Tools should contain a message that provides parents with an explanation of both the capabilities of the tool and its limitations. The message should also motivate parents to engage in Internet activities with their children/teenagers and talk with them about Internet threats.
- Installation and configuration procedures should be kept simple and explained in plain language.
- The software should:
- be easy to learn,
- follow consistent concepts,
- conform with user expectations about how it works,
- have an appealing design,
- provide a good overview on all features.
- Blocking should be transparent to users.
- Dialogue with the user should be easy to understand and when directed at children should use child sensitive language.
- It is important to inform the users that the tool has some limits, what these limits are and what parents can do with this. This information would give parents a clear picture of what the settings mean in practice and where they should be more careful. Effectiveness
- Most of the tools are usually not very effective in filtering harmful web content. In any case, adult content is not the only threat to children. Such tools should be more effective with regards to content about violence, racism, self-harm, and, also on user generated content (social networks, blogs, forums, etc.).
- Although not distributed anymore, the AOL filtering tool was satisfactorily effective. Thus, it may serve as a best practice example for other software producers.
- The database containing the black list should be updated at least with every update of the tool.
- Databases should be updated regularly. Weekly update could be a solution reflecting rapid changes in the web.
- Most of the filters filter “old web”, while children and teenagers use web 2.0 (social networks, video-sharing websites). The tools have a low effectiveness on this kind of content. This should be better addressed.
- After the installation process is completed, default filtering should be in operation even when the user did not perform or finish a configuration.
- If the creation of user profiles within the filtering tool is linked with the Windows user profile system, parents should be clearly warned (with an alert in a pop-up window or similar) about the need to set up a separate Windows profile and make the admin account password protected. Even better, if there is only one Windows profile, the parent should be guided in the creation of the other profiles.
- Tools should clearly indicate what kind of filtering is performed on social networks. Is the access to Facebook or similar websites blocked? Is the content filtered? Are interactions with other users filtered or blocked?
- It should be possible, by default or as an option, to make the child/teenager search the web using the safe mode of the three main search engines (Google Safe Search, Bing Safe Search or Yahoo! Safe Search).
- When a page is blocked, the child/teenager should be able to ask the parent to override the blocking when they feel that the blocked content is not harmful.
- Blocking applications: to keep it simple, parents should be provided with a list of applications installed on the computer, for example, in the Windows control panel, instead of having to locate the .exe file on the hard disk.
- Blocking personal data (name, address, phone number) being provided by the child/teenager should be implemented in all tools such as MSN and Skype and also work on websites (blogs, Facebook, webmail).
- Very often blocking categories are based on blocking content in the workplace (i.e. “sports”, “finance”, etc.). Tool providers should consider youth needs when creating the databases for black lists and white lists and provide explanations on what these refer to (to make it more transparent for the parents).
- The reporting of the online activities of the child/teenager and the blocked content should be simple, concise, and provide the essential pertinent information. Sometimes, information provided appears to be designed for business use and not for home or private users.
- Communication between children and parents is the most important issue in youth protection, therefore, the child should always be aware of the monitoring of his/her online activities.
- Tools should be more easy to configure and customize so that they reflect the development of the child.
- Copy of the monitoring report should be sent automatically to the child (at least as an option to be activated). The wording of such reports should be clear and comprehensible.
- Harmful content should not be accessible through Google Cache or Google Translator.
- Creation of a password for administration (and uninstallation) should be compulsory.
- The tools should work and be compatible with the most popular browsers, or, alternatively, block the download and installation of other browsers.
- The tools should be resistant to some simple hacking or by-passing actions:
- Uninstalling the software without a password,
- Changing date and time of the computer to override time limits of Internet usage,
- Renaming a blocked application,
- Closing the software through the Task Manager.
- For most of the children, mobile phones are their personal items. This should be better reflected in mobile phones used by children. Tools that work on PCs need to be adapted to mobile phones, not only with regards to the screen size and limited keyboard but also with regards to addressing children appropriately. Moreover, objectives of parental control should be explained to children in a comprehensible manner.
- If the filtering tool is a browser then it should not be possible to use, install, or access the Internet with another browser. Even if it is technically difficult, parents should be given a resolute warning that the default browser should be disabled. For example, parents may need to disable Safari if they want a filtering tool to work.
- Remote access to the software to configure and access the reporting features of the tool should be offered to parents. In particular, parents should be able to remotely access their children’s mobile phones.
- Parents should have the option to be alerted about attempts to install applications on their children’s mobile phones, to block the application installation or to block a single application.
- Increasingly with mobile phones, users can access content using an application without the use of a browser. The industry should address this issue. How should content accessed by users via these apps be filtered?
- Configuration and monitoring functionality should be accessible for parents using remote PC access.
- Tools should pay attention to apps that provide personal data (including geo-localisation data of teenagers) or share the phone books. These functionalities or the apps should be blocked.
- Tools should provide some solutions for controlling and monitoring time spent using the device.
- Among children who access the Internet, 26% use game consoles.
- The industry must give more attention to the game consoles market to raise awareness that consoles are used to access the Internet.
- It should be possible to configure the tool from a remote PC as many parents are unfamiliar with consoles.
- Tools should be effective and provide a satisfactory filtering level.