Article by Rick Leinecker, April 24, 2006
Even if you practice Safe Surfing on the Internet, you'll eventually encounter undesirable content. A great example of this is the unsuspecting surfer who goes to WhiteHouse.com expecting to learn about the Oval Office, only to be greeted with disparaging political comments. (Even worse, WhiteHouse.com used to be a pornographic site.) Of course, you might enjoy these comments, but most people expect WhiteHouse.com to have positive information about the White House.
It gets really bad when you type in something such as "young teen" in a search engine and go to the first link. The site you have accessed will turn most people three shades of red with embarrassment.
If you have children in the house, you're probably concerned with the content which may accidentally be accessed by them. You may also be concerned with the deliberate bad content that they get. There is plenty of undesirable content on the Internet that nobody wants their children to view.
Educational institutions worry about this content coming into the school. Imagine your children going to a school where you assume the environment is safe. If they come home to tell you about the wild things they saw on the Internet, the principal will be getting lots of calls.
How about the work place? What would happen if raunchy pictures appeared on a computer screen by accident or by design? Many corporations have found out the hard way that some employees take significant offense to this - enough to take legal action. And as a result there have been some key people fired and stiff judgment awards made.
Relax, there's a solution. Even now most school systems are protected by filtering software that prevents unwanted content from reaching the school. Many businesses are filtered, too. But most homes are not, and that's what I'd like to talk to you about - home Internet filtering.
You can buy software that protects you and your family members. The prices range from $29.99 to $49.99 per computer. These programs are easy to install and do a competent job of blocking the bad stuff.
Okay, so you install the software and Johnny can't see scantily clad babes anymore. But that's not all you get. You can also limit when Johnny can use the Internet. You can track his usage and see every site he goes to. If he knows you can go behind him and see what he's seen, he'll be less likely to stray very far from the normal web sites.
There are lots of categories that you can filter, too. For instance, there's a category called "hate speech". This covers web sites that have Neo-Nazi and racial content among others.
A very nice feature of most of the software packages is the ability to configure the software for multiple users. You might want the ability to surf with very few filters turned on, but your five year old might need a lot more filtering. Each person in your family can have their own filtering parameters. And the parameters are set by a single, password-protected person, usually the parent.
I am not comfortable mentioning specific Internet filtering products. I don't want to endorse a product - they all have advantages. Instead, I recommend that you go to internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com and read about them yourself. This web site will help you make a decision as to what product is right for you.
There are some products that don't filter Internet content, but they record all of the sites that have been visited. This approach works well when there's an accountability partner with whom you can exchange lists of visited web sites. If my friends look at the list of web sites I visit, I want to make sure that I'm not going to the wrong places. There's a product called ieWhub that does just that - keep a record of visited web sites. You can find all the details at ice.prohosting.com/~turingra/WHUB.html.
Those are the basics of Internet filtering.