Unlike filtering, which is a prevention strategy, monitoring
relies on deterrence and the possibility that a child misbehaving on the
Internet will be caught. Monitoring technologies allow parents to surreptitiously
or openly track their childrens Internet activities. There are different
types of monitoring tools that a parent can use.
Pros and Cons
With monitoring, your children wont miss out
on legitimate Web content, which can be mistakenly screened out by filters.
Youll also know what theyre up to online, but you wont
be able to stop specific material from reaching them. Monitoring conducted
within the proper framework of age-appropriate guidance, however, might
help reinforce lessons taught, provide opportunities for further teaching,
and allow children to learn how to make their own sound choices. Increased
responsibility can lead to increased maturityand that can translate
to peace of mind when youre not around.
If you decide to monitor, be aware of some sensitive parentchild
Types of Monitoring Tools
There are simple technological ways to monitor your
childs Internet use and to review incoming and outgoing e-mail,
instant messages, and chat-room
dialogues, accessed Web sites, and so on. Here
are some examples:
- Browser capabilities:
The simplest means of monitoring are built into your computers
browser or operating system:
- History: Major
browsers have a history file that shows recently visited sites within
a set timeframe. A typical timeframe is 20 days. You can keep track
of your childs online activities this way, but remember that
a savvy kid might know how to erase the history file with just a
click or even forge a history file with innocuous entries.
- Cache: Most
browsers make use of a temporary cache that contains
images that were previously displayed on a screen. You can
the cache to see what your child might have seen. Parents should
know that the cache can be erased.
- Cookies: Cookie
fields can show sites where children have interacted, as well as
show who has received information from them. On most computers,
you can search for a file called cookies. But, as with
history and cache, a child who knows what to do can selectively
edit (erase) cookie files.
- Keystroke software:
There are devices and programs that can capture all of the keystrokes
made by a child, allowing parents to view everything thats been
- Screen monitoring:
The workstation of a supervising adult, such as a teacher or librarian,
can be set up to capture and display the contents of a childs
monitor in real time.
For more details on specific monitoring tools, visit
If you plan to monitor your childrens online
behavior, youll have to decide whether theyre going to know
about it. Not telling them might help you learn about whats going
on when youre not around. But if your children find out, there could
be serious consequences. They might feel that their privacy has been invaded
and that you dont trust them. This might, in turn, make them less
willing to trust you. Lines of communicationincreasingly important
as children get oldercould shut down.
If you decide to monitor surreptitiously, how will
you bring up something that, technically, youre not supposed to
know about? You could have a general discussion about Internet behavior
without divulging what you know or how you found out. But what if your
child denies having done anything wrong or tells you that he or she already
knows all about the dangers of the Internet? These are issues that you
should think through carefully.
An alternative is to openly monitor your childrens
online activities. Tell them about your plans to monitor, but also run
through the surfing rules that youve
set up for them so that they feel involved. Remember, also, that monitoring
used in conjunction with punishment is not likely to work in the long
run. Your children can simply learn how to evade your efforts.