Most folks are aware there are places on the web that are a bit, um, seedy. While I would never suggest we not allow adults to do as they wish (assuming it harms no one else), I also don’t want my children to experience certain things while they’re children. At the same time, I encourage my kids to explore their world and learn all they can. So how do I protect them without unduly limiting their ability to explore?
The solution is to use web filtering software. This is a program which stops them from going to sites or categories of sites which I don’t feel they’re ready for yet. As an IT consultant, I’ve evaluated dozens of different security software solutions, both of this sort and anti-virus software as well. There are several different types of filtering, some more intended for corporate use, some for institutions such as schools and others for parents. I’ll discuss the last sort here.
It’s important to keep two things in mind: that no security software is perfect and you’ll always trade some convenience for security. The thing you want is ease of use while remaining reasonably effective. With that in mind, I like a couple of different products for security. The first is an antivirus product which I’ll write up a review for in a couple of days. The other is K9 Web Protection.
K9 is quite easy to install, there’s very little configuration required and best of all it’s free while being effective! I have it installed on each of my kids’ laptops. K9 will, by default, simply block access to sites which feature certain types of content ranging from, of course, pornography to dating sites or sites discussing drug use. There are quite a few categories you can block in addition to these standard ones most folks want to filter. Other categories include shopping, weapons and even e-mail.
You can white list specific sites for a short while or permanently if you wish. This allows the option, for example, to block all shopping except Amazon.com or block everything and allow only specific websites on a case-by-case basis if you prefer. You can configure an audible alert when a blocked site is accessed. One particularly important feature (in my opinion) is the option to force Safe Search on sites such as Google or Yahoo, this prevents one of the more easily used circumvention of many web filters without blocking search entirely. You can look at logs activity on the computer to get an idea of what’s been going on.
These are just a few of the things you can do with K9. I recommend every parent use this software on their children’s computers. It’s a fantastic way to let your kids explore the modern world in a safe manner while being assured that they’re not going to stumble on something inappropriate. Keep in mind this is free software; it’s not as though I get a commission or anything from people downloading and using it. You can click the image above to go to K9’s website.