- Filtering software allows you to control which types of websites, content and services can be accessed on your internet connection. It can be used to block access to sites that contain content such as adult content, gambling, drugs and depictions of death. Filtering software can be installed on each device required but some internet service providers also offer filtering tools that can be used to filter every device on a home internet network.
- Monitoring tools are used to log and monitor the actions a person takes on their device – including which websites they have browsed, how long they have spent on any particular app or program and key words that they may have searched for or typed. Such tools can be used to monitor a child’s activity and alert you if they visit or search for content that may give you cause for concern.
- Parental controls are settings that can be used on devices and some services to restrict access to content and features. For example, parental controls on a video game console can restrict a child from being able to play or download games above their age, or to view any video content or websites that are intended for older audiences. These controls can also be used to place restrictions on when a child can use a device, and for how long.
- There are a wealth of tools and products available to allow a child’s online and technology use to be filtered and monitored. While it is important to protect a child online, it is also important to consider their freedom to explore and learn, as well as their right to privacy.
- Investigate what filtering or monitoring solution is right for you, and right for your child. Filtering solutions vary in terms of their features – some may offer flexibility depending on the age of the child/children in your family, others do not. If you are intending to use filtering to protect your family then always consider solutions that work with your family rather than against them – filtering that is right for one family member but too strict/lax for other family members is not helpful.
- You should always recognise there are limitations in using filtering or parental controls. Some filtering products are very inflexible and this can make it hard to adapt it to the needs of your family, particularly as your child grows and their internet use changes. Many filtering products can block access to social media sites/apps and website content but they cannot filter the content that appears on social networks e.g. adult content posted on a video sharing site or social network is unlikely to be filtered, and most filtering solutions cannot recognise content that might be considered hate speech in a certain context.
- Due to the limitations of filtering and parental control tools, It is important to have regular discussions with your child about how they stay safe online. This provides opportunity to equip them with the knowledge, understanding and skills to manage online risks and to protect themselves and others. It is also important to discuss with your child the use of filtering, monitoring or parental control tools so they are aware of what you have put in place and why it is important for their protection.
- Be prepared to be flexible, in the same way as you expect filtering software to be. Your child’s use of the internet will change as they grow – different apps and games become popular at different times and as children start to use the internet to socialise they may seek to use new websites, apps and games because their friends also use them. As they develop their understanding of themselves and the world around them, they may use the internet to search for information on topics related to health, well-being and relationships. Any filtering you use needs to be able to adapt to your child’s changing needs.
- Remember that some filtering or monitoring solutions may be tied to your home internet network, and may not function as well (or at all) when your child uses their device outside of home – such as on a public WiFi hotspot or at a friend’s house. In these instances the parental controls on a device become more important. It is also important to talk to your child and agree expectations for their use of the internet and technology when they are not at home.