Blocking Inappropriate Sites

Question: How can I stop my children from accessing sex sites and other inappropriate sites?

Answer:There are four different approaches to restricting web site access.

  1. White List - where only sites on the list can be accessed and everything else is blocked.
  2. Black list - where only sites on the list are blocked and everything else is accessible.
  3. Filtering - where attempts are made to block sites that contain certain words or colours.
  4. Monitoring - where a log of all sites visited is kept that you can check later.

You can purchase software that performs one or more of the above methods. Many programs are also available to download from the internet or have demos available that you can check out before purchasing.

Some pages that list some of these programs are:

I recommend that for younger children that you look for software that uses a white list approach and then you can set up the list of those web sites that you want to allow your children to visit.

For older children I recommend that you look for software that will monitor which web sites that your children visit. You can then check which sites your children visited at a later time. If they visit inappropriate sites you will know about it. This should discourage them from wanting to visit such sites.

I do not recommend that you get software that uses only a blacklist and/or filtering method. Blacklist software only blocks the small fraction of inappropriate sites that are actually on the list. Filtering software also only blocks a fraction of inappropriate sites and also block access to a number of other sites which have nothing to do with the subjects that the filtering is supposed to block but which just happen to match with the filtering tests.

Internet Explorer has a built in Content Advisor - accessible by selecting Internet Options from the Tools menu and then selecting the Content tab. This can be set to check for special ratings tags on the web pages themselves but only some web pages have the appropriate tag and so you either have to allow all unrated sites or block all unrated sites (the rating system it uses is from ICRA). You can also use the content advisor to blacklist sites. These limitations make the Content Advisor almost useless in performing the task that it is intended for but you may find it useful to use along with some other software.

The best way to protect against your children seeing inappropriate material in emails is to turn off external images in your email program. Just about all of the inappropriate emails consist entirely of pictures linked from the web site that they are promoting and with linked images turned off all that is seen is either a blank email or perhaps one or two lines of text. This also has the advantage that the sender is not able to verify your email address through your having downloaded images from their site.

Of course the best method of ensuring that your children do not access inappropriate sites is to be with them when they are on the internet. Don't place the computer in a bedroom but have it out where the person on the computer is in the same room as the rest of the family so that you can have time together even when performing different tasks. This also allows you to keep an eye on what your children are doing on the web.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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