Five Years Later: In 2018, inspired eLearning suggested and we agreed that their article Making Your Home a Haven for Online Safety may benefit our audience.
On today's program (in 2013), Bob Enyart interviews web designer and Christian homeschool dad Nathan Rambeck on the software tools and best practices for keeping our kids (and their parents) protected from pornography.
Protecting your family from porn
A parent's guide to protecting the eyes of family members from online pornography.
11 years old. That's the average age American children are exposed to pornography online. Most of this early exposure is unintentional, but with 12% of all websites on the Internet being purely pornographic, it is hardly any wonder.
Did you know that pornographers purposely buy domain names similar to popular websites in order to seduce unsuspecting users into their perversion? All it takes is a spelling mistake in a browser address bar to cause a stream of vile filth to pour on to the computer screen.
To make matters worse, our culture is gradually mainstreaming pornography, so that certain forms of pornography are considered acceptable for "family" entertainment and advertising.
Below is a concise summary of things you can do to protect your family when they access the Internet.
Install a Software Filter on Each Computer
A software filter is an application installed on each computer in your household and should have at least 3 features. 1) Block objectionable sites using a continually maintained blacklist of bad sites. 2) Provide regular usage reports that can be delivered to parents showing sites visited and any attempts to view bad ones. 3) Password protected so that only parents can uninstall or disable the filter.
Since adult addiction to pornography is epidemic, the usage reports and password protection features can provide a great opportunity of accountability for spouses or other adults in the home.
Covenant Eyes [PC] (http://covenanteyes.com/) They are a Christian company and have a particular focus on accountability, so the reporting they have is superb. They do have accountability software for the Mac, but the filter is only for PC.
Net Nanny [PC/Mac] (http://netnanny.com/) Like Bsecure, the Mac and PC versions are totally separate. NET NANNY CAUTION: Until further notice, Bob Enyart does not recommend Net Nanny for Mac. After weeks of effort, we have determined that it is very buggy, and in some instances, allows complete web access when it should be protecting your family. [This warning is still applicable as of October 2013 and we've asked ContentWatch to let us know, at Bob@KGOV.com, when they have improved the quality of their Mac product.]
SafeEyes [PC/Mac] (http://www.internetsafety.com/) One license will protect multiple PCs and/or Macs.
BSecure [PC] (http://bsecure.com/) You can protect multiple computers with one license. They no longer support Mac.
Add A Hardware filter to your home network
A hardware filter will have many of the same features as a software filter, but instead of protecting just one computer, it protects any computer connected to the internet through your network. This means that if a friend or relative comes to your house with an unprotected computer, it can be protected even if it does not have a software filter installed. However, keep in mind that a hardware filter only protects computers on your home network; if you have a laptop computer without a software filter, it may be protected at home, but will not be protected when connected to the internet at a friend's house, the coffee shop, or a hotel. Laptops can even easily connect to a neighbor's wireless network while you are inside your own home. DO NOT rely on a hardware filter alone.
OpenDNS (http://www.opendns.com/home-solutions/parental-controls/) [FREE] OpenDNS provides a replacement to the a service that your ISP usually provides, called DNS. It can be configured on a single PC, or on a router by changing just a single setting. A web interface allows you to configure your filtering settings. For $20/year you can also add on usage reporting to this service.
iBoss (http://www.ibosswebfilters.com/home_overview.html) These guys filter internet access for large corporations as well.
Cell Phones and other web-enabled devices
The Internet is becoming ubiquitous in our culture. Cell phones, TVs, gaming consoles, iPods, tablets, eReaders and other electronic devices are, many times, now able to connect to the Internet. Unfortunately, for some of these devices, there are no filtering options yet. When purchasing a cell phone for children, find one without web capabilities or talk to your wireless provider about turning the feature off. When purchasing other electronic devices always ask about their ability to connect to the Internet.
Don't assume that your phone can't connect to the internet if you don't purchase a data plan. Most providers simply charge a per MB fee for internet data usage allowing anytime access to the web.
Some wireless carriers provide a filtering service for the web access they provide.
The software providers listed previously offer filtering products for smartphones and tables (usually limited to iOS and Android devices). These apps don't provide protection to the entire device, but only provide a custom browser with filtering enabled. It's important to lock down these devices with a password and disable other web browsers and even the app stores on the device to provide meaningful protection.
Kindle Free Time
Amazon has done more for their Kindle Fire tablet than any other tablet maker to provide parents with controls to protect their kids. With the FreeTime feature built into the Kindle Fire you can disable web browsing and give your kids access to only a few select apps, for example. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008GFUA4C/
Because marketers use sex to sell so many products, even browsing a news site or social network may bring up an offensive advertisement. Because of this, I recommend using an ad blocker for your browser. An ad blocker will allow you to browse web pages without having to view any of the ads. I recommend using the Firefox web browser with the Adblock Plus plugin, or the Chrome web browser with it's Adblock extension.
- Firefox - http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/ plus/>
- Chrome browser - http://www.google.com/chrome/
- Adblock Plus [Firefox/Chrome/Android] - http://adblockplus.org/
- Ad blocking for IE - http://www.ehow.com/how_5842736_block-ads-internet-explorer.html
Younger children should never be left alone on the Internet
It is not wise to allow young children free access to an internet-connected computer when they are alone or by themselves in a room. Internet filters can work very well, but they are not perfect. Also, industrious young people, can find ways around the filters. I suggest keeping family computers in living areas with lots of traffic and only allow laptops to be used in public areas.
Talk to your children about the dangers of pornography
When your kids reach an age at which sexuality becomes an attraction, talk to them about the dangers of pornography; how it will harm them, their future spouse, and even those women exploited in the pornographic material.