Keeping the internet safe for kids

We recently bought a Lenovo S10 netbook for our Miss 10.

I’ll review the netbook in another post, but one concern I had was internet filtering. Our family computers are currently in the family room where we can monitor our kids computer usage. But we have also put NetNanny on our current computers to filter sites out.

Yes I know there are people who would argue to let kids roam on the internet free.  I’m all for the kids to learn and explore their sexuality – but it’s so way too easy to access XXX rated and really inappropriate material – stuff that I’d rather my 10 year old not see.

With the netbook, I wanted Miss 10 to be able to use it in her bedroom. I was first thinking of not connecting it to our home wireless network, and hence not to the internet. However, this would be most frustrating – especially since she needs to access the school’s website for homework details, and also other educational sites like Mathletics.

The option that parents have is to install a net filter, or in tech speak, a firewall.   There are 2 general types of net filters – blacklist or whitelist.

Blacklist

A blacklist filter will basically allow all sites to be accessed, except for a set of known “bad” sites (the blacklist).

The good thing about a blacklist is that it lets you access the internet freely without much effort.

The bad thing about a blacklist is the blacklist – it needs to be kept up to date as there are always new “bad” sites around. The software can be intelligent and block keywords too, but there is a possibility that your child could stumble upon a “bad” site.

Whitelist

A whitelist filter will basically block all sites from being accessed, except for a set of known “good” sites (the whitelist).

It’s much easier to keep track of the sites that you will allow your child to access.

The bad thing about a whitelist is that it’s restrictive, so free searches that may be needed for research on Google will not work. Also, you’ll find that a single web site will actually reference and load images and pages from all sorts of other sites. It will require some time to add these additional sites to the whitelist to make surfing the web a non frustrating experience.

Software

I’ve tried a few and love NetNanny.  NetNanny is basically a blacklist filter.  It seems to work really well and is not obtrusive.  This is currently installed on all our computers at home.

I like how NetNanny lets me check logs and change settings remotely and also set times of the day that surfing is allowed.  The 3 user family pack is a great idea too as more and more families have more than 1 computer at home.

And for a while, I’ve been trialling a whitelist filter using Internet Explorer on Miss 10’s netbook.   It’s a bit more annoying, and needs some work to set up, but at least it’s free with Internet Explorer.   I will post more details on this later.

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2 thoughts on “Keeping the internet safe for kids”

  1. I use the freeware k9 filter at home, and find it does a pretty good job.
    It queries each URL against a database before deciding if the user is allowed to visit that site, and you can configure different levels of filtering.

    If a parent is on the PC, and wants to temporarily allow access to a blocked site, you can do so for 15 minutes (or permanently).

  2. Personally, I’ve tried a few different internet filters, and finally found one that I love. My Internet Doorman is a whole different kind of filter. It’s fully managed, so I don’t have to worry about making lists of “good” or “bad” sites. (Which drove me nuts- who can keep up those lists?!) It’s designed with parents in mind, so you can adjust the levels to suit your kid’s ages and your personal preferences. I liked it better than Net Nanny, and it’s more affordable, too. The website is http://www.myinternetdoorman.com.

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