If you have children, I’m sure you would like them to stay away from the seedier side of the internet. It’s a great idea to talk to them, to explain that on the internet there are things that are not appropriate for them. However, it’s so easy for little fingers to click on the wrong link or banner and end up somewhere they shouldn’t be. The surest way to guard against this is to use parental controls. Fortunately, there are quite a few different types of parental controls you can use. Let’s look at them now.
One disclaimer though. These controls should work perfectly with younger children. If you have teenagers, that’s a different matter. A determined teenager may be able to circumnavigate these parental controls. They can be pretty smart sometimes. Password protect wherever possible.
1 – Through Your Internet Provider
Most big internet providers offer their own parental controls service to block inappropriate content.
When you take out a contract and set up an account, you will be offered the opportunity to set parental controls. The amount of fine tuning you can do differs between providers, but some will allow you to set timers, so once the children are in bed, you can look at whatever you like on the net.
Others allow to you block certain types of websites, such as social networking, adult content, or online games.
If your provider does not offer this feature, you can set up OpenDNS on your router. This involves changing the DNS server settings on your router to enable OpenDNS. Set up an account with OpenDNS, a custom domain protection feature, and you’ll be able to set up web filtering. If your child stumbles across something they shouldn’t, OpenDNS will make sure all they see is “This site is blocked”.
The drawback with both of these solutions is that it blocks sites across the whole network. Dad’s phone is treated the same as the kids’ computer if they’re using the same wireless network. It could get quite annoying.
2 – Using Windows or Mac OS
Since Windows 7, Microsoft’s operating system has enabled parental controls. Now we’re up to Windows 10, and it’s got a bit more sophisticated.
On Windows 10, you can set up family features. This involves creating a Microsoft account for your children, and ensuring that they use it. As a parent and an administrator of their account, you can set up website blocks, time limits for length of use, and game restrictions.
If you have an Apple Mac, it’s a similar setup. In your system preferences, you’ll find a bright yellow parental controls button. This is where you set up an account for your child, and set appropriate boundaries.
These approaches work well, as long as the children use their accounts, and only their accounts. That means, if you’re using the computer first, make sure you log out properly, and don’t tell the kids your password.
3 – On Your Browser
Some internet browsers allow you to set up parental controls to limit what children can see when they’re spending time online.
If you use Internet Explorer you can use the content advisor feature. This gives you a list of different types of sites, and enables you to block them if you wish. For example, you could block sites that show depictions of drugs, alcohol, or violence. You can also create a list of approved sites.
Chrome offers extensions in its app store which will perform similar functions.
Of course, this approach only works when they’re using the device and browser that supports parental controls. When they work out how to find one that doesn’t, you’re back to square one again.
4 – Third-Party Software
Our final suggestion is to purchase specialist parental control software. Net Nanny is the biggest name in this field, promising unrivaled parental controls, allowing you to block all kinds of sites, set time limits, and monitor your child’s activity on social media. This requires a subscription.
There are pros and cons to all of these solutions, and nothing can ever guarantee 100% reliable filtering. Just like sneaky advertisers find a way to get around adblockers, there will always be unscrupulous people online, playing a game of cat-and-mouse to avoid parental controls. Plus, as your children get older they will pick up IT skills we never thought possible. If they really wanted to, they could probably get around whatever obstacles we set for them.
Experiment and find the parental control that is right for you. Set a password and keep it safe. Good luck.
Have you experimented with different types of parental controls for your family? Did you find one that worked well? Or, maybe not so well? Leave us a comment to let us know.