Access, filtering and censorship

Introduction: It is our duty as parents is to keep our children safe online - from being exposed to questionable or harmful material. This includes material that depicts misrepresented, untrue, offensive, abusive, hateful, threatening, degrading, nudity, pornographic, racist, violent, illegal or inappropriate material. For more ok to use, questionable and not ok material, go to

The following is an advertisement from Terra TV (Spanish). On their site they have millions of videos on just about everything, including adult material. Because some youngsters (under 18) tend to ‘accidentally’ click on the adult part, Terra TV made this interactive sexy video to warn them about this issue. Try clicking on the play button and see what happens.

Undesirable material can be in the form of inappropriate text, images, videos, music and games. For example, Call of Duty is a very violent combat shooting game that has an R18 rating, but primary school children are playing it. Music from artists such as Eminem can also have an R18 rating and video material can be offensive and require parental supervision. Social networking sites can also be potentially harmful. For more go to, Interacting with others.

All of this is easily accessible and only a click away. Some of which may have been accessed deliberately, by accident or by the way of others passing it on. Other considerations associated with being safe online include, dealing with exposure to undesirable material, filtering and monitoring online access. For more on Adolescents and sexual content on the Internet, exposure to content online, filtering and monitoring, go to NetSafe's Parents & Caregivers - Researching

When you decide it's ok for your child to be online (This is really up to you and your knowledge of the child in question - age/maturity), the next decision will be about whether or not you are with them when they use the Internet, whether you have prescreened or bookmarked the sites and whether or not you have a filtering system on your computer. The answers to these questions may also determine, where the computer or laptop is situated in the house and how long your child is allowed on the computer. The answers to all of these questions will depend on each child individually and also on what the research indicates.

"Research shows that too much screen time for young kids results in lower school readiness and increased weight. A computer is as much a screen as a TV. Also, you want to be able to keep an eye on where young kids are navigating online. For this reason, we suggest keeping computers out of kids' bedrooms until late middle school."
Source - Commonsense media

When you do make those decisions, also ask yourself how much time you want your children to be online and what you would prefer they do when they are online. For example, if you don't mind they spend time talking on the phone or online, then make sure the site they are in is age appropriate and so is the communication they use. See Interacting with others for more details.

There can be detrimental effects to spending too much time online. For example, your children may play online games as part of a team. Their reluctance to come to dinner, go to bed, stop and do homework may partly come from a desire not to let online team mates down. Texting at all hours leads to interrupted sleep. One kid wakes and texts another, this leads to another. This can lead to instant messaging, as it is easier to chat in online forums than to text repeatedly.

Suggestion: Put commonsense strateges in place for safe, responsible online behaviour. Such as bookmarking appropriate sites. Help your child to think critically about what they find - is it appropriate? Agree on downloads, and role model appropriate behaviour yourself. Talk about safety - what to do if they stumble upon questionable material. Discuss how to conduct themselves online. For more tips for parents, go to

Internet censorship
Access to the internet and possibly questionable material is as easy as a click away, especially if you have no clear expectations, rules or systems in place to manage this. You need to be very aware of what is on your family computer or child's computer, so that illegal files or P2P sharing is managed appropriately. You will also need to have up-to-date anti-virus software to protect again viruses, spyware and malware etc. This is a must. There are many free anti-virus software packages available or you can pay for reliable services as well.

If you are using a wireless internet connection, you can easily secure the connection from hacking. Contact your ISP (internet service provider) for more information.

Web filtering
Some parents may wish to add a web filter. Filtering and blocking programs prevent access to websites based on key words or site names:
  • An Internet filter is a software or hardware product that prevents access to inappropriate web content. It works by using keywords, and it filters out sites defined by those words. Every search engine has filter options built in, as do all Internet Service Providers.
  • Blocking software blocks access to sites designated as “bad.” Some companies let users customize their lists, but most search engine blocks and filters rely on pre-screening.

Even the most determined kids can find ways around blocking and filtering programmes. Also, some filters deny access to perfectly acceptable material. Taken directly from

HECTOR2.jpg Another great online safety tool for younger children is Hector's World Safety Button is a free downloadable tool (for Windows only) which is a safety tool that assists in keeping our children safe. Hector swims silently and if they view questionable or uncomfortable material, they can click on Hector or his friends to activate an underwater scene with a positive message - which covers over any questionable material and rewards the children for monitoring any bad material online. For more information, go to

CC image adapted from Truthout
Web trackers or monitors
As parents, we can check browser histories, make internet user agreements, limit access via web filters, but if this isn't enough then some may wish to track where their children have been online with services such as SafetyWeb. These are called web monitors which troll through the Internet search for references to your children's name online - for example in Twitter, Facebook, photos. You pay a monthly prescription and the service will track through social networks for public information on comments and content. It will identify any connections to questionable material if it's public and not set to private. They will also monitoring and record where your kids go online, how much time they spend (useful when managing time on the computer), and what messages have been sent.

Some programmes such as WebWatcher, for example, records every keystroke your kid makes. Other programs can track any activity on your computer, including any messages sent, downloads, deleted files and passwords. For more on tracking software, go to

Web browsers - kid safe
Kid safe web browsers let your kids surf through approved websites safely. They can block objectionable material with parental control access and pop-up blockers. Kid safe web browsers can can block certain objectionable web content, adware and spyware. They can come with parental control access and pop-up blockers. Different kid safe web browsers have different control settings, you will need to try and test some yourselves first to see what best suits your needs. Here is a list of some popular toddler-safe web browers.
  1. Google kids search engine
  2. Maxthon Kids safe browserMy Kids Browser
  3. ZAC Browser
  4. My Kids Browser
  5. Kid Zui
  6. PikLuk
  7. KIDO'Z
  8. Kidoz
  9. Kidsplorer
  10. Kidsonline
  11. 10 Kid-Friendly Browsers for the iPad

Adapted from

Recommendation: Check your computer, make sure your computer is protected against viruses and spyware and has firewall software installed. There are many free anti-virus software packages available or you can pay for reliable services as well.

Become more familiar with web filters, for more on 7 Things You Should Know about Web Filters and possibly invest in a kid safe web browser or if you have Firefox installed, Learn How to Turn on the Safety Controls in Firefox for Your Family.

Manage the amount of time they spend on technological devices.

Subject Author Replies Views Last Message
Any other tips? tessagray tessagray 0 58 Oct 13, 2010 by tessagray tessagray

Additional resources to consider

For more safety tools, go to

NetSafe - older links


For younger children 2-9 there is managing online access with Netsafe's Learning with Hector.