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Tech Tip of the Week – Blocking web sites

Michael Connolly

As our kids become tech-savvy at an ever-younger age, one of the biggest fears we have as parents is the possibility of them accidentally – or not so accidentally – stumbling upon an inappropriate web site. Unfortunately, if your child is a little adventurous and decides to experiment with urls like "sexy.com" or "boobs.com", they could be in for a very nasty shock!

However, in Internet Explorer, there is a very easy way to protect against this.

First, if you don't already have it, you should upgrade to Internet Explorer 8. It's free and will take less than 10 minutes to download. (If you're not sure what version of Explorer you are using, just click on this link. If you already have IE8 installed, it will tell you.)

Once you have IE8, open the browser and click on "Tools" from the main navigation bar and choose "Internet Options". This will bring up a window with seven tabs at the top; choose "Content".

Under the heading "Content Advisor", choose "Enable". The Content Advisor window will show four tabs; the ones to concentrate on are "Ratings" and "Approved Sites".

Under "Ratings", IE gives you a number of content categories that have been defined by the Internet Content Rating Association (or "ICRA"). ICRA is part of the Family Online Safety Institute, a non-profit organization working to develop a safer Internet. By clicking on the slider, you can set your browser to allow different levels of access to each content category.

For example, under "Content that creates fear, intimidation, etc." you can select "None", "Limited", or "Unrestricted". Choosing "None" will mean you have selected the strongest possible filter against allowing access to this type of content, while choosing "Unrestricted" means that there are no filters in place. For younger children, we recommend that all content categories are set at "None".

Once you have made your selections, then click on "Apply". You will be prompted for a password so no-one can change the settings without your approval.

If you don't want to lock down your browser by content category, then you can choose "Approved Sites" from the Content Advisor window. Here, you can specify individual web sites that are either always viewable or can never be viewed. Again, these selections are password protected, which means you can come back and make changes at a later date.

Remember that locking down your browser by content category will greatly restrict web access. For example, with the settings at "None", you can't even reach the Google search tool. If your kids are very young – and a little adventurous – then this is a great place to start. If you are using the computer after them, all restricted web sites can be easily accessed by inputting the password when prompted.

Do you have helpful tech tips you would like to pass on? Share them with The Online Mom and we can feature the best in our Tech Tip of the Week!

Comment by Spy Parent, posted 10/26/2009, 12:57 AM:

This is a great article for young children ages 4-11. For pre teens, you have to make sure that they have not downloaded another browser. Pre-teens and teens are sneaky and will download another browser on the computer to circumvent the filter. If your child is using Firefox or another browser, then check the history and the delete it.
Comment by Monica Vila, posted 10/20/2009, 8:43 AM:

Good for you! Yes, its a good thing when you can stay a step ahead. Does she have an iPod Touch by any chance? You can also now add restrictions on that device to insure she's not viewing YouTube or buying songs with explicit lyrics w/o supervision. :-)
Comment by Ellen McPhee, posted 10/19/2009, 11:18 AM:

Thank you!! This is my biggest concern. I have a VERY adventurous daughter and every time I check the web history, she has been somewhere she shouldn't! Now the password pops up so she has to check with me first. It's driving her crazy but that's good!!!
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