Filters are perhaps the most widely used of all the
technological tools intended to protect children from exposure to inappropriate
materials. Filtering is very effective at keeping out unwanted materials,
and there are a number of options to choose from, including client-side
filters; content-limited Internet service providers;
server-side filters; and search-engine
Pros and Cons
Filters can be configured to deny access to a substantial
amount of adult-oriented sexually explicit material from commercial Web
sites. No filter is perfect, however, because filtering software cant
wholly substitute for human judgment. Nevertheless, as part of an intelligent,
proactive strategy for protecting kids, a filter can be very useful. Here
are some specific drawbacks that you should know about:
- Overblocking: A
filter that is highly effective at screening out content can overblock
by filtering out acceptable material, such as health-related information.
But some parents will accept the consequences of overblocking if they
place a very high priority on preventing exposure to certain materials.
- Underblocking: Because
new material appears on the Internet constantly, filters can underblock
content if responsible parties dont update their systems. (Content-based
filtering systems arent subject to this problem.)
- Denying responsible choice:
The use of filters doesnt allow children, including older adolescents,
the opportunity to develop their own decision-making skills, which are
what children rely on when they surf away from home.
back to top
Note: Most filters have default settings that take
effect if you do nothing. Often, these settings block every possible category
of materials that can be blocked: sexually explicit images, nudity, works
of art that depict nudity or sexual behavior, sex education, violence,
weapons, drugs, pro-choice or anti-abortion material, gay and lesbian
lifestyles, and so on. By accepting the default setting, youll be
blocking a great deal of material you might not want to block.
Types of Filters
- Client-side filters:
This type of filter, installed as software on your computer, can be
customized to meet your familys needs and disabled only by someone
with the password. Client-side filters work well for places like libraries,
where only some access points need to be filtered, such as the computers
in the childrens reading room. back
- Content-limited (or
filtered) ISPs: These Internet service providers
offer access to only a subset of Internet content. Whoever subscribes
to this service is subject to the same restrictions. Content-limited
ISPs intended for kids offer Web pages that have been carefully reviewed
and assessed for their appropriateness and safety, as well as for content
thats developmentally appropriate, educational, and entertaining.
Chat rooms and bulletin boards are monitored,
and those who break the rules are uninvited. E-mail
and instant messages can be received only
from specified parties or other users of the system.
Other content-limited ISPs, intended for both children and adults, allow
access to everything except content that the ISP specifically considers
inappropriate. Monitoring and limits on e-mail are less strict or dont
exist at all.
Some ISPs provide both filtered and unfiltered access. Filtered accesssometimes
at different levelsis usually available from those ISPs that offer
parental controls, allowing you to decide what content family members
can access. back to top
- Server-side filters:
This type of filtering is useful in institutional settings, such as
school or library systems. Users at all access points within the institutions
purview are subject to the access policy defined by the institution.
Filtering within the system can come from the institutions ISP
or from the institution itself, and can be customized. For example,
a school districts high-school library could have a different
filtering profile than the districts middle-school library.
back to top
- Search-engine filters:
Many search engines, such as Google and
AltaVista, offer users the option of turning on a safety filter, which,
filters out inappropriate links from search results. But someone who
already knows the URL of a site featuring sexually explicit content
could still access it without using a search engine.
Other search engines, such as Lycos and Yahoo!, offer
kid-oriented versions of their search engines that permit searches of
only child-friendly sites.
For more details on specific filtering
tools, visit www.GetNetWise.org.