back to article How can family sysadmins make a safe internet playground for kids?

Internet access isn't about PCs any more, and keeping an eye on one's children is tough for even the most techno-literate parent despite the plethora of tools available. It's not puritanical to want to control what one's offspring see and hear – there are things on the internet with the power to scar an adult – and while no …

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  1. Arctic fox
    Thumb Up

    A thought and considered discussion of the parental/parenting challenges involved.......

    ............without the faintest sniff of Daily Fail hysteria. Major kudos for that. I look forward very much to reading what others, better qualified than I am to make the suggestions you have asked for, have to say on the subject.

    1. Richard 116
      Thumb Up

      I second that.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google

    For google requests, the best thing to do is set up a transparent proxy server with url rewriting and append &vss=1 (or it might be &vss=true) to each request.

    That's 'very safe search' and is exactly what the school network does in this area (it spans hundreds of schools). Obviously not a replacement for content filters on it's own, but it's a start.

    If you want a bit more, look at DansGuardian - a squid addon which is also used on aforementioned school network.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actually...

      Actually the best thing to do is educate your kids that there are some bad people out there, there's an awful lot of people who talk bollocks, and that they shouldn't consider meeting any of them in real life.

      After that just leave them the hell alone, if you've done your job in bringing them up being capable of rational thought, and not just turned them into a braindead dribbling vegetable who requires mummy to bubble wrap him before he's even allowed to go anywhere near the front door he'll be fine.

      I had internet access since I was 12, and despite any array of messed up videos, pictures, and stories having passed my eyes it hasn't stopped me achieving well over the average in life in terms of education, career, house, and a nice family.

      Really, kids don't need protecting, they just need educating about the dangers of the real world, rather than simply shielding them from it so that if they eventually do encounter something, they don't know what to do. It's the same with many things in life - the ones who start binge drinking when they hit 16 - 18 are the ones whose parents told them that alcohol was the source of all evil, rather than the ones who were allowed a bit of alcohol each new years eve and taught to enjoy it, but not to have too much.

      Keeping kids naive is the real problem, as long as you've taught them to be aware of the things that can really get them in trouble, like paedophiles, then contrary to The Daily Mail and so forth, no amount of porn, or nasty videos will turn them into a psychotic murderer - the only thing that'll do that is bad genetics, or a truly violent and abusive upbringing - at that point the internet is already the absolute least of your worries.

      Oh, and for those parents who'll inevitably tell me I'm wrong, and that little timmy needs to be sat behind a filter for his own good - here's some news for you, little Timmy already knows how to get round your filter, and if he doesn't, he knows how to get round the school's filter, and if he doesn't know that, he'll know someone with uncensored internet who he'll visit, or other kids will bring print outs or copies of content you don't want them to see into school on their phones and so forth. Either way, little Timmy will find a way to see it regardless.

      1. CheesyTheClown
        Happy

        Very much agreed

        I have a 9 year old son and an 8 year old daughter who spend far more than a little time playing MineCraft and downloading endless numbers of texture packs and mods for the game. Let me start by saying that while I'm American, my wife and children are Norwegian (yes my kids are half American, but they never lived there).

        My son loves to play all kinds of different MMORPGs and he regularly logs into them. I have a few basic rules for the kids to follow.

        1) Never ever ever talk to anyone on the games unless it is one of their friends from school or one of their relatives and they're addressed directly by name. I don't care if they're in a group and running a dungeon. No talking to strangers... ever. Do it once and you'll be 20 before you play an MMO again. No problem there. They're cool with that. Never even one complaint.

        2) You've seen naked people before. At the beach, at the pool, at the park. It's natural. Lots of companies advertise on websites by providing pornographic banners. Ignore them. Again... no problem. They don't care about that crap. They're more interested in finding the latest mod.

        3) YouTube videos with swearing. There's a line between saying "Woh... Fuck.. I'm about to get fragged" and "I'm going to fuck them up the ass." If someone is abusive, move on to a different video. This one isn't appropriate for children. Again... no problem. The kids just say "Pappa... that guy talks really dirty." "Yeh guys... it's not good, one day they may or may not grow up". Best thing is, my kids don't swear... even with their friends when there's no adults to hear. And no I'm not deluding myself. They have all kinds of other bad habits (nose picking then eating being one at times) but swearing isn't one of them. Well.. unless they're singing dirty playground songs that I taught them (not real dirty... just a little).

        I can go on... but teaching your kids how to deal with the reality of society and explaining the differences between good people, bad people and how maturity can play a major role. Like how teenagers and kids will swear a lot and even try things like smoking (like their nasty old pappa does) to pretend to be cool or exert themselves in an attempt to extend their boundaries and claiming the independence. My kids understand this. They also know I plan to hate them when they're teenagers because I hate all teenagers :)

        Now... on the other hand... you can provide your kids with safe places to play... not because you fear the predators, but to allow them to have a place they feel is safer. Because of this, I run a whitelisted minecraft server, a whitelisted WoW server and also we have an XMPP server with voice support to make it so that my kids can invite their friends to play in a safe environment that even their parents will approve. The only two adults with accounts on the server is myself and my nephew who I trust completely... even if he can't be trusted not to do stupid things like split his own tongue with a razor blade, punch gigantic holes in his ears or get tattoos. While he is self destructive, he's actually great with kids.

        We often have 30-50 kids from the school playing on our servers. I would love to get my hands on a lego universe server so the kids could keep playing that now that Lego killed it. Oh well.

        But as I said... I agree with you. Frankly, I think tight assed nanny types are far less able to handle what is on the web than kids are.

        1. Olafthemighty
          Thumb Up

          @Cheesy

          That was a very reasonable and well-presented comment. Are you new here?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Unhappy

          I'm with you on the Lego Server thing.

