Is There Such A Thing As Effective Parental Controls?

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There's an interesting thread over on Slashdot about parental controls on PCs. Obviously, the crowd on Slashdot is a bit more technical than your average parents. Good thing, as I am in that crowd.

Parental Controls are often seen as a substitute for good parenting. They aren't. Because the kids will eventually find a way to subvert it. That being said, you can do a few things to make it a bit more difficult.

Here's what I do on my family computers, which are all running Windows XP:

Computers In Public Rooms: The kids activities can easily be monitored by good old fashioned parental oversight--the most effective form of parental control.

Limited Accounts: The children use Limited Accounts in XP. This has all kinds of interesting benefits:

  • Some Flash games require third-party add-ons, which only I (with full Admin rights) can install. Gives me a chance to check out the games before they play them
  • Applications can't be installed. It doesn't prevent you from running a self-contained EXE, but those are rare.
  • If any rogue software does run, the damage it can do is much more limited thanks to the limited permissions.

Windows Update: It runs in full automatic mode. The computers often get left on so they have a chance to download and install whatever patches Microsoft throws us.

AntiVirus: It's always a good idea to have AntiVirus loaded. I've settled on the free version of Avast.

Web Filtering: At the moment, the web filter is meant to prevent my young children (3 and 7) from accidentally stumbling onto something they shouldn't see. They may bump into it more and more as they get older. The one I'm using? K9 Web Protection from Blue Coat. It's free and relatively noninvasive. If you hit an objectionable site, your browser prevents you from accessing it but gives you the chance to provide the override password.

At some point in the future, I may start monitoring--but not restricting--other network activities. However, that's going to require some planning.

What things do to you do to protect your kids online?

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