-accessible toolbar. It is called FreeShield and can be found at www.freeshield.com. There is a bit of a learning curve here, however it is a very good solution for a hands-on and moderately tech-literate computer user.
As with any software, consult the system requirements for the program you are interested in and be sure your computer is up to the task.
Now, on to the business of monitoring.
Any security software program requires a set of parameters to which it adheres in order to do its job. While there is a default set of keyword parameters built in to most internet security and monitoring programs, they are also equipped with a set of user-configurable controls. The customizability features is where the real strength of these programs can be found. However, be forewarned –- these programs are quite literal in their implementation of user-directed commands. For instance, if you choose the word “sex” as search criteria and disallow any site with that word, you are effectively eliminating any reference to “sexually-transmitted diseases,” “safe-sex practices,” etc. Needless to say, a bit of planning and forethought is advised.
Take care –- it’s a virtual jungle out there.