Everyone talks about “internet filters” and “parental controls,” but how do you know where to go to get what you need to protect your little one? With all of the products out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about shelling out monthly fees to make sure you have a working filter or something easy to use: there are plenty of free options you can try even if you aren’t a technological whiz.
Older kids and teens are able to find loopholes to escape filters, but when you have a young child, you don’t need anything especially fancy to make the parental controls effective. Here’s a brief list of some simple, free choices available to you:
Adjust Your Router Settings
Your router is the gateway to the internet for every device on your home network, and that means it’s a great tool to use for blacklisting sites you don’t want your kid to see. As a bonus, there are many features on most routers that you can use to control how the bandwidth is allocated between devices, to log what incoming and outgoing traffic is occurring on which devices, and even to implement schedules for when each device can access the internet. Don’t want your child’s computer to be able to access the web after 9:30? Couldn’t be easier, depending on what router you own.
If you aren’t worried about schedules, but are worried about what sorts of sites or videos your child might stumble across, you have the option to ban certain sites manually, or to prevent certain programs, like Java, from loading on specified devices. Find out what brand of router you have, then search for a manual (or use a general one like this) to help guide you through the process of installing a personal filter for your family.
Don’t worry if your router doesn’t offer parental controls: OpenDNS will help fill in the gap. The software comes with built-in fraud and phishing protection, parental controls that instantly protect every device on your network, and customizable filtering and security. Once you’ve set up everything you need, you can create a free web account to manage what to allow on your devices, and you can get detailed statistics regarding your network.
Browser Add-Ons and Extensions
Browser add-ons are another easy filtering method. For Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome users, FoxFilter is a content filter that will help keep inappropriate material from reaching your child, and it will also block access to user-specified content and websites. The add-on has password-protected settings (with password recovery) and security features, so you don’t need to worry about it being disabled or uninstalled.
If you want to use software designed specifically for protecting your child, WebCurfew offers a basic, free content filter that will, with their WebSafeguards, give you manual control of the material she can access. With more than 60 filtering categories, you can customize your family’s online viewing experience, including what safeguards are active at different times of the day or on certain days of the week.
KidZui isn’t just a filter—it’s an internet browser built just for kids. With hundreds of thousands of websites, images, and videos whitelisted by parents and teachers, this browser is a safe place for your wee one to explore the internet on his own without running into trouble. It is also available as an add-on instead of an independent browser.
Built-in Parental Controls
If you set up multiple user accounts on your devices so your child logs in to her own account, you can use the basic control settings for Windows to filter what she is able to access whenever she’s signed in. You can log in to the FamilySafety section on Microsoft’s site and manage as necessary from there as well. Mac also has easily set up parental controls, and you can find a step-by-step guide to them here.