It’s almost back-to-school season, I’ve just been asked for my opinion about home network filters, and I’ve answered the way I always do: protective software programs are fine but limited.
Yes, filters keep a certain amount of inappropriate content away from children, but the problem of access is not solved simply by protecting home computers and networks. Over the course of a day or week, a child encounters many other connections to the world wide web — on laptops, smartphones, iPads, computers, in other people’s homes, and maybe even at a parent’s office. Not to mention all of the inappropriate advertising…
Protecting children from bad, scary, or inappropriate content is critical, but the most important part of protection is ensuring that your child knows what to do and what strategies to use when the bad stuff shows up (or when lots of friends discover a questionable link and it’s suddenly the “in” place to visit).
Have you discussed your family’s digital expectations with your child? Will he or she know what to do when a problem occurs? An August 24, 2010 Atlanta Journal Constitution article, A Program for Kid Safety Online: It’s a Hard Job, Not Software, reflects my thoughts on this subject. Parents have tough work to do, writes reporter Bill Husted. Filtering or security software only makes the job a tad easier. Husted comments, “I tell them that a computer program — no matter how sophisticated — can’t protect a child. That’s the parent’s job.”
This digital parenting challenge — supervising, talking, modeling, and brainstorming strategies with web-savvy children – is a lot harder than installing and then monitoring any filtering software. So go ahead and install the filter if you feel it’s important, but also take the time to formulate a plan and hold the regular family discussions that will help children become street-smart and sensible on the web.
That’s the best digital security for your family.
If you find this article interesting, you may also enjoy reading Four Basic Rules to Secure the Computers in Your Household.