          My son was crushed when they announced that they were shutting it down.

          Fat chance though. :(

        3. MahFL22
          Alert

          Naked in the USA NOT !

          You don't see naked people at the beach, pool or park in the USA.

  3. Thoguht Silver badge

    Safe?

    Somebody once asked me if I thought it would be OK for their children to use the Internet unsupervised. I replied that it would be fine as long as they'd be happy to let them walk naked through a red light district at midnight.

    1. Mad Hacker
      FAIL

      That was helpful

      So this article is the equivalent of steering the kid away from the red light district, at a more appropriate time, and placing clothes on them.

    2. DJ Smiley
      Devil

      Its more like walking through Somlia

      Red light districts are strongly regulated in various ways.... somlia on the other hand...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    The most important yet most ignored option...

    Its simple really; /talk to your children/.

    No matter how much high tech safety guards you put up. It doesn't even weigh up against getting your kid /the/ ultimate (restrictive) browsing tool.

    Because in the end kids can (and will!) be curious. And if they focus on something chances are very high that they'll get there eventually anyway. And when they do its better to prepare them somehow instead of simply thinking you're safe with all these devices and that "they'll find out about this when they're older, so it won't hurt them anymore".

    Sure; children deserve some kind of protection against the "heavier stuff" (whether its erotics or violence; IMO there should be no difference there).

    But at the age of 6 - 10 I also think you shouldn't continue to pretend that they live in a perfect world either. Also; /never/ EVER underestimate what they will pick up on school. I know; "My kid doesn't do that". Suuure ;-)

    Have you (dear reader) never done something at (high)school which you initially kept secret from your parents (and teachers, and, and...) ?

    1. Mad Hacker
      Facepalm

      I think this article already assumes that...

      You are stating the obvious. I think with reading the article all you said went without saying. What the author (and us parents that do talk with their children) are trying to avoid is the accidental exposure.

    2. Ben 77

      agree, but

      completely agree - you could put in the most restrictive filters, and the next time they go and visit a friend, the filters are no use at all.

      And yet, I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to set up some tools to help - a seatbelt if you will, although I suspect there are all sorts of flaws with that analogy.

  5. Voland's right hand Silver badge
    Devil

    You are either sysadmin or you are not

    If you are sysadmin then you are capable to take an old P3 box (or a new shiny low power atom), put transparent squid on it and shovel all the traffic from junior devices through a dansguardian. Just give all of his devices static leases. _NO_ direct internet access. Additionally, most of the Sonic Hedgehog clones run perfectly fine on Linux + Firefox. The days when Miniclip was all Adobe shokwave are now gone - it has all gone flash now.

    As far as tablets and such -life would have been much easier if Google was not so obstinate to deliberately omit any proxy support from Android. Yes, we understand that this is in order for location + content to match their "Do no evil, feed you some ads" business plan. Not nice though, not nice. Even Symbian used to have a proxy per connection. Considering that it is least likely for google to see the light on this any time soon (or ever) you are back to square 1 - transparent proxy on the house firewall.

    By the way, referring to the title of the article - if you cannot do that you are not a family sysadmin, you are the family muppet :)

    1. Chris 3
      Facepalm

      You miss the point entirely

      Family Sysadmin is not a job you get by being qualified for it. It is a job that you are handed by fate irrespective of technical chops. As such, this is a pretty good article.

      1. Arctic fox
        Thumb Up

        Indeed Chris 3, that is an important part of this.

        I am the sysadmin here at Arctic Fox Towers because it is my particular enthusiasm as an amateur technophile - I am not a proff techie. We do not have any children at home (we are no longer in that age category, indeed we belong to the last generation whose children grew up before the "cyber-age" really took off) to be protected but if we did I have to admit that I have no experience of how to implement the kind of precautions that are necessary but will still give them reasonable access. Discussion and advice from pro-techies concerning this issue would, I am absolutely certain, be invaluable for people like me but who are a generation younger and *do* have kids to protect. -:)

    2. Doug Glass
      Go

      Optional

      You're single and childless right?

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Optional

        No.

        Wife and 2 kids :) One in the sonic abomination stage (actually slightly past it).

        So I am speaking this 100% out of experience.

        Debian (or ubuntu for the ones keen on GUIs), dansguardian, elementary squid config and voila. Job done - down to the point where you determine at what time is he allowed to play and watch iPlayer and what not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Tell us more

          Tried to do just that, way too cumbersome to implement (down to buying a Pentium3 SFF box, and later using a VM), though don't mind the odd unix command. Did I use the wrong versions/packages or is this for unix admins only?

          1. Arrrggghh-otron

            Try smoothwall and Dansguardian

            Take an old PC, put two or more network cards in it, install Smoothwall. Put the box between the router and the internal network.

            Then install the Dansguardian home brew mod (it isn't difficult - the instructions are pretty easy to follow) and hey presto transparent proxy that does content filtering on the content of web pages.

            It isn't fool proof and any kid with interweb smarts could get round it without too much trouble... but for the most part it does the job.

            1. Martin
              Happy

              Or, even easier...

              Old PC, two network cards and install Endian community.

              http://http://www.endian.com/en/community/

    3. Jean-Luc Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      @You are either sysadmin or you are not

      Wow, can't make up people like you.

      Ever heard of "attack trees"? Aka weakest links. If your kid wants to access uncensored internet, they will. At a friend's home, at a cafe, whatever. So, after all your "alpha geek" (more "self-important twat", IMHO) posturing, what have you achieved? Probably not as a much as one would by just talking to one's kids.

      Besides, this article is plenty relevant to those of us who are not geniuses, unlike yourself, but happen to want to know more about this stuff, without delusions of grandeur. Good article, and generally intelligent comments, certain wankers excepted.

