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Parental Control Software
By Rob Pirozzi
Parental control software is software that can help parents protect their children when they are online. Software to help keep children safe online comes in two forms:
Monitoring software allows parents to monitor activity on the family PC. Many packages will allow you to monitor computer activity including web surfing activity, e-mail messages, chat, and instant messaging. Some software will even allow screen shots to be taken at predetermined increments of time. Many of these packages will operate in stealth mode, meaning that no one will know that the software is even installed and running. Of course telling your children that you have software that is monitoring their activity may also act a a deterrent. Monitoring software typically does not filter out any bad content. It simply lets you know if someone is accessing things that are inappropriate.
Internet filtering software, also commonly referred to by many vendors as Parental control software, allows parents to control content that is displayed and block specific web sites. Some filtering software will filter e-mails and chat rooms, block pop ups, and even monitor chat rooms. This software is, by its very nature, more intrusive than monitoring software. It will filter out a lot of bad stuff. It may also miss some bad stuff. It may also filter out some good things.
Which to Choose?
The choice of which software to use will come down to personal preference. Some parents use both. The choice probably comes down to how much you want to protect you children from seeing bad things such as pornography on the Internet. If you want a high degree of confidence that most of that will be blocked, then filtering software is probably the way to go. If you do not wish to block anything, but want to know if your children are accessing questionable content, then monitoring software is probably better for you.
Parental Control for the Technically Challenged Parent
If the thought of installing and configuring software makes you weak in the knees, take heart. There is a simple, common sense, approach to parental control when it comes to PC use. Place the family PC in an easily visible public place in your house. It is much harder for children to access questionable content if anyone can see what they are doing. Also, do not be afraid to ask questions about what your children are doing online. If you don't like the answers, or don't get any answer at all, take away PC privileges. There is nothing like parental over site and involvement to keep your kids away from bad things on the Internet.
Following are listings of free trials of monitoring and filtering software, as well as listings of charged-for monitoring and filtering products.