Keep Your Kids Safe While Online


By: Rick Broida

The Internet is probably the single best parental resource since the invention of grandma and grandpa. Pity the poor moms and dads of the previous generation, who didn’t have an endless network of blogs, how-to guides, and online communities at their fingertips.

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It’s ironic, then, that the Internet is no place for kids. Left unsupervised, tots, tweens, and teens can encounter all kinds of inappropriate material, from violent images to hate speech to pornography. They can unwittingly damage a computer by exposing it to viruses, and they can open the door to identity theft by sharing (either knowingly or unknowingly) personal information. Meanwhile, online predators continue to target kids in hopes of obtaining financial data…or something much worse. And kids who spend too much time online usually do so at the expense of homework, relationships with friends, and outdoor activities.

What you need, then, is a way to filter out all the bad stuff, to keep kids away from the Internet’s red-light districts, dangerous areas, and shady denizens—while at the same time allowing them to watch appropriate videos, research homework assignments, play suitable games, enjoy social networks, and so on.

In other words, you need parental controls. Think of this as a form of digital babysitting, a set of tools designed to limit online time, block inappropriate destinations, and more.

Okay, but where can you find such tools? Windows 8 offers a limited set of parental controls, and it’s probably worth a little investigating to see if they’ll suffice for your needs. If not, or you just want a more comprehensive solution, look no further than security software—perhaps the same software that’s already protecting (or should be) your PC from viruses, spyware, and other threats.

For example, Kaspersky, McAfee, Norton, and Trend Micro all offer parental controls as part of their premium antivirus products, meaning you don’t need to buy anything extra when you purchase one of these utilities to help secure your PC.

The best Internet parental controls usually offer three main features: blocking, time limits, and reporting. Blocking works just like it sounds: The software prohibits access to certain Web sites, those that meet certain criteria (such as containing offensive languages or images). In most cases you can manually add (or remove) sites from this “blacklist,” handy if the software isn’t set to block categories you think it should, or is overzealous in blocking sites that might be necessary for, say, a homework assignment.

For kids spending too much time online, Internet parental controls can help you limit their access to certain times of day (like when you’re home and can supervise) or a certain number of hours per day. Meanwhile, parental monitoring software can generate reports (either after the fact or immediately, via e-mail) regarding your child’s online activities—what sites he or she attempted to visit, for example, or how much time was spent using the computer.

If all this sounds a little heavy-handed, or perhaps feels like an invasion of your child’s privacy, remember that for all its benefits, the Internet is home to some seriously nasty stuff. It’s all too easy to encounter it by accident or, in the case of older, more curious, kids, on purpose. Either way, it’s probably not a good idea to allow them unfettered access, especially if you can’t be around 24/7 to keep watch.

What’s the best Internet parental control solution for your PC? Start by reading reviews of the antivirus packages that include those features. You can find comprehensive coverage of them at

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