These days parenting is difficult enough as it is, without the added pressures of having
to control the content that Internet users, in the home environment, download while online.
We are all cognizant of the damage that can be caused by exposing young people prematurely
to sexually graphic material, and the Internet is possibly the most easily accessible breeding
ground for unsuitable adult content.
As our dependence upon the Internet grows, seemingly daily, it's hard to refuse access to
our kids when they need the computer to do home work, research projects, keep in touch with
friends and family, and many other tasks. But it is incumbent upon parents to control their
children's access to any material that they deem unsuitable. to that end there are parental
controls available in the form of software tools, that can assist busy parents with this task,
and in fact automate a great deal of it.
Parental controls can take many forms, for example 'internet filters' are a type of parental
control that prevent access to material on the Internet that is known to be inappropriate.
An internet filter typically inserts a protective shim between the raw data of the Internet,
and the sanctity of the home environment. Parental controls of this type typically work by
analysing data as it comes in from the Internet, using predefined lists of known URLs that
contain inappropriate material, in the form of images and movies, violence, hate material,
and other undesirables. They can also use special adaptive algorithms and fuzzy logic to analyse
images and other content as well as text, to identify other forms of data that should not be
delivered to the Internet user.
Another form of parental controls is designed for detection and removal of inappropriate
material that already exists on the computer system. These tools are specifically designed
to search files on a hard drive quickly and accurately, and sort those that are inappropriate
from those that are not. They also use a similar technique for analysis of image and video
files to scan for nudity and adult content, as Internet filters. This is useful in cases where
the child is particularly resourceful computer savvy, or there is no Internet filter in place
to prevent the material arriving in the first place, or the Internet filter is ineffective.
Additionally it is possible for material to arrive on a computer via CD-ROM, across a LAN,
through USB plug-in devices, and more. So it makes a great deal of sense to use this type
of parental control if you are not sure about the quality of your filter, or there are were
likely to be files pre-existing on the target drive.
As we have seen, parental controls can take several forms. Deciding the best one, or combination,
is a matter of personal taste.