In the first part of this article, I talked about the physical restrictions that can be placed on a computer, such as its location, time restraints and mobile phones. Today, I’m going to talk more about the software and configuration changes that can limit the dangerous areas that a child can peruse.
The old way to block content is to use parental controls. Internet Explorer has had parental controls since version 5 of their software, and Microsoft just released IE9. Parental Controls are in the internet options and allow you to filter out specific types of material you may find objectionable. The only problem with this is that nobody uses the content rating system included with Internet Explorer, so all sites end up showing up as not-rated, which looks bad to the content blocker. You end up with none of the sites working because none of them have a rating. Don’t believe me? Try it now and see. Just enable content blocking for a specific objectionable content and see if you can go to a site that has that kind of content. Now see if you can go to any site. I don’t even think Google uses the content rating system, as its results are pretty much determined by your search.
A better option is OpenDNS.org. OpenDNS is a project to use open DNS servers, which allow you to find websites by typing in domain names, instead of IP addresses. Imagine if instead of facebook.com, you had to type in 220.127.116.11. It would be harder to remember wouldn’t it? Well back when the internet getting formed, those nerds realized there had to be a way to use domain names instead of ip addresses if the internet was actually going to be useful to everyone. Thus the DNS system. OpenDNS gives you some OpenDNS servers that are not limited to any specific ISP’s DNS servers, so your results are supposed to be a little quicker and a little more secure. You see, Open DNS filters content by default to block Phishing and known spyware/adware sites. With a little configuration and a free OpenDNS account, you can turn up that filtering to block pornographic sites, or even social network sites. This will serve a content filtering purpose and a security purpose, as your chances of spyware and viruses are reduced.
Why would anyone want to block the wonderful Facebook or Twitter? Well, imagine you’re an employer and you have jobs for your employees to do at work and you don’t want them wasting time on social media. The boss can take it out. Furthermore, porn sites can be illegal, so it helps a business protect itself from illegal activity on its network. This is not near as complicated as it seems, and I’ve seen it work first hand. The objectionable material, when asked for, will instead come up with a screen saying the content has been blocked. The account with OpenDNS is free and allows you to tweak the settings and allow content you find okay and block the content you don’t want your kids looking at. I think this is the best way to control the type of content that appears on your computer screen with the least amount of time and effort.
Another more passive way you can monitor your children’s activity online is through watching their internet history. All browsers keep history of sites traversed and it’s in your best interest to see if you have anything to worry about. If the history is cleared, this may indicate suspicious activity as well, because your child may be trying to hide the sites they are using. This is another good reason to have multiple accounts on your computer, all being password protected. If you want to look at another user’s browsing history, it is there for your viewing. Internet history is passive, because you don’t have to do anything for the browser to start recording history. It is the default setting on all browsers. If the history has been turned off, turn it on. Its worth figuring out if your child is going to sites they shouldn’t, no matter how much brainpower it takes to figure out.
In conclusion, you can do things as a parent to secure and monitor your child’s browsing habits. You can put the computer in a central location to more easily monitor his or her activity. You can restrict their time on the computer to certain hours or a certain number of hours. You can also deny them mobile smart phones that make browsing portable. You can use OpenDNS to filter objectionable content and you can check your child’s browsing history to see where they’ve been. If you follow these simple steps, you will be able to prevent your children from seeing things they shouldn’t, and keep their attention on the things that matter, like schoolwork and kid-focused safe websites.