Internet Filters Have Their Place, But Not For All Kids
Filtering's fine but not foolproof.
Internet filters have been around since the early days of the Web and they can play an important role in preventing young children from accessing inappropriate content. But they’re not a replacement for parental involvements — and they’re not for everyone.
Before installing and configuring a filter, parents need to decide if their child needs to have software controlling how they can use the Internet and, if so, how the filter should be configured.
I don’t recommend routine use of filters for teens, especially high-schoolers. For one thing, there are lots of ways for them to get around filters, including accessing the Web from their cell phones, game consoles or other people’s PCs. And since teens are on a fast path to becoming young adults, it’s better to help them develop the filter that runs between their ears. You can’t protect them forever, so help them learn self-control. Of course, there are always exceptions, and some teens do need extra supervision.
Filters can be a convenient way to keep young children from stumbling onto material that might gross them out or disturb them. Young children generally seek out a limited number of sites, but it’s certainly possible for them to stumble onto inappropriate ones.
Seemingly innocent search terms can sometimes bring up inappropriate sites. But rather than install filters on your computer, you might consider configuring the search engine your child uses.
Google, for example, offers a “search settings” option in the upper-right corner of its main page. Click on that and select either “strict filtering” or “moderate filtering” (the default). Strict filtering, which I recommend for young children, filters both explicit text and images. Just below the setting is an option to lock safe search so kids can’t easily turn it off for that browser. Be aware, however, that the lock is browser-specific.
Microsoft’s Bing.com also has a preferences section in the upper-right corner with similar controls. Yahoo allows you to configure its filters if you’re signed in with a Yahoo account.
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