An Internet filter is a piece of software that helps block out unwanted content, such as pornography and hate group sites. Filters typically use a list of keywords and well-known URLs to keep children from accessing inappropriate material. More advanced filters can also block or filter chat rooms, instant messages, file downloads and forums. There are also filters that block out spam, but those are typically separate programs. An Internet filter is one tool you may choose to use in your Internet safety plan.
There are definite pros and cons to using an Internet filter. Before buying, make sure to consider your family needs and weigh them against these pros and cons.
- Prevents children from deliberately or inadvertently accessing pornography.
- Helps prevent predators from talking to your children online.
- Allows kids to surf online without constant parental presence. [Note: You should still be aware of what your child is doing online, but you won't need to sit by their side at every moment]
- Can sometimes filter out “safe” sites, words and people.
- May create a false sense of security for parents.
- Tech-savvy kids may find a way around filters, or may access inappropriate content elsewhere.
Internet Filter Key FeaturesNot all Internet filters are created the same and some features may be more important to you than others. Here are some features to look for as you shop for a filtering program:
- User profiles
These allow you to create a profile for each member of your family. For example, you may want your teen to be able to access slightly more mature information or spend more time online than your 8 year old.
Reports provide detailed information on what your children have been doing and saying online, including sites visited.
- Time Limits
You can set limits on when and how long a user may be online. This can keep kids from sneaking onto the computer in the middle of the night, or from using homework time to chat.
- Regular updates
Choose software that allows you to download regular updates to keyword and URL lists. The Internet is constantly evolving, so your software should be as well.
Make sure the software will work with the browser you use, as well as your operating system.
It is important to remember that although Internet filters are sophisticated tools for helping protect your family online, there is no substitute for parental involvement and attention.