Internet Parental Controls
September 1, 2007 4:45 PM   Subscribe

What free software do you use to filter the internet for kids?

The kids are getting plugged in today and I will feel much better knowing that they won't be able to access stuff like goatse. At 9 and 10, they are too young to be scarred for life.

What do you use for your mini MeFites? Free is preferable, but anything functional and cheap is good. (I've scoured the internet, but I'd like YOUR opinions!

Any ideas, considerations? Thanks in advance.
posted by snsranch to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I used dansguardian. Your OS is an important parameter in this.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:58 PM on September 1, 2007

Yes, please tell us the OS and browser you use.
posted by neustile at 5:00 PM on September 1, 2007

Also: for minis, they can't complain too much about you just logging all traffic (there are many good apps for this) and looking over it every now and then to keep them honest. As they get older, censorship becomes a trickier conversation. 7 year olds though understand that if you get to see everything they looked at, to be good.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:01 PM on September 1, 2007

It's winxp on a really basic dell. Thanks guys.
posted by snsranch at 5:08 PM on September 1, 2007

Here's what I use:

1) Opendns. You can block adult domains as well as any specific domains you set (example: myspace, facebook, etc if you feel they're not ready for social networking yet). Free, cross platform, and doesn't matter which browser they use.

2) Imsafer. I just started using this and I'm really happy with it. It monitors most instant messaging done (MSN, AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, Myspace, and Meebo, Trilian, Adium-- hopefully adding GTalk and Skype soon) and lets you know instantly (via email) of any sketchy behavior (example: if someone asks for your child's address or uses sexual language or slang). I like this because I'm not completely reading chat logs, so my child has the freedom to have private conversations and I don't break their trust by invading that privacy, yet safeguards are still in place. Free and cross platform.

I'm looking forward to other responses to learn what else I can add to the arsenal...
posted by sharkfu at 5:11 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm not trying to derail but I hope you understand that, probably not at 9 or 10, but in a few years, they will in all likelihood be able to hack past any technological restriction you put on them, given that you're here asking this question. A consideration.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:18 PM on September 1, 2007

You may be interested in Hector Protector.

... it installs a swimming Hector in the upper right-hand corner of the computer screen. If something worrying or upsetting comes on the screen, a child can just click on Hector who then covers the screen with a beautiful underwater scene and gives the child a positive message for clicking Hector, while encouraging them to get adult help.

There is some advice here which may prove useful. The Internet Safety Group is well thought-of where I live.

Personally, I never bothered with filtering for my daughter. I just made it a rule that the door must be open at all times and I reserve the right to snoop anything at any time. She's 12 now, and there has never been any trouble, porn, goatse or otherwise.

I believe the risk of something happening that causes permanent harm to your child is very small. The news media make big play of a few isolated cases because they know you love having the pants scared off you.

I'm not saying don't do it - I'm just saying that you shouldn't beat yourself up trying to find the perfect technical solution. It is much more important that you have thought about what you will do if your child IS goatsed or whatever, and that your relationship with your child is such that you will hear about trouble and be able to discuss it with them.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:35 PM on September 1, 2007

I'd second the OpenDNS reccomendation - it has all sorts of tangential benefits as well!
posted by phrontist at 5:49 PM on September 1, 2007

I don't have kids, but if I did, I'd use a program I currently use to filter the net to my own standards, The Proxomitron. I use it to filter out ads and cookies and other stuff I wish that the net didn't have, but it can also be used to stop websites you define from being accessed.

