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Definitions

Contracts with Kids discuss and set up rules for computer use.

Time Limiting limits time online.

Filtering & Blocking limits access to some sites, words, and/or images.

Block Outgoing Content prevents kids from revealing personal information online.

Browsers for Kids do not display inappropriate words or images.

Kid-Oriented Search Engines perform limited searches or screen search results.

Monitoring Tools alert adults to online activity without blocking access.

There are both pros and cons to keep in mind when using these types of tools.

Please Note: GetNetWise staff gathered this information from the companies that make these tools. We cannot guarantee the effectiveness of these products, nor do we endorse any products.

Other Information

How ISPs are Helping -- Many Internet and online service providers also offer safety solutions by selling or including these tools with their services and adopting "Acceptable Use Policies", or "Terms of Service Agreements".

Web Ratings Systems -- Many companies that produce Web sites voluntarily rate and label their sites, using a system knows as "PICS" (Platform for Internet Content Selection).

Internet Issues in the Community -- When children use the Internet in school or in a library, their experiences will be different than when they are at home. Libraries and schools may have different rules for Internet use than your family, because they must serve the needs of diverse children and families.

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Home / Kids' Safety / Tools for Families / Pros & Cons of Filtering / Filters that use a preselected list of sites

Filters that use a preselected list of sites

These tools identify inappropriate Web sites by locating them on a list of sites programmed into them by the tool maker. These lists contain hundreds, sometimes thousands, of sites known to contain inappropriate content.

Precision

Depending on how the list was compiled or is updated, it might not be as precise as some families desire. Some lists are put together by "web crawler" computer programs that automatically sift through the Web, flagging sites that seem to meet their criteria for inappropriateness. These lists will often be less precise than lists compiled and maintained by human experts (see Filters using human-maintained lists). A tricky thing about preselected lists is that they can also miss sites with deceptive URL addresses.

Control

Ultimate authority for these types of tools varies, but it may lie with the software vendor rather than with families. The lists of inappropriate sites used by some tool makers have been made publicly available, but because of their size and complexity, it can be difficult for parents to make large-scale changes in the types of content being filtered. In addition, some tool makers are reluctant to publish their lists of URL's judged to be age-inappropriate, since they don't want to provide free publicity to sites with content they consider inappropriate.

Scalability

Because these tools rely on pre-existing lists of inappropriate content, their scalability is low. With all the thousands of Web pages created every day, it can take time for new pages to find their ways onto the software vendors' lists -- during which time it's impossible to restrict children's access to such sites. Some companies have approached this problem by hiring teams of experts to review sites and update lists -- see the information on human-maintained lists below.

Physical safety protections

Some of these tools offer a moderate level of physical safety protection, since they can prevent your children from venturing into dangerous areas online. The degree of physical safety protection will vary from tool to tool, depending on whether unmonitored web-based chat areas, for example, are filtered.

Functionality costs

Filters using a predetermined list of web site addresses have variable functionaltiy costs depending on the size and breadth of the sites filtered and on whether the parent can override or edit the way the program works. Also, parents should consider whether a particular tool's breadth reflects their values; you may want a less restrictive, narrower tool to reduce the functionality costs to your children's overall online experience.

 
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