What is Parental Control Software?
Can Internet Filtering Programs Help Parents Protect Their Children?
Kids spend a lot of time online nowadays. They may use the Internet to play games, to have a relaxing surf, to chat with their friends or to help with homework assignments. Great as the Internet may be, it does bring a variety of problems with it especially for children who may not have the life experience to use it sensibly.
But, monitoring a child’s Internet usage can be near impossible. Parents won’t have the time to watch their kids whenever they are online, especially as they get older. Parental control software is an alternative option used by many parents to try and keep their kids safe.
What is Parental Control Software?
This kind of software basically sets limits on what a child can do when they are online. It can be set up in various ways to prevent them from doing anything that would be inappropriate for their age or that might harm them. These programs work by using Internet filtering processes to block specific actions that they and the parents set.
They also often allow parents to track what their kids are doing online. This can happen in “stealth” mode where the kids aren’t told that they are being tracked or monitored or parents can choose to tell their kids what is going on. By the time kids reach their teenage years they may get wise to the fact that their activity is being monitored in any case.
How does a Parental Control System Work?
There are a variety of situations and surfing opportunities that parents don’t want their kids to do. These programs will offer a range of solutions, including:
- Blocking access to specific types of sites (such as gambling websites).
- Setting time limits on how long and when a child can go online.
- Reporting on what a child is doing when they are on a computer (i.e. by listing surfing activity or keylogging).
- Issuing alerts to parents when their child tries to do something they shouldn’t.
- Monitoring instant messaging and chat room conversations for signs of trouble.
- Looking at social networking activity to check that it is age appropriate.
The options on offer may vary from program to program. Parents are also often given choices on how stringently they monitor their child. Some, for example, will simply want a basic email report of what their child has done online. Others may want to monitor chat and IM content.
What can Parental Software Protect Against?
There are a variety of issues and actions that could cause problems here. Letting any child loose on the Internet can be risky, especially if they don’t yet understand how to surf safely and how to look after themselves online. So, this could help prevent kids:
- Being able to access inappropriate sites.
- Suffering from cyberbullying and grooming in chat rooms and on IM sites.
- Accessing social networking sites when they are underage and acting inappropriately if they are old enough to register.
- Spending too much time online.
Although many parents worry about “nannying” their children too much here, many others simply find this an effective solution to potential problems.
Where to Find Parental Control Software
Some parents find that they are given elements of Internet filtering either on their operating system or from their Internet supplier. In some cases, the software on offer here may give them all the protection they need.
In other cases, however, they may find that they get better filtering options by buying specially designed software packages. Many will come with a free trial so this may be worth looking at for those who think they’ll get better solutions with an off the shelf system.
Parents should bear in mind that parental control software, whilst useful, may not be not a long-term solution. Talking to their kids about safe surfing and how to protect themselves online is just as important.