Internet filtering at home Part 3
So, after making sure that the wifi capabilities of all of the devices that can connect to the internet are password protected, and making sure that any device that uses the connection the router provides is subject to some sort of filtering, I now turn to the web browser itself. There are tons of applications that provide some sort of filtering for the browser. Some are free and some I had to pay for. I tried and tried to make the free options work, but it was either way too much of a hassle for me to get it the way I wanted or they did not offer the level of filtering I was interested in. I ended up biting the bullet and installing Net Nanny on the only computer in our home with internet capability. Here is why I chose Net Nanny:
- It was the highest-rated product out there for internet filtering
- It has the option to apply a black-list approach or a white-list approach to internet filtering (more on that later)
- It has profanity masking where bad words are blocked with symbols when they appear on allowed websites
- It was relatively cheap (I got it for $20 for the year with an internet coupon I found)
- It was easy to apply a different set of filtering criteria per account on the PC
- It works for every browser on the PC
- It is very (and I mean VERY) difficult to defeat. In fact I have not found a way to do it...yet
We have it running now and it has been trouble-free and effective. I initially wanted to run it using a white-list approach to the filtering where I block every website except the ones that I wanted to let through for my boys. Well, it turns out that there are some game websites that they like to visit that import a lot of content from other sites that simply broke when applying this type of browsing. The black-list approach has a tendency towards false positives and negatives when applying a specific kind of filter, but that is not an awful thing at this point given some of the other safeguards we have in place. In addition, our sons do not blindly browse the internet at this point looking for fun sites to visit. they have a tendency to go to one particular site and do the stuff there and then shut the browser down. If it looks like there are some issues with the black list then I will revisit the white list.
Believe me, this is in no way the only approach to browser-level filtering, but I just could not ignore the ease of use and effectiveness of Net Nanny. Now, there are other web browsers on other devices that are not subject to the filtering that the ones on the PC are. Net Nanny has Android (tablets and phones) and iOS (iPhone, iPad) versions of the product as well, but the one for the Kindle Fire is (as of this post) very broken and I do not think that fixes will be available any time soon. Our sons only use the wifi connection on their devices to download games and ebooks right now and only do so under my direct supervision so this is not a big issue for us at the moment. If they had another Android tablet or smartphone we would be investing in Net Nanny for those devices too.
I think I am going to stretch this out to at least a part four so that I can write about the equipment and software that I use now and talk about some advanced filtering techniques that I may use in the future.