Software filters for parentsSoftware for Parents (please contribute)
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Filtering and Blocking

We are often asked to explain the difference between filtering & blocking software
Since most major software products do both, as well as other things, the difference isn't important. It is important to understand how they work, though...In addition, few parents understand that they can purchase software that tracks where their children go online, while still permitting them free online access. We'll discuss this too...
Blocking Software
Blocking software is software that uses a "bad site" list. It blocks access to sites on the list. Some of the software companies allow you to customize the list, by adding or removing sites from that list. Other software companies try to keep the sites on their list secret, & don't permit parents to add or remove sites from the list.
Blocked site lists need to be updated regularly. Some software companies allow you to download updated sites daily. Others may charge for updates after a certain period, & may update their lists less frequently.
No matter how frequently they are updated, however, the number of web sites published each day far exceeds the ability of the software companies to review the sites, & categorize them for "bad site" lists.
Out of approximately 1.5 million separate web sites in existence (each web site may contain 2 or more separate webpages), only about half have been reviewed, in aggregate, by all child protection software companies. The gap widens daily. "Bad sites" will inevitably get through.
Filtering Software
Filtering software uses certain keywords. It blocks sites containing these keywords, alone or in context with other keywords. Software that uses standalone keywords may often filter out harmless sites, because of the inclusion of innocent words within those sites. "Butt" may be a preselected keyword, & software that doesn't filter in context, would block access to sites containing the word "button." "Sex" as a filtered term may result in the blocking of the latest web site for "sextuplets," or "Sussex," England.
The biggest problem with using keyword filtering is that innocent sites may be blocked. In addition, some web site operators have learned to get around the filtering by misspelling the typical keywords.
As with the "bad site" lists, the lists of keywords used by the filtering software should be customizable by the parent, & every parent should be able to see which terms are filtered.
Some software permits parents to select which kind of sites it wants to filter...such as tobacco products, or sexual content. Selecting the category of content enables a certain list of keywords unique to that category of sites, such as cigarettes, tobacco, & words that graphically describe sexual activities or selected vulgarities. One parent might choose to filter drug-related sites, while another may not. It should be up to the parent, not the software manufacturer.
Outgoing Filtering.
No...this doesn't mean you have an extra friendly software program (that's cyberspace talk for "grin" & means you're supposed to smile at my brilliant humor). It means that certain information that a child may want to share with others can't be shared. Information such as her name, address or telephone number can be programmed into the software, & every time she tries to send it to someone online, it merely shows up as "XXX." Even with kids who know & follow your rules, this is a terrific feature, since sometimes, even the best kids forget.
In my opinion, sharing personal information online with strangers is far more dangerous to children than seeing a naked body, or someone smoking cigarettes.
Monitoring & Tracking. Some software allows parents to track where their children go online, how much time they spend online, how much time they spend on the computer (off-line, such as playing games) & even allows parents to control what times of day their children can use the computer.
Many parents who find filtering or blocking distasteful, especially with older children & teens, find monitoring to satisfy their safety concerns. They can know, for sure, whether their children are following their rules.
This is particularly helpful when both parents are working outside of the home, or with working single-parents, who want to make sure their children aren't spending all of their time on the computer. They merely set a limit on the amount of time the child can use the computer & often "lock their children out" of the computer until they can get home from work.
Not all of these products, however, let the child know they are tracking them. I think that parents should tell their children about the software. It fosters trust.