      Myself? Moving to the net hasn't changed the overall picture much, it's still mostly about communication and common sense. More busy justifying to my daughter (12) why she won't have a FB account till she's 16 or so - too much scope for permanent embarrassment - rather than being paranoid about stalkers and web contents. Talk to strangers, if you wish. Just don't agree to meet them in RL. Google Safe Search is plenty good for me, even if it can be turned off. And so is using device in common areas. Really though? I believe my kids will see filth sooner or later, better equip them to deal with it mentally, rather than pretending I can prevent it entirely.

      Still, appreciate the heads up on what choices are out there.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    tricky stuff

    My kids have their own pc with separate logins, already set up opendns and added winblows live family filter, done the google/you tube stuff, also have dd-wrt on router and block keywords and also moshimonsters (kids started chatting with people they didn't know in real life), I also monitor what they are doing and ask them quite a lot, their computer is in front room and next to mine so it would be difficult for them to go on anything unsuitable. Eventually they will have machines in their rooms for homework etc and at that point I'll set up a machine with a linux firewall/server and filter through that.

  7. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    DNS

    "One imagines that once the children can configure their own DNS then they're probably old enough to cope with the consequences."

    Small nitpick, whilst we're collecting requirements for this project. -> Once the *oldest* child can configure their own DNS, you'd better hope that the youngest child who has access to the same device can cope with the consequences.

    1. El Zed

      Transparently redirect all requests

      to the DNS server on your firewall box.

      Then, it doesn't matter what tricks the little darlings learn from their friends at school...

      Seriously, anyone with children should expect to engage them eventually in a battle of 'cyber' wits when they reach a certain age, just worry when they stop asking you questions about the firewall (usually means they've found a way to bypass it, at which point, congratulate them - especially if your firewall is of the BOFH level-of-deviousness persuasion - and let them get on with it).

    2. gort
      Big Brother

      To block alternate DNS, on your firewall/router, block all outgoing access to DNS (UDP port 53) to all servers, forcing everyone on the LAN to use your router's DNS. On a good firewall you can add exceptions to allow specific devices access to other DNS.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Devil in the detail

        Can you mention routers doing that, all the ones I have looked at are light on config, and even what they have is poorly implemented (like my D-link's useless schedules, or poor filtering options).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Tomato on a WRT54GL is good for faffing with firewall/DNS etc. Much less bloated than DD-WRT and immensely stable (I've never manually rebooted it in 3 years, only goes down if the power goes down):

          http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato

          Also runs on many other routers (list here:

          https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Tomato_Firmware/Supported_Devices

          )

          Only one D-link listed there though.

  8. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Outgoing content

    And another thing...

    Most of the article focuses on blocking incoming nasties, but El Reg carries stories every few months about some clot who has made their own video nasty and unwisely posted it to the waiting world (either by internet or phone). Is that a sufficiently serious risk that it is worth blocking outgoing content? Or do you just grab 'em by the lugs when they're young and force them to read *every* such story on El Reg until the hard-won experience of others sinks into their heads.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The internet is a pretty large place

    So the basic approach would center on keeping an eye on type supervision. There's no reason why kids should have 24/7 access to, well, the world. I mean, approach the extra tech as enablers to allow you-the-parent a bit more rest while giving the kids more access. In the absence of that, well, less access. Go read a book or draw a picture or something.

    The rest is gravy really. But no less useful gravy for all that. Just wanted to set a base line. You set the rules, so you can rule that without you around access will be restricted. Simple.

    Way back when I didn't have unrestricted access to the telly either; had to pick and choose from the tv guide and we got to watch only that. Ok, maybe the next programme too, but oftentimes not. If the kids aren't old enough for that, then maybe pure whitelist/supervised only is all they're ready for.

    A home router with filtering proxies (often squid) and packet filtering (whatever the system provides) and stuff goes a long way. Custom DHCP* and related tricks make it selective on the client. Probably need a bit more power than the usual all-in-one jobs, but if you can stick a custom firmware like openwrt on it, you suddenly have a lot more options, especially if you can easily add extra storage, eg via usb, to hold software and blacklists and such. This might be turned into an appliance, even.

    You still need "lists of badness" to block, but those are probably also available, perhaps for a price. Or you go the whitelisting route. You can even block access entirely during sleepy time, and why not expand that to a strict whitelist during unsupervised time, to be expanded when you are around for the requisite shoulder surfing.

    Though google and such could do a far better job of catering to families --especially telcos treating everybody as a child until proven otherwise through a credit card is so horribly wrong on so many levels-- what's possible is far less important than what you want to achieve. If shielding is important and no technology available, then no access. It's nearly that easy. The snags are more with harmonising your decisions with your kids' friends' parents than anything else.

    * The ISC dhcpd is flexible enough, dnsmasq may or may not be for your purposes.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On an unrelated note...

    ... a rather well-known TV presenter over in the Netherlands is of American descent; her parents decided they'd rather have their kid grow up in Europe. Growing up multilingual has its own advantages, though moving to a foreign country just for that purpose is clearly not for every parent, but it did get me thinking about whether sizing down the "internet space" by switching to a language with a smaller body of speakers might be useful for this purpose. Not very practical, I know; I didn't manage to make a cogent point out of the thought, but I wanted to toss it out anyway. So there. Ideas? Comments?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You're nuts!

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Gotta pick the language carefully!

      Picking a different mother tongue for your offspring is a fairly difficult task, I think I may have managed to simply double my kids exposure by ensuring they'll speak both Spanish and English.

      - It also turns out that Spanish was a very bad choice anyway, having just got back from visiting my inlaws in Latin America...

  11. clanger9

    ISP filtering?

    The principle of "talk to your kids" seems like the best approach, but (dammit) they will still click on links that are best left unclicked.

