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  • Keeping Kids Safe on the Web
    By John Nolt

    Children born since the late 80's are going to have the Internet in their blood. Just as kids born in the late 40's had cars, kids born in the 70's had stereos, and kids in the 80's had electronics and rap music. The old clich´┐Ż is that parents just don't understand, and it's true. It's hard to know how to protect your kids when you can't even follow their conversation.

    But just as technology is part of the problem, it can be part of your solution. This Tech Tip doesn't have all the answers, but it will help get you started protecting your kids while they're surfing the Web.

    This is just a Tech Tip, so I won't presume to dispense parenting tips. If you'd like some more general advice on kids and the Internet, visit the Parent's Resource Center on, or click around a while on

    Before You Begin
    You'll need to create at least one new "user account" on your computer, for your kids. This user should not have "administrator" privileges, because Administrator
    accounts have the power to change anything on your computer. That would render your parental controls useless.

    Most parental control software requires that you create a new, non-administrator user account. This might sound like a pretty "geeky" aspect of computer use, but it's pretty easy and harmless if you make a mistake. The Protection Is Baked In
    Your operating system, programs that came with it, or software you've already installed may have their own "parental controls" built in.

    Windows Vista
    The successor to Windows XP has a complete set of Parental Controls available in its Control Panel.

    Mac OS X
    The Parental Controls feature of OS X user accounts lets you control your child's access to several of the standard OS X applications, like Mail, iChat, and Safari. Note that if you have other Internet software installed, such as Internet Explorer or Firefox, the OS X parental controls won't affect them.

    Internet Explorer
    IE 6 and 7 for Windows contain a "Content Advisor" feature that lets you restrict what content can be viewed in Internet Explorer.

    Browser Plugins
    If you normally supervise your child's Internet activities and are just looking for something to help you prevent accidental exposure to inappropriate material, consider installing a content-filter plugin to your Web browser.

    These plugins (Firefox calls them "extensions") are add-ons to your Web browser that give it additional features. In this case, the filter plugin watches for inappropriate content and prevents it from being displayed. All parental controls software will do this, but the plugin is an easy way to target just the Web browser, and there are free plugins available for Internet Explorer and Firefox. Commercial Parental Control Software
    If you need some industrial-strength control over your children's computer activities, there is software available that will provide it for you. These programs let you be as restrictive as you want, from controlling what your kids can intentionally do, to watching for software and Web sites that display unexpected inappropriate content.

    If you use EarthLink TotalAccess, you can take advantage of EarthLink's free Parental Controls, which let you choose which of your email profiles have content filters turned on. The Parental Controls are then enabled or not, depending on which profile you used to sign in to TotalAccess.

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