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With the internet now a normal part of everyday life, parents need to have control over what content can be viewed by small children, and what their teenagers are doing when no one is looking.
This presents a two level solution : Internet filtering for little ones, and Internet monitoring for older kids.
Internet filtering is limiting the content that can viewed on a computer. The main things to look for when choosing an internet filter are:
- Ease of use
- Effective filtering – A good balance between filtering objectional material, and not filtering too much content
Products like NetNanny (approx. $50.00 per year) do a good job of protecting your child from viewing undesirable content. AOL has good parental controls, you set a child up with their own user name and restrict their access. The biggest problem with using AOL is that even the smallest children know how to bypass AOL and go directly to Internet Explorer.
If your planning to buy a new computer, or have done so in the last year, Windows Vista offers most of the major features of standalone software: time limit settings, adjustable levels of site and application blocking, IM blocking and usage logging.
One criticism is that Vista doesn’t allow parents to customize time limits as well as some programs; another is that it doesn’t offer remote management. Apple’s new operating system,
Leopard, offers similar features to Vista and standalone software, except that it doesn’t allow the same fine-tuned control over games as Vista does.
Older kids present a different set of challenges. Restricting access to the internet is difficult if not impossible. Teenagers need to be able to access a broad spectrum of the internet for educatonal reasons.
But, it is essential that they be monitored while they are on the computer. There are many good monitoring programs available, but Webwatcher (approx. $97.00) surges to the front with the ability to allow parents to view visited websites, sent and recieved e-mail, and both sides of an instant messaging conversation.
Webwatcher allows you to view this information on it’s website, so you can monitor what your teenager is doing while you’re at work, or away from home.