    TalkTalk's HomeSafe (the horror!) seems to provide a useful safety net for a house with younger kids in. The blocking is crude and not 100% effective, but friends and family seem to like it when I set it to block the worst stuff (in conjunction with OpenDNS).

    I presume BT have a similar service but I've not played with it.

    I'm not convinced this is the complete answer, but then again I don't have kids.

  12. Graham Wilson
    Facepalm

    Damned if I know.

    Fundamentally, I'm against censorship but I'm damned if I know what you do here.

    By today's standards, I had a very innocent childhood (and in hindsight I'm very glad I did).

    ...But I'm absolutely certain that if I'd had the internet back when I was a kid and I'd been subject to parental controls/censorship, then--even before the age of 12--I'd have hacked my way through to all sorts of naughtiness (the temptation to check out banned stuff would've been overwhelming).

    Even if some kids can't bypass parental controls at home, then they'll almost certainly see what's banned on their mates' iPads.

    Perhaps, unfortunately, it's just inevitable that kids of today will lose their innocence considerably earlier than we did.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Censorship? Recall we're talking children, not adults here.

      In a general sense I'm with you on the censorship. The general problem with censorship is exactly that it means someone else (the state, some telco, a quango, some pressure group, you name it) makes decisions for you where you should be able to make them yourself. If you choose to follow someone else's lead (eg. religion) then that's up to you. Once people who are otherwise supposedly adults capable of making their own decisions (disregarding people that are euphemistically more than a little slow for the moment) are treated like they're not, especially systematically so, you know you're in for a treat.

      In the specific case of parents taking decisions for their children, though, well, that's fairly necessary, accepted, and naturally limited. Once you reach majority, you can walk away and never come back should you wish to do so. As a parent you're responsible for the welfare of your children, but as part of that deal you have a say in what access they have.

      And then there's that the rules you'd set for a six year old are a little different from those for a 12 year old. Kids grow up and progressively can deal with more. The rules for adults in a supposedly free country don't really compare; Why would the rule makers know better than the rest? (Usually it turns out they don't, in fact, they're just highly opinionated. As am I, but I don't force it down on everybody else.) Children need the help, they're still growing up, and that's one of the things a parent needs to provide. Once they're old enough, well, then they can remove or even set up the filters themselves if they'd wish to do so.

      So a large part of the censorship debate is indeed that some people insist everyone including all adults be treated as unable to make their own decisions, which to me clearly is nonsensical, insulting even. That doesn't mean that parents shouldn't care what they let their (own) children come in contact with. They should, it's their job.

      Did that help you?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My kids have 2 ways to get on the net. Firstly is supervised access using either my or my wife's computers. They also have an old laptop which they have non-sudo accounts on. This is set up with dansguardian such that if the daemons aren't running, they have no internet. It's not perfect and seems to need me to login to restart squid occasionally but it's not bad.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Playground

    Kids will always work out how to circumvent any filtering. I have used a free program called K9 for their PCs and its pretty damn good, but the rule in our house its that the parents hold the right to random checks of all their devices. Not because we don't trust them, but we have found improper video on mobiles which has most likely been transferred via bluetooth in the playgrounds.

    1. Peter H. Coffin

      Additionally, "safe spaces" become magnets for those that wish to do harm, more so than hanging around places where harm is known to be. The harder one works to create the safe space, the more attractive it is.

  15. Christian Berger Silver badge

    What I wonder

    What kind of benefit does a 6 year old have from the Internet? After all at that age you typically cannot read yet. I mean the Internet is all text.

    You can play games locally, at least on Linux.

    1. Peter H. Coffin

      Are you kidding? Half my first year class could read. Some of them were reading at the level of twelve-year-olds.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        @6 year olds can read

        I seriously didn't know that, when I was 6 years old it was unusual to be able to read at that age.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          @Christian Berger

          I'll take a guess that you grew up in a country that doesn't start *formal* education until 6 or 7. Most of the people here probably started formal education in the school year containing their fifth birthday, but that's just the UK for you.

    2. fatal
      Big Brother

      My 6 year-old can read, why can't yours?

      My 6 year-old daughter can read perfectly well and so could her brother when he was 6. They've both been using the internet since they were about three. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/ is a great site and they rarely ever wanted to try anything else. Of course, now they have heard about bin weevils and moshi monsters from school friends and moved on to them. They also like youTube for drivel like Annoying Orange and BBC iPlayer for endless repeats of Doctor Who and Danny's House.

      They know there is porn and "bad people" out there, but so far we've been fortunate that they haven't explored those possibilities.

    3. Lamont Cranston

      Oh, dear.

      My five year old can read, and is quite capable of firing up firefox when he feels like it (or clearing all the icons from my desktop, mucking up my widgets, or whatever), and gets a lot out of sites like CBeebies, Sesame Street, and You Tube. He can't load the sites for himself (yet) but he can successfully navigate them without assistance.

      My three year olds aren't at that level, but they can both play the games on the CBeebies site, without any assistance.

      I don't know what world it is where 6 year olds cannot read, but in this one, pre-schoolers learn basic mouse skills.

      I can look back and laugh at my father's inability to use the family VCR, but I really do worry about my ability to effectively regulate my own offspring's internet experience.

    4. Cheshire Cat

      You clearly dont know 6 year olds.

      Of course a 6yr old can read; mine can read just fine, as can most of her class. And the Internet has not been mostly text for many years...

      My worry is when they get onto youtube and start clicking about looking for Peppa Pig episodes, and find some abomination that some little scrote uploaded with a smug comment that "its yor own fault if yor kids see this your not suppervising them ha ha" (spelling errors included). Fortunately I was with them and stopped it quick, but when someone goes out of their way to conceal the fact that 20 seconds into the innocent clip Peppa Pig gets her head blown off it is hard not to throw your hands in the air and block youtube entirely.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Eh?