Sadly, the author of Proxomitron died a few years back, so it won't be updated anytime soon, but I find if you include the JD Config files (which I can't find a working link for at this exact point in time, sorry), you'll have not only a neat little program that flters the web, but will stop the little ones from accessing those pages you think will warp their minds.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:23 PM on September 1, 2007

I've got a D-Link router, and this does all the work for me. It's got built-in integration with an external web filter service, plus local rules that I can set up. I just create an age-appropriate policy for each of my kids' machines, and manage exceptions like where they need to get to a site that's blocked because it's uncategorized but I've found it to be safe.
posted by CaptainZingo at 6:38 PM on September 1, 2007

I would say that a PC in the living room will keep you in earshot should they need to call for your attention. Social solution to a social problem.
Plus, it means no computer games after official lights out, and no bright screens stimulating them until just before they close their eyes.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:34 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thanks folks, I'm sure that this will work out very well.

There were a couple of things that I hadn't even thought of before that are very useful.
posted by snsranch at 8:00 PM on September 1, 2007

At 9 and 10, they are too young to be scarred for life.

Perhaps this isn't in the spirit of the question, but I think it needs to be addressed. It seems implicit in the question that text or images are in isolation capable of corrupting or scarring, and this essentially, is the argument for censorship.

I've been goatse'd, and so have both of my children who have unrestricted access to the internet. Has it troubled any of us other than varying degrees of disgust? I don't think so. Scarred for life? No.
posted by Neiltupper at 8:40 PM on September 1, 2007

I'm with the crowd that says technology is useless for this unless it's there to enforce a social solution.

I also think Kirk Johnson has probably scarred himself far worse than he's scarred any of us.
posted by flabdablet at 9:39 PM on September 1, 2007

Well sure. You want to be able to deal with "What is that man doing with his bottom?" with an answer like:

"Well, you know how your brother likes to gross you out - some grownups like doing that too, only they have to find even grosser things to do it with.

It's only a picture, not something real, and probably someone put a lot of effort into photoshopping it into something even yukkier. Now let's go and look at icanhascheeseburger."
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:12 PM on September 1, 2007

I have K9 installed on my daughter's computer and it works very well.
posted by gfrobe at 11:31 PM on September 1, 2007

If somebody really, really wants to goatse your kid, they're going to, unless you block every website except for google wikipedia cuteoverload and uninstall MSN messenger, IRC, AIM, and anything else that might actually get on the internet. The best solution is the "computer in the living room" idea. Only you can teach your children about goatse.
posted by tehloki at 1:15 AM on September 2, 2007

Especially at your childrens' age, I'd advocate "computer in the living room." They're going to have questions about (non-squicky) things they discover anyway, and you're going to want to be around when they're working for your own peace of mind. I'm not saying don't filter, if you want to filter, but I'd definitely be around and be part of the process.

Even when they get older and want computers in their own rooms (I got mine at age 15 or so, but I was a total geek), I say keep the solution primarily on the level of "social response to a social problem." Let them know that they can and should ask you about anything that makes them uncomfortable and that they won't be punished arbitrarily so long as they ask you before doing potentially stupid things. You can add filtering to that if you like, but a good relationship with your kids goes further than geektools (and may make them resent the geektools less).

(For the record: No kids, but I had an awesome father who I wish I could be more like. This advice derives from his parenting style.)
posted by Alterscape at 8:33 AM on September 2, 2007

I was the Stasi officer for censoring the net access of a lot of school kids in the late 1990s.
It is a pretty hopeless job, as teenagers are highly motivated to seek out the banned.
My own view with my kids is to monitor (via an open door, not keyloggers) their access and be on hand if they have any questions.
Note one of my daughter's first Google searches was for girl web sites. It prompted some questions.
I am strongly of the belief that information can't scar somebody permanently, and would rather my kids grow up knowing how to deal/relate to many different ideas, especially ones that I'm opposed to.
Since there is a lot of filth, violence and narrow mindedness on the net, I think it is not a bad idea to start considering how it fits into your world early on.
This is not to say I send my kids bukakke or Westboro Baptist links, but I'm OK about them surfing the web, and prepared to talk with them about any thing they see.
The analogy in our house is with the newspaper or TV news. If they want to know about why that soldier is shooting those people, we talk about it, not just pretend they were playing a game or something.
posted by bystander at 7:29 PM on September 2, 2007

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