How to use parental control tools? Recommendations for parents
If you are a parent or you work with children, this information is crucial for protecting children in the Internet. Recommendations below are based on the findings from previous editions of the study (SIP BENCH II). They will be continuously updated with each benchmarking cycle.
- Remember that parental control tools are only a partial solution. The filtering process is still not effective enough. Therefore, in addition to using the tool, you should remember about the importance of direct communication with your children.
Monitoring and Surveillance
- Some tools can monitor users’ activities in a very detailed way which could violate children’s privacy rights. Therefore, always discuss with your children what kind of filter you set up and why.
- When a page is blocked, some filtering tools give children the option to ask parents to unblock the page. If you want to keep the communication open with your children and to increase the tool’s effectiveness (as some non-harmful pages are often blocked by error), you should enable this tool option and remember to regularly check and react to your children’s requests.
Configuration of Accounts for your children
- Make sure that you create one account for each of your children configured according to their needs and age.
- Make sure you log out of the configuration panel or configuration page so that your children cannot access it. Some tools require the computer be restarted after a configuration (first time or subsequent modifications). To make sure that the tool is working properly, perform search on Google with a keyword such as "porn" (Not in the presence of your child). When you try to open the first of the available search results, this page should be blocked.
Protection by password
- Make sure that access to the tool configuration is protected by password.
- Some tools make use of Windows accounts to manage user profiles and/or require the Windows’ admin password to prevent disabling and uninstalling. It is not always evident that this feature is being used so you should check this. In case of doubt, you can create a separate Windows account for your child/teenager and protect your own admin account with a password or software which manages the different profiles linked with the Windows profile. In this case, you should create a password-protected profile for each teenager/child who can access the Internet. Admin access should be possible only for an adult and be password protected. Be aware that many tools can be by-passed or uninstalled quite easily by children and teenagers. So, check periodically that the filtering tool is still installed and working.
- If your children use the Internet mainly for communicating with others, check the software they use (e.g. MSN, Skype, or Peer to Peer software). Then, decide whether you want to filter their communication, for example, filter or block certain actions or limit the time spent using the software to within a specific timeframe. In these cases, be aware that there are very few tools that can block/filter communication activities and that their features will differ.
- Be aware that your children may use their game consoles to access the Internet. They can interact with other people via game consoles. Normally, these interactions are not filtered by parental control tools.
- In case of mobile devices, many applications do not address the children appropriately and do not communicate clearly the objectives of the parental control tool. Remote management options allow parents controlling their children unperceived while other tools give access to monitoring and reporting only in the child’s mobile phone. Nevertheless, you should discuss with children the issues of filtering, monitoring and reporting and not do this in secret.
- Most applications consist of browsers that replace the default browsers installed on the mobile phones. It is often possible to by-pass the parental control tool by installing another browser.
- Many applications give access to content on the Internet and by-pass the parental control tools. Therefore, you need to monitor the applications installed on the mobile phones of your children.
- Consider to use an “Alternative Tools” for very young children. Browsing is so restricted to whitelist only.