Filtering software will help protect your child from potentially inappropriate material but you should never rely on it to do the job of a parent. Children who are particularly computer savvy will be able to find their way past any restrictions you put in place and the software is only reliable when updated regularly so there is always potential for your child to access a site that has not been picked up by the filter.
The key to internet safety is having good filtering software, so you should make sure that you always know why your child is on the computer and what sites she is visiting. It’s a good idea to keep the computer in the living room or kitchen and it should never be in your child’s bedroom.
Filters block access to internet sites based on keyword searches as well as a list of banned sites. A filtering program will allow you to block access to chat rooms or any other areas of the internet that you feel is unsuitable for your child. You can also restrict your child from giving out personal information.
Labels attach to internet sites and are a really useful back-up for filtering programs. Users can view the labels and make decisions about whether or not material is suitable based on their advice.
Safe zones are secure networks that are distinguished from the rest of the internet. They are often the safest bet for younger children.
There are many useful sites which offer practical advice for this problem. These include:
www.internetsafety.ie: This offers lots of helpful advice to children about how to stay safe when they are online, never to give out personal information and what to do if they are being bullied online.
www.webwise.ie: Offers tips and information for parents about online safety. It also has a fun and interactive section where kids can take quizzes, watch videos and learn about the internet and how to stay safe.