Filtering Unwanted or Harmful content from the Internet

Published 12/05/2004 16:39   |    Updated 07/03/2008 17:20
How do I filter unwanted and harmful content from the Internet?


What is web filtering software?


Filtering software is a program that 'filters' or blocks inappropriate Internet content before you can see it on the computer screen.

Often, those who see inappropriate content on the Internet do not go looking for it. People can be easily misled online. Websites with innocent-sounding names can carry pornography, for example. If you click on such a website, the filtering software can block the content before you see it. Filtering software can also used by parents who wish to control what their children see when browsing the Internet.




How does it work?


Filtering software acts a shield between the Internet and a user's computer, blocking access from potentially objectionable or offensive material. Most filtering software compiles a list of sites they deem objectionable and classifies them under different headings. This gives you the ability to:

  • Block inappropriate content from appearing on the computer screen.
  • Record a list of all websites visited, so you can see if they are suitable or not.
  • Limit the amount of time your child spends on the Internet. If you decide you want your children to spend no more than one hour a day online, you can use filtering software to stop them using the Internet for longer than this.
  • Reduce the risk of computer viruses by restricting the websites you or your children can visit. You can also limit the types of programs and attachments that can be downloaded onto the computer.

  • Protect personal information on the computer. It can stop children accidentally sending out financial information stored on the computer.
  • Block applications (programs) that you do not want you or your children to use, e.g. videogames, instant messaging.
  • Set different 'filter levels' depending on the age profiles (e.g. the filter levels for a 10 year-old can be stricter than those for a teenager)
  • Take overall control of the computer.



What do I need to know about this software?

  • Filtering software can help to make using the Internet safer for you and your children. But it is not perfect. No filtering software guarantees to block all inappropriate content.
  • Some filtering software programs can be too strict. They can block innocent content, mistaking it as inappropriate.
  • Some programs are good at recognising and blocking inappropriate content on English language websites, but weak at doing so on websites in other languages.
  • Filters that can be switched on can be switched off too. As children grow older, they become more sophisticated in their computer use.



Top Tips

In most cases, your computer will already have 'filters' that you can use for free. All you have to do is switch them on.

Operating System
The newest versions of Microsoft ®Windows Vista and Apple Mac ® OS 10.5 come with parental controls. The earlier version of Windows ® XP did not have dedicated parental controls but did provide account and password protections for children's accounts.

Web Browser
Many of the popular web browsers allow you to block certain websites and pop-ups. (Pop-ups are small advertisements that literally pop up on the screen when you visit some websites. Most are harmless and can be removed by clicking on the X at the top right-hand corner of the pop-up box. Some, though, can lead to inappropriate content.)

Search Engines
Search engines are useful ways to find information. They are also one of the easiest ways to find inappropriate content. For example, a search for the word 'porn' through Goggle will return over 91 million results. If you allow your children to use search engines, you can switch on the 'safe-search' option. This is a filter to block inappropriate content from showing up in search results. However, no search engine guarantees to block all inappropriate content from children.


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