For decades parents have been concerned about what their children do while at the computer. As schools rely more on online resources and tools for students to do their work, parents become increasingly anxious. Having the computer in a visible and public space in the home is no longer enough for a family whose parents are often more distracted by life. Installing a software filter on the computer is useless given all the other devices kids now have access to.
As the technology “specialist” in a school, I’ve had countless families approach me asking about what they can do to prevent their kids from accessing inappropriate or even damaging content while browsing the Web. Some parents go as far as requesting recommendations for tools that allow them to check up on everything their child has done while at the computer at a later time.
Though I understand the concern, and realize that unfettered access to the Internet for a child is not recommended, I don’t believe spying on kids to be the best approach. Kids watch television shows with inappropriate content shown or suggested at every turn, even in the commercials. Many children play videogames with all sorts of violent/adult/commercial themes and language. This is even before stepping out of their home!
I feel there are great teaching moments that parents can take advantage of throughout the day while their kids interact with a screen or a human, inside or outside of the home. Having an open, continuous and trusting communication channel with their children is the absolute best preventive technology tool parents can use. Children will face all sorts of eye-opening situations on the street and at school all of the time; wouldn’t it be great that they ask a parent before relying on the “advice” of a friend whenever they have questions?
The one recommendation I have, if you’d like to limit what sites are accessible via home computers or Internet-able devices, is opendns.com. I’ve used this tool at most of the schools I’ve worked in, and even have it active on my own computers to avoid downloading malicious code or viruses from the Internet. Check it out, it’s free.