      My 3 1/3 year old belts around cbeebies, know how to get to cbeebies iplayer and maximise the display to full screen. Has a vtech innotab which she boots and chooese what she want to do.

      Granted she can't "read" yet, but she can reconise words.

      If she can't read by 6, I REALLY want to know what has gone wrong. Maybe the fact whe spend at LEAST 30 minutes a day reading with her may be the key, along with going to preschool.

      BTW I read Lord Of the Rings trilogy at 9, so I doubt 6 is "normal" for learning to read.

  16. h3

    Opera mini is the way past any internet filtering on mobiles.

    I am glad my parents were not so prudish (never card what I looked at and afaict I am none the worse for it).

    No way I would do random checks of anything its wrong. (Same way them looking through the parents stuff is).

    I would rather teach them that the big brother attitude unequivocally and without exception.

    (The european attitude towards nudity and sex is far better than the American one we seem to be emulating).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The desktop version of opera also has the same webpage compression ability, which is what works so well for avoiding censorship. It basically acts as a high speed proxy server.

  17. Martyn 1
    Paris Hilton

    It's OK dear I'm only watching this grumble flick for the sake of research...

    "... bypassing the filter, should one wish to access inappropriate sites for the sake of research or similar."

    Paris 'cos she's been well 'researched'...

  18. millap

    Blue Coat K9

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/thumb_up_32.png Great article! It's certainly a minefield of consideration to make the web safe, but open for those under our care.

    There's a really good offering from Blue Coat which whilst it's machine specific, is the best filtering system I've seen around for free - K9 Web Protection. K9 is free for personal use, and allows filtering controls against particular categories one might not want ones child to hit.

    It's even useful for us adults - I use it for blocking four common, but dangerous categories - Spyware/Malware, Spyware/Malware Effects, Phishing and Suspicious. The Spyware categories include botnets and their C&C servers.

    The rating system used is dynamic, so if a URL or domain isn't categorised by a local copy of the DB, it's sent to Blue Coat's 'Web Pulse' cloud service for on-the-fly rating which returns a category within a few seconds. Blue Coat claim to have 75+ million users of the 'Web Pulse' cloud service who submit around 3 billion URLs for classification per-week so if one user sends a new URL to be classified, everyone gets the benefits of that classification.

    If covering more than one device in the family household is needed (and you can have up to 10 clients per-email address with K9) then as a home sysadmin you could run your own proxy and force access to go through it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yup...

      ..2nd for K9. We use it for a youth club (plus a proxy) after rejecting the likes of OpenDNS which took me about 30 seconds to get around.

      They tried to get aorund it for about 3 weeks before finally giving up.

      It throws up some odd stuff, but on the whole about the best we've ever seen. Best fo all , it's free for home use.

  19. AlanT1977
    Go

    Personally I have 25+ devices on my home network, so I agree an automated approach to blocking is required - my preferred approach is a low-power Linux box running a dedicated firewall/proxy/content filter in combination with OpenDNS - at the moment I'm using the Zentyal distribution, which gives you a nice web-based interface to set this all up. Additionally, anti-virus checks can be payed into the mix at the gateway, and QoS support prevents the kids from nicking all the bandwidth whilst Dad is try to work!

  20. James 17
    Go

    easy solution

    opendns and kidzui

    1. David Schmidt
      Paris Hilton

      kidzui != kinky, it turns out

      Back when we had one XP-based PC without parental controls, (the Macs are pretty well locked down) and no DNS solution in place yet... the 10 year old couldn't remember 'kidzui' she had heard about in school. 'kinky' was the closest thing she could think of, and typed that in... my fault entirely, and steps have since been taken. But you can't un-ring that bell.

  21. pakraticus

    I took a different tact with my step kids.

    1) Flat out told them they could surf whatever they wanted on the web, but they would have to be prepared to explain what they were looking at to their mother or me.

    2) To not do anything on myspace or facebook that would get their step mother tattling to their father.

    3) Keep them busy with activities they enjoy that don't involve the computer.

    We've had two incidents of stupidity from the eldest that were nowhere as bad as things I got into with a modem and a PC in the mid to late 80s.

    1. Michael Sage
      Thumb Up

      This is the route we took as well.

      As a lot of people have alluded too you can only protect your own network and less technical parents will let their kids have unrestricted access to the internet.

      The only thing we ever did was stop their internet access at 10 o'clock (just a simple firewall rule on a schedule) this was to stop them staying up to late in the evenings.

      Obviously random auditing helped with this! Although once they had learnt to clear up behind themselves this became a bit pointless. I did have VNC installed on their machines so I could randomly and unnoticed check what they were up too!

  22. WTMS
    Boffin

    What the man said

    I hate to say this as being draconian is all to easy to step into, but virtulization and a strict whats on the VM or not is whats needed.

    Put things like you tube etc ... on they deny list (pick your favorite) and set the VM to be non-persistent after the build. That way even if they do get past the deny/favorite method of blocking sites, it has to be repeated when the VM is closed.

    Not all people can use Linux, some have Mac's and most have Windows. Personally I prefer the filtering option such as dansguardian, but what do I do when my little one learns about ssh tunneling. The only option I see is to make the effort required to break free of the controls not worth it, and hell they might learn something in the process and quell some curiosity.

    But there is nothing that replaces supervised access.

  23. Ben 77
    Go

    put in a firewall

    I don't have any children myself, but I've been thinking about this for my sister, and her two. My thoughts were gearing towards putting in an open source firewall. I never liked IPCop, but got on better with Endian, and they support content filtering - http://www.endian.com/en/community/overview/

    Pretty sure it's Dans Guardian as was suggested before, which works on the transparent proxy. Rather than changing DNS to get to a blocked site, it can simply be unblocked with a parental username and password.

