Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

There's a lot of garbage on the internet and it's difficult to prevent your children from seeing it. There are tools to help and steps to take.

How can I keep my kids safe from internet garbage?

If you've been on the internet for any length of time you probably feel like its main purpose is to distribute pornography, drug ads, and questionable financial solicitations. If you've got kids you're probably also worried about pedophiles, cyber-stalkers, and other nefarious net inhabitants.

While things aren't nearly as bad as the press might make it all out to be, it is bad enough. What's a responsible adult to do? Internet monitoring or filtering comes to mind but are they right for you?

First let me be clear about something - in my opinion technology is no substitute parental involvement. If you honestly can't trust your child on the internet then no technology in the world is going to fix that. That's a parenting issue that needs some serious attention away from the computer.

End of sermon.

There are two types of software that most parents are interested in:

Internet monitoring software simply records what activity has been taking place on your computer. It's normally hidden or at least unobtrusive and works in the background to keep track of several types of activities. Depending on the package this type of package can at a minimum track websites visited but can often also record email sent and received as well as instant messages and chat text sent and received. While many might consider this a "Big Brother" approach (one of the packages is even named as such) it can be an appropriate way to monitor without controlling.

Internet filtering software takes a more active role by blocking or "filtering out" content that is deemed objectionable be it web pages, email content, or other forms of communication. Most have password overrides and many have updated databases to track the ever changing landscape of what is and is not objectionable - not unlike spam filtering. The problem with internet filtering is much like the problem with spam filtering: false positives. The classic case is that internet filtering software may prevent access to legitimate sources of information regarding, say, "breast cancer". Most are configurable to a point.

And that really brings us to a very important thing to remember here ... just like those spam filters internet filters are not perfect. Not only will they occasionally block out legitimate content but they'll also occasionally let inappropriate content through as well. And since even what's "inappropriate" is open to debate; there's simply no way a perfect filter could be written.

Also remember is that for the determined there are ways around everything. Internet site includes tools and instructions for circumventing most filtering programs. Interestingly enough this site illustrates the difficulty of defining "appropriate content". The techniques outlined can also be used by folks in oppressed countries to gain access to internet content outside of that filtered out by their government.

Article C1893 - February 13, 2004 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Greg Williams
November 30, 2005 6:30 AM

Try out great stuff to teach your kids

August 23, 2006 4:14 AM

Is there a way, a reg key or somthing I can set to stop my children from turning off message recording in messenger?

Thanks in Advance

How do i use other accounts to sign in MSN Messenger
March 11, 2008 9:34 PM

I would like to use my yahoo account to sign in MSN Messenger. Currently i have created a MSN account for it and use it for signining in. Plz guide me ...

Victor Martinez
September 20, 2008 1:59 PM

I signed up my daughter for msn.messenger from the page for web accessed messenger, not knowing that it wasn't the software version that you install on your computer. Later, I downloaded Windows Live so she could access it more readily from our home computer. I figured the web accessed version would be great for when we vacation. When I signed her up, I was under the impression it was children safe as it immediately directed me to a children's browser. However, when she accessed it with Windows Live, an ad for singles with picture of a woman leaning back against a man with both of them moving as if girating. How did this happen? Is this because she accessed it using Windows Live and not the web version? I just logged on with her ID using the web version and they had a site for singles. Though not as objectionable, it links to a site for finding a date.

October 4, 2008 11:17 AM

throw away your computer

November 11, 2008 10:14 AM

I just recently used great software for my younger cousin. She tends to get into trouble on the internet. Signing up for pornography sites and looking up ways to do things illegal to be precise. As her family, I heard from friends that they use a perfectly safe and confidential program to monitor and restrict specific sites called CCINFORMER. I figured since my friend has 3 children, 5,8,13 that this had to be good. I downloaded a demo version to see how it worked. It sets you up with two lists, one for access to specific sites, and restrictions to specific sites. I set it up in about 5 minutes just for the major sites that I came across on my computer that my cousin does share, then went to work. I came home interested to see what would be in store. This software sent me EMAIL & VIDEO of what my cousin was searching for! The sites I missed I put on my list right away. This is definitely the best software I've used considering its right in my inbox waiting for me daily. ITS FOR ALL AGES and apparently works on EMPLOYEES.

Jim Schmahl
March 10, 2009 4:10 PM

I use a HOST file recommended by Mrs. Komando. I do not totally understand a HOST file but I have had no garbage on my computer. I have used one for years. Of course I don't have kids either.

April 23, 2009 5:59 PM

I have found that someone is using my computer to go to pornographic pages during the time my young daughter is home, but no one is in the house, and I'm sure she isn't the one accessing them. Can someone use my computer remotely and have the history show on my computer? The user is leaving the history tab open so I find it when I get home from work. It's really creepy.

May 19, 2009 6:26 AM

How can kids be online and be safe at the same time? Many are asking themselves this question. But the answer is quite simple: Information. All you need is to give them the information they need. Talk with your kids. Let them know the dangers. They will know what`s safe and what isn`t.
And you can use a guide like this one Parental control guide

July 7, 2009 3:27 PM

if parents take responsibility for understanding trends on the web, they'll be in a better position to help their kids. Parental attention is the best form of free parental controls

Kevin Davis
May 13, 2010 2:04 PM

I created an Adblock list to remove most porn from my browsing. If you have firefox and the Adblock plus add-on, then you can subscribe to my list.

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.