My 13-year old son got an adult education, Hall & Oats style, this summer we did not intend. His browser history showed he got into some hard-core porn websites in the past few weeks. Sites I thought were blocked on our home internet. I work in IT and I thought I had ‘shields up’ to protect my family. I setup filtering several years ago to prevent accidental viewing, but when my internet provider recently sent a new cable modem I accidentally disabled the content filters.
I realize now I need to make Playboy.com the home page on my home computer's browser so that at least once every few days when I reboot I get confirmation that shields are still up. It's not enough to just set and forget something like this.
There are many different ways to setup content filtering - often called parental controls. Both Windows and Mac include some built-in tools to limit what can and cannot be seen on a computer. There are also add on software products like McAfee Family Protection that Time Warner Cable offers for free if you are an internet customer. If your kids only have access to one computer and that computer runs Windows, this may work for you.
I have never used that software because I have Linux computers, Apple iPhones, Android devices in my house as well, so I need to filter what comes into the whole house.
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Filter at router
I recommend using opendns.com Family Shield a free service. It is as simple to setup as it can get. They provide all the instructions on the website. When anyone tries to access content they have classified as “family unfriendly” you get a page saying the site is blocked. Don't forget to set your home page to Playboy.com so you get that check once in a while.
This solution is easy, but it can be bypassed if you child is tech savvy. If they are 13 or older you might need to take some additional steps; however, it is better than nothing.
My son also has a phone with data service. I discovered that he was turning of WiFi at the house so he could get around the filtering I had setup. He could also watch anything while outside the house. It explains why he was using so much data.
The big mobile providers offer additional paid services to filter content. I have not explored those, but instead use Mobicip.com which is a paid service. Mobicip replaces the Safari or Chrome browser with their filtered browser. You select the age group Elementary, Middle or High School. It is fairly restrictive, which he complains about, but nobody said being a kid or parent was easy.
Talk to your kids
There is no substitute for talking to your kids. The web is an awesome resource, but it is largely unregulated and there are sites out there you'd never imagine could exist. Let you kids know that if they find something that seems inappropriate they should let you know. I know that might be hard for a 13-year old with raging hormones. I was a boy at one time too.
Set some rules
The rule in our house for kids is internet devices must be used in a public places (the kitchen, family room, living room) so adults can keep an eye on it. Certainly not in the kids’ rooms with the door closed. I had relaxed that rule when this occurred.
Both parents and kids in our house got an unexpected lesson this summer. We thought our child was still too young to be interested in such things, but once we discovered the browser history we took swift action. His computer and phone were taken away and we will be watching him very closely from now on.