Title: What You Need to Know About Filtering
Date: February 15, 2008; Length: 7:41
Dr. Curtis describes an online filter, how it is used, and how parents can use it to protect their children. He also explains how to change the filter level on the search engines from Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft’s Live Search. You can listen to or watch the podcast at the following links:
0:22: Key questions parents should ask about online filters
0:38: Definition of a filter
1:06: Where to find a filter for your computer
1:34: What a filter can and can’t do
2:10: The basic kinds of filters
2:28: How a filter can protect your family
2:45: A brief overview of online hazards and how filters can and can’t help
3:16: Three steps for dealing with online pornography
3:50: Search engine filters and their key advantages and disadvantages
4:57: Demonstration of filter setting on Google, Yahoo!, and Live Search
6:52: Testing your online filter
7:11: Additonal filter resources
Hello, and welcome to Parenting and the Internet
I’m your host Dr. Todd Curtis, and I’m also the author of the book Parenting and the Internet, your how-to guide for managing your online child.
This is show #12: What You Need to Know About Filtering, for February 15, 2008
This show will give you a brief description of an online filter, and will answer some basic questions you may have about filters, including:
- What a filter is,
- Where you can get one for your computer,
- What filters can and can’t do,
- What kinds of filters can you use, and
- How a filter can protect your family.
A filter is software, settings on a piece of software, or settings for an online service that limits the content that can be displayed or accessed.
It uses various techniques to block words, images, web sites, email, or other online content that’s considered objectionable.
It’s designed by people, and is based in part on assumptions of user behavior. This last part is an important one to remember, and I’ll talk about that in detail later when I discuss the limitations of filters.
While you can certainly buy filtering software, you may already have access to many free filtering options.
Filtering software, either trial versions or full versions, may already be included with your new computer. Your email program should have some kind of built-in filtering as well.
Other filtering options are available online for free, most notably the filters built into the major search engines.
Your Internet service provider may also have options to filter your content as well.
The biggest limitation of a filter is that it can’t replace a parent’s judgment, so no matter what filtering option you decide to use, you must still be involved with your child’s online activities.
Keep in mind that no filter is 100% effective at blocking all of the Internet’s objectionable or potentially harmful material.
Because it’s designed to address human behavior, filters can be outsmarted, sometimes quite easily, by a child who’s determined to look at images or words that many parents would consider to be inappropriate.
On the positive side, filters can be quite effective at keeping your child away from specific sites, or from inappropriate material, especially images and videos.
Most filters block or restrict access to one or more of the following things:
- Specific web sites,
- Email from specific sites or addresses,
- Specific kinds of activities, such as email or search engines, or
- Access to specific kinds of content, usually sexually explicit images and videos.
For families, the most important role for a filter is to block inappropriate web site content, or particular kinds of email.
In addition, an effective filter should also serve to discourage inappropriate online activity, especially visits to certain kinds of web sites.
Before I demonstrate a few filters, I’d like to talk about online hazards and children. There are a wide variety of online hazards. Some hazards, like online predators and cyberbullies, can’t be addressed very well by filtering because there is often a willingness on the part of one or both sides of that relationship to get around a filter.
Other hazards, like pornography, may be effectively blocked by many filters.
In the end, parents can’t rely only on technology, but rather on a combination of technology and judgment in order to deal with many kinds of hazards.
When it comes to online pornography, there are three basic things parents should do:
- First, have very clear rules about what’s allowed and what’s not allowed both at home and away from home.
- Second, teach good online habits when it comes to using search engines, email, and other online services.
- Third, take steps to filter content.
Filtering can take many forms, including buying additional software for your computer, using filtering options that may be offered by your Internet service provider, or using filtering options built into search engines.
One of the most common kinds of filters are those that are within search engines.
The three biggest search engines, Google, Yahoo!, and Live Search from Microsoft, all have filtering built in. They also make it easy for you to change the filter level.
The drawback is that you would have to set the filter levels for each computer that your family uses.
I’ll give you a quick review of the filter options of the three biggest search engines, and then I’ll demonstrate them for you.
For those of you listening to the audio version of this podcast, visit filter.speedbrake.com and you’ll find a link to the the video podcast version.
Google has three levels of filtering: strict filtering of all text and images, moderate filtering where only explicit images are blocked, and a no filtering option.
The setup for the Yahoo! search engine is similar. You have a filter level that deals with web sites, video, and images, a level that only filters images and video, and a no filtering option.
Live Search is much like Google, with strict filtering of all text and images, moderate filtering where only explicit images are blocked, and a no filtering option.
Let’s start with the Google search engine. On the home page, you’ll see on the right of the search box a ‘Preferences Link,’ and you go there, and you scroll down and you’ll see options for ‘Safe Search Filtering.’
You’ll see options for ‘Use Strict Filtering,’ ‘Use Moderate Filtering,’ and ‘Do Not Filter My Search Results.’
In this example, I chose ‘ Use Strict Filtering,’ clicked on ‘Save Preferences,’ and then hit the ‘OK’ on the popup, and we’re ready to go.
For the Yahoo! search engine, we have something very similar. We go to ‘Options,’ and then click on ‘Preferences.’
As you see, it takes us to the ‘SafeSearch’ area. You have to click on the ‘Edit’ link over on the right side. That opens you up to the three options that you have for Yahoo!: ‘Filter out adult Web video, and images,’ ‘ Filter out adult video and image search results,’ and ‘Do not filter results.’
In this example, I put it on the highest setting setting, ‘Filter out adult Web video, and image’ search results. And after that I click on ‘Save,’ and then once again on ‘Finished’ over on the upper right, and takes us back to the search engine.
On Live Search by Microsoft, we have a very similar setup. As you look to the right of the search box, you’ll see ‘Options.’ Pull that down for ‘Search Settings.’
In the ‘SafeSearch’ area we see three options: the strict filtering that filters both text and images, moderate filtering that only filters images, and the off option that doesn’t filter anything at all.
In this example, I’m choosing strict, then hitting ‘Save,’ and it takes us straight back to the search box.
As you can see, it’s very easy to make these changes, so you can try these options at home with the search engine of your choice.
One thing you may want to do is to test your filter to see if it is good enough for your family. In my previous show, I demonstrated something called the ‘Simpson Test’ for online filters. The details are in the previous podcast, and links to that podcast are available at filter.speedbrake.com.
That page has more than just a Simpson Test. You’ll also find links to many useful resources, including lessons on how to use a search engine and other advice for the parents of online children.
Once again, that address is filter.speedbrake.com.
Thanks for listening and I’ll see you next time.
Dr. Todd Curtis is the author of the book Parenting and the Internet (Speedbrake Publishing, 2007) and is also the host of the podcast of the same name.
For more information about the podcast, visit podcast.speedbrake.com. For more on the book, visit books.speedbrake.com.