Tools for Families
Tools that block access to content
If you are concerned that your child may be reading or viewing material online that you consider inappropriate or harmful, you may want to think about filtering tools. There are a lot of filtering tools, and they do not all work the same way. Most tools filter based on one or more of the following kinds of information:
- Web Site Address (URL): Limits access to a specific list of web sites that have been classified as "inappropriate." Some companies decide what is filtered, some let parents pick among pre-set categories (for example, graphic violence OK, sexually explicit material not OK), some provide a "starter list" where a parent can add or remove sites. Also, some tools allow a parent to override the filter if they think the site is appropriate for their child to view, but others do not.
- Human Review of Web Pages: Some companies employ people to look at web pages and classify them, generally into different categories that a parent may or may not choose to block, although some companies do not offer those choices.
- Key Words: Limits access to sites containing potentially inappropriate words like "sex" or "breast." Some filters block only the "bad" words, not text surrounding them. Some filters apply to web sites, others to e-mail, chat, "instant" message systems, newsgroups, or a combination of them all. Most filters allow parents to turn off or edit the key word list.
- "Context Sensitive" Key Words: This software analyzes the language around key words to avoid blocking "breast cancer" or "chicken breast recipe."
We have sorted filtering and blocking tools by the most frequently requested categories. We've also included two kinds of filtering tools: 1) "client-based filters," filtering software you install on your computer, and 2) "server-based filters" or "filtered ISP's" -- software installed on a server at your Internet service provider. You can tell the difference when you search the database because the top of the page will say "this is a filtered ISP" if it is one.
No filtering product is fool-proof. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. If you are thinking of using a tool like this, we encourage you to read about them in our tool section, visit several tool company web sites, and try to find a tool that reflects your family's values.
Why is filtering software so controversial?