    Obviously requires some knowhow to set it up, but it can run on an old PC, and after that is free.

  24. Mike Goodwin
    Thumb Up

    Bluecoat K9

    Has anyone looked at using software from BlueCoat, their K9 "home filtering" suite?

    http://www1.k9webprotection.com/

    "K9 Web Protection is a free Internet filter and parental control software for your home Windows or Mac computer. K9 puts YOU in control of the Internet so you can protect your kids. "

    I use BlueCoat ProxySG appliances a fair amount, and this was advertised on one of the courses I went on last year.

    I installed it to see what it was all about, but given I'm 23 and have no kids, I don't have a use for it....

  25. Stubar
    Big Brother

    Here's my two penneth

    The problem with many of the responses here is to take the article, on a techie site, and assume it's for techies.

    A parent who has a PC downstairs connected to an ADSL router with WiFi and one or two laptops upstairs, plus PS3/Xbox and probably another WiFi router configured as a bridge is sure as hell a SysAdmin in my book regardless of the paid job. And often it's not about keeping them away from porn or violence but making sure they don't burn out on Facebook or YouTube and do their chores etc and not to mention bandwidth capping.

    OpenDNS and filtering by time and content on the router is the easiest way to go. There are better ways but the more you add on the more complicated it gets.

  26. Bush_rat
    Mushroom

    Too little too late....

    My one, on her own in 3 days, smashed our 60gb bandwidth limit by watching 1.4TB(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) worth of YouTube!!!! I swear, I think going to dial-up speeds is the only thing that's stopped her(that and I've perma-disconnected her from the wifi network)

    Now my other two are in there teens so I assumed it was them with steam, but to find my pre-10-year-old daughter setting my bandwidth on fire like that just sent me mental!

    Atom bomb because...well...it's what happened to my bandwidth

    1. Goat Jam
      WTF?

      Yes

      In my experience with pre-teen girls, they use youtube as some sort of music streaming service. I've seen them stream the same video clip over and over and over in a background tab whilst doing other stuff in the foreground.

      When asked what they are doing they respond with "listening to the song"

  27. Craig "Spuddleziz" Smith
    Meh

    @graham wilson

    Spot on mate. We had ISDN in our house from 98 onwards and an NT4 server that my dad used for some mad exchange setup he had with a business partner (apparently Demon used to hold your mail for you and forward it to an SMTP port when you came online, off topic and overkill, I know).

    I figured out I could dual channel this connection and get 128kbps. He and his business partner locked this machine down to the max, but I got round all of it, had my own freeserve account, the works. Set it up as a gateway and away I went on my own presumed non-internet pc. Oh the horror. Racked up a £600 bill in a quarter in 1999 or 2000 thanks to good old napster. Needless to say my dad figured out why his mail wasn't coming through as regularly as before.

    I am amazed at how tech savvy my nieces and nephews are, and I have no doubt any child who has restrictions imposed on them and a desire to circumvent them, will.

    Block the worst the internet has to offer, and hope for the best, I'm not sure making the block obvious is going to have a positive effect. Talk to them and maybe, just maybe, the curiosity wont kill the innocence!

  28. jake Silver badge

    Simple.

    My kid's terminal, and later computer, was in family space, not her bedroom. Today, she appreciates why I handled it this way. We're over a quarter century on, and her infant daughter will grow up the same way.

    Would you allow your child to wander around any of the largest cities on the planet at random, unescorted? Seriously. Think about it.

    1. Omniver

      I wish it was as easy these days as it was back In the days before iPods, DSis, PSPs, iPads, and ubiquitous wi-fi. Not saying the principal isn't valid, it's just not as simple as the "family room computer" any more.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Omniver

        Actually, it *IS* that easy, if parents actually parent. Until kids reach the age of majority, the kids are, in essence, their parents chattel.

        Kids can't enter into a contract. This is reality.

        Kids can't even have a land-line telephone account (by law) unless their spokes-adult allows it, and signs for it ... much-less world-wide wireless internet access.

        Think about it.

        1. riparian zone
          Childcatcher

          Dynamics of ownership...

          This is a situation I found as a community trainer all of the time - especially my generation ( who grew up in the 80's) with offspring. Computer in home, dominated by the tech savvy kids brought up on it, whilst the adults stumble around with a mouse, they were lucky to get a computer class, for the nerdy math kids like me.

          I had to remind parents often that they PAID for the electronics, phone line and access, they have every right to impose sanctions and rules. Good relations with the kids was to be the starting point, and a shared/open approach to the internet with a good dose of sense and communication. It was always the the 'nagers downloading the ring tones and games which caused the problems. Kiddy catcher - because we're only kids once.

          Kidzui/FF for the young ones, whilst I'm here.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OpenDNS has gotten too greedy

    OpenDNS doesn't give me enough control with a free account, and I find there updater software to be a disaster. I switched to DNS Redirector and haven't looked back - no monthly fee and I can whitelist/blacklist as much as I want. For the younger kids I have a white-list only scenario where everything but a few sites are blocked, the teen gets a password to bypass that restriction but still can't get to porn or malware, I get a password to bypass that and go wherever I want.

  30. koolholio
    Pirate

    Its all about Protocol filtering and Whitelists

    The method may be over kill, but a HTTP filter with DNS filter, which only allows a whitelist would suffice?

    Theres multiple solutions available, the easiest one I have happened to find is 'Activewall' which works in most network environments, or privoxy (which is more advanced, but slightly more technical)

    The problem is similar to piracy in my opinion, you change the goalposts and the way around it changes with it... so if you go for the exclusively exhaustive filtering method, its a sure way of working it... but then can hinder the use of the web, through the method of restriction.

