V. Choosing a Filter
Consumers who choose a filter need to balance simplicity and effectiveness. Most people are not technologically savvy and prefer easy installations and minimal options. There are a number of robust filters available for a small charge. You can find a comparison of their features at http://Internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com. Additionally, some filters with fewer features are available for free. One popular filter is K9 Web Protection. For computers, K9 provides a client-side filter with time control and content control, category blocking, ad blocking, black list, white list, and website activity monitoring.
All browser-based and client-side filters allow an administrator to override the blocking by entering a password. If you find a site that you believe is unobjectionable to be blocked, you enter your password to access it by overriding the filter’s control. This means that you must guard your password and change it regularly. Do not let your children see you type it in or give them any clue by which they can discover it. If you do, you have compromised your entire filtering system.
VI. Mobile Devices
Filtering mobile devices is more complicated than a computer because you cannot install a filter. Corporations that filter their mobile devices do so at the server level (similar to ISP-based filters), which average consumers cannot do. However, many mobile devices incorporate parental settings (“Restrictions” on iPods, iPhones and iPads) that serve as client-side filters. Learn how to use them. For example, you can set your iPhone restrictions (protected with a 4-digit password) to disable or limit music, movies and apps. However, be aware that a motivated child can easily bypass all these restrictions.
For browser-side filtering, you must disable the built-in browser Safari and download a filtered browser like K9, SafeEyes or McGruff. In order for this to work, you must also disable the downloading of apps. Otherwise, your child can easily download an unfiltered browser. Again, a child can easily bypass this restriction and re-enable Safari. OpenDNS is one free router-side filter that works on your home wifi network.
VII. Computer Security
None of these filters will accomplish anything if a user can easily deactivate them. At a bare minimum, you have to make sure that no users have “admin” control and therefore have only limited ability to install and uninstall programs. Create a separate administrator account for which only you have the password and make sure that all other users have limited rights.
Guard your passwords. Pick one that your children cannot easily guess, do not let your children watch you enter it, and change it regularly.
For iPods and similar devices, it is best to share an iTunes account with your children so you know what apps they are downloading. However, you have to occasionally check in order to monitor.
VIII. Filters Are Not The Answer
To my knowledge, no commercially available filters reach the standards of Orthodox Judaism. In particular, they do not block lashon hara and counter-religious websites. However, other than that, you can use the Internet without having to see ads or being able to reach inappropriate websites.
Be aware, though, that filters can be bypassed by motivated, clever people. You need to use filters along with security measures and other precautions, such as placing computers in public areas like the kitchen and educating toward healthy and proper use, not least of which is maintenance of privacy. Net Nanny lists the following top ten Internet safety tips (see there for more elaboration):
1) First educate yourself, then your child 2) Teach children the obvious identity rules 3) Install an Internet filter or family safety software 4) Know the dangers associated with sites your children frequent 5) Teach children what to do if they encounter pornography on a home or public computer, such as at a school or a library 6) Manage your children’s time on the Internet 7) Set specific Internet guidelines for your children to live by and consistently enforce consequences, if they are not being followed 8) Keep computers out of children’s bedrooms and in open areas 9) Create a relationship with your children that is conducive to open communication 10) Understand Internet Privacy Policies as they apply to your child
There are many websites and books about “family friendly” Internet use that are worth exploring. Google “family friendly Internet” for a wealth of resources.