Filtering using human-maintained lists
These tools, sometimes called "filters using human review," apply one or more lists of filtered sites to your children's online access. The lists have been developed by people rather than technology -- the tool company's staff -- then included in the filter. It then limits access to those sites. These tools are unique because the lists of inappropriate content are updated regularly by real people.
Filters involving human review are generally among the most precise of all content-based filters because they rely on the judgment of a person, or a group of people, rather than criteria laid out in a computer program. Often they filter on a Web-page by Web-page basis, not only on a site-by-site basis.
Control of human-reviewed filters is usually in the hands of the software companies. Most tools offer content filtering in a variety of different categories, though, and allow parents to examine the criteria behind each of them. Some also allow review of the actual filter list.
Because these systems rely on human review, they can only adapt to new content as quickly as their teams of experts can find and review new Web pages. Pulling new Web pages out of the millions of already existing ones is a tough job, though, and there may be some lag time between the introduction of a site and its examination by the software company's experts. Whether this poses a serious problem will depend on several things: How large is the reviewing staff? Does the tool allow a parent to add other filtering strategies to the tool such as keyword blocking? Are you concerned about any risk of exposure to inappropriate material, or are you willing to accept a limited risk of such exposure to gain an extra measure of precision in the filter? Parents might want to ask these kinds of questions when looking at the Internet safety tools that are out there.
Physical safety protections
Human-based filters can do a very precise job at shielding children from dangerous Web pages, but they may not apply to other forms of online communication, like email, chat, and instant messaging, which can result in dangerous risks to children's physical safety.
Because these tools do not generally restrict content which hasn't been reviewed by tool company staff, they interfere with online functionality only to the extent selected by the parent and tool company.