  31. Unlimited
    Facepalm

    Whatever, they'll just go to their friends house

    ^^^ My wife's response when I explained my plan for safe net access for our kids

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      @Whatever, they'll just go to their friends house

      No offence intended, and it's slightly off topic but that's the kind of response I get tired of hearing from the pond-life that can't be arsed to stop watching TV and start parenting.... usually when it comes to putting the relatively tiny amount of effort into sorting out their kids head lice.

    2. Lamont Cranston

      This maybe sad but true,

      but it's still no reason not to enforce the best practice you can within the environment for which you are responsible.

      Do what you can, and hope for the best, I suppose.

  32. ZenCoder

    Personally I think what you do is more important than what you see.

    I'm all for anything that gives parents a better/easier option to control what their child is exposed to but mostly it's pointless. Kids are crude, vulgar and nasty by default. When their young it's boogers and farts, then it becomes dirty jokes, stashes of adult magazines, and two girls and a cup style videos. And guess what, chances are they are experimenting with sex much earlier than you would think possible.

    In my opinion the best thing you can do is be a good role model for your kids. A real world example is far more powerful than a you tube video. Show them healthy respectful relationships, mature conflict resolution, responsible alcohol use. If you want them to read more let them see you with a book in your hand. If you want them to take school seriously, let them see you exhibit a love of learning.

    However it would be really appreciated if their is was a could friendly, curated you tube spin off. :)

  33. accidentalgeek
    Thumb Up

    OpenDNS + DD-WRT - powered router

    We use OpenDNS for general content filtering, enforced at the router level, plus the restrictions afforded by DD-WRT router firmware allow setting time-access restrictions and P2P protocol and website URL/keyword blocking on a per-client MAC address basis. Problem solved! (at least while the kids are at home, unless they can hitchhike on a neighbor's WiFi, or...)

  34. Antonios Karantze
    Happy

    Don't forget pc admin - it's not that straightforward

    Good article mate.

    I use kidswatch for the monsters machine, but that is on a locked down user account, which presents its own challenges in getting software to behave. A lot is still written expecting full admin rights, and won't work without out. Pathetic but true.

    So you end up logging in as admin just to get software to work.

    Neither 'manages' YouTube for you.

  35. gort

    Gargoyle router

    I highly recommend gargoyle-router in conjunction with OpenDNS for this. Gargoyle is firmware that runs on cheap consumer routers (TP-Link WR-1043ND recommended) and has a good and easy to configure firewall with some basic filtering rules and whitelisting. In addition it has good traffic and quota management to deal with that other home internet problem of "who used all the gigas??".

  36. Cody

    the amazing thing is...

    The amazing thing, reading these stories, is that I never ever come on the 'dark side of the internet' when reading and browsing and following up my ordinary interests. The Internet looks a lot like TV from here, occasionally sexual content of a perfectly ordinary sort, well, you would not expect it to be a totally sex-free zone, any more than the average thriller or murder mystery or newspaper is, but basically innocuous. Am I living in a fools paradise?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Lamont Cranston

      Maybe it's because your a grown-up

      and have some idea of what you're doing?

  37. Martin Ryan

    sky fails to give option to protect

    I have the misfortune to have signed up to Sky Broadband (uk) which requires you to use their router which in turn does not let you change the dns servers and therefore use OpenDNS. Will be changing once my lockin period is over.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Martin

      Try setting your clients to use OpenDNS exclusively to bypass the sky servers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or do as I have done (not on Sky but on a cable service that insists you use their equipment) and use their router as a modem - disable NAT, they normally have a pass-through modem type setting - and get your own router with a WAN port. I have the Netgear WNDR3700. Yes you're running two devices, but you will never again be held to ransom by ISP equipment.

  38. mfraz

    T&Cs

    "One solution, admittedly a bodge job, is to create GMail accounts for the children to use themselves, but don't give them the requisite passwords."

    Isn't it in Google's T&Cs that you can't have a GMail account if you're under 13? If so, wouldn't doing the above violate it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      who cares? like google respects us?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Since they don't have the password, you could argue it isn't their account - they just use it.

  39. Andrew Oakley
    Happy

    OpenDNS Family Shield for typos + spend time with them, job done

    What's working well for my five-year-old daughter so far, is OpenDNS FamilySheild to protect against accidental typo-squatting pr0n, and then just spending time with her when she uses her netbook (and by "her netbook" I mean my old Eee 901 netbook, only her login has a stripped-down Openbox desktop with only the launcher icons she uses).

    One thing I don't let her do is use the netbook on her own. For example she can't take it into her bedroom and shut the door. Mostly we use it on the kitchen table or in the lounge.

    Oh, and I wholeheartedly recommend getting a cheap graphics tablet for young kids. The Trust Flex Ultra Thin is less than 20 quid delivered and, after a bit of xorg.conf wrangling, has done wonders for her Tux Paint masterpieces.

  40. Gert Selkobi
    Thumb Up

    Dansguardian

    I run an OpenBSD firewall/proxy with dansguardian. It can be a bit fiddly to set up and refine but well worth the effort.

    Stops the nasties and provides virus scanning as well.

  41. Omniver

    I don't want to "talk to my kids", yet.

    For those commenting that the answer is to "talk to your kids", there is a time and place for this. I think the context of this post is *how* one could create a safer environment for kids to explore the Internet reducing the likelihood that they will come across material that they my not be yet emotionally and psychologically developed enough to deal with. There is a lot of great age appropriate content and learning tools on the Internet, and I want to kindle their curiosity and sense of discovery. IT IS NOT CENSORSHIP to want to protect my six-year-old daughter from seeing Pokemon's Misty naked, hog tied and being gang-raped by Ash and Brock when she is looking for a Pokemon coloring page to print out. My daughter is not emotionally mature enough to "talk to" about this, yet access to the Internet has definitely added to her development The Internet has brought her Khan's Academy (her first-grade teacher says she has "mad math skills" and Dinosaur Train (she will happily talk ad nauseam why pteranodons are not dinosaurs and currently wants to be a Paleontologist) among other great sites. She also watches her older brother doing research online is is always asking questions and searching for similar topics to "help" him. I think this is all great.

    What I'm currently doing:

    1) OpenDNS for basic domain filtering

    2) The "general" family use two Macs where I have OS X's "parental controls" (essentially a OS-based transparent proxy) enabled for basic website filtering (like most proxy-based filters it fails miserably on SSL sites, which I have to unblock domain by domain myself). To make it a bit easier to administer I have one setup with OS X server and I'm using directory services to manage the URLs so that they apply across the kids' and the guest accounts.

    3) On my kids' Safari and Firefox browsers on the desktops, I've "locked" Google's SafeSearch on and YouTube's safe mode by logging in with my google account, enabling the setting, and then logging out. (your kids DON'T need to have a google account to do this, only you)

    4) I've configured my son's email account (google apps domain with my own Postfix mail server for inbound processing) to copy my wife on all inbound/outbound messages, he is aware of this too.

    5) On my son's (9) iPod touch, I've disabled Safari, and use Mobicip browser to filter and report on his access (he is well aware of the reporting and is accountable for his actions). My daughter's hand-me-down iPhone (no phone) has browsing disabled entirely at this point.

    What doesn't work well: SSL sites. For good security reasons, more and more sites are using SSL and even if used in a limited manner (cookies, login pages, etc.) each one of these needs to be excepted by hand in OSX's proxy or accepted globally which I don't want to do. Also, google's SafeSearch lock is a hack and a pain to setup for each kid's account and each browser - but with google's new SSL defaults, you can't just append the safesearch options in the GET request anymore.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Excuse me Anonymous?

    "Censorship? Recall we're talking children, not adults here."

    Age discrimination much? There's a simple way to deal with this issue. Don't make it a taboo thing and desirable, talk to your kids about online dangers, and remember, a picture/video of sex isn't gonna hurt. A stalker will.

    (addressing everyone else as well.)

    My father offered me small sips of alcohol growing up. (yes even before my pre-teens. Like 8yrs old and such.) Turns out I didn't exactly like the taste of it, and it happened to be very good scotch too... Had It been made taboo I most likely would've drank it anyway when he was at work as it would've been something of such curiosity and also to be rebellious. You also can't hide sexuality forever, it's a terrible idea, Imagine signing your kids out of all health classes, assemblies at school etc. about it, and further filtering and by 27 when a partner likes him/her......"what's sex???" If you're also such a highly strung up person to the point where you'd beat your child just for exploring his/her own body, then you're a sick person who should go to jail.

    Note that I'm talking about home internet access here, not school internet access where it's a completely different story.

  43. gandasi

    Untangles is not bad

    I ended up going for untangle as my firewall/gateway and web filter, which I use on top of using OpenDNS. It can also do protocol blocking for things like torrents and IM. I've only used the "Lite" (read, free) web blocking, but that seems to be fairly good. They have a paid for web filter too if you want. It's based on Linux, so as a Windows guy, I was quite pleased it comes as an ISO, however you do need a standalone box to run it which not everyone is going to have.

    My kids are pretty young, so it's been sufficient so far, I guess only time will tell if I'll need something more

  44. knightred

    This are wonderful suggestions

    First, my kids are 3 and 1 and I'm in the "adult" business. I've asked other folk in the business and they've all replied "Ha they're too young to use a computer". It's a great fear for me, what they'll see since I know what horrible things I see every day. I hadn't even thought about the ps3 or the ipods for internet access since at home it only makes sense for me to use a real computer. I had figured on simply creating user accounts and using a simple firewall on the machine. I've only one working computer in the house, there's other's that're just off and a heap of netbooks and laptops that may still work, but are beneath me. I felt perhaps I'd try the honesty approach, but thinking about it. I saw my first grainy naked chick at 12 on mIRC and at 13 I smoked my first joint. But I turned out fine, the honesty approach works but it occurs that perhaps between 0 and 12 years perhaps you need some sort of lockdown. And aye you're kids will go to their friends or whatever but as said before in your space you should do what you can.

    So My plan is apparently to keep up on this stuff, cuz if anything it's opened my eyes to needing a dummy router in front of my ISP's modem. And it is also clear to encourage outdoor (non-internet or tv based) activities to offer a balance. I personally hope my kids are better coders than I am and I also hope they still know how to start a fire with two sticks and a shoelace as well as knowing what herodotus' said of the giant ants and Marathon. And I know this can only be achieved with a balanced approach to internet access and barriers for them to overcome.

    Maybe that's what we all hope with lock downs is that they beat us, but again only after the language and understanding are available to the kids for us parents to be able to explain what is going on and why it's likely not (just guessing) appropriate. I just hope this obvious conversation is sometime a decade later and not 3 years off. It's as if the fabled "birds and bees" conversation has turned to a "god help me never post online" conversation or worse "it's actually just milk" and explaining how that happened to occur and why women aren't to be treated as we've just seen.

    And like that dude above said about getting a sip of scotch above when he was 8, what if it was a shot peach schnapps. Don't get me wrong I'm an alcoholic and the son of an alcoholic; it's not the actual alcohol that's the problem, but how you behave drinking. I saw how to be a happy drunk and how to be a mean drunk. I guess my point is nurture not nature is key.

  45. WaveyDavey

    DG+RPi

    My intention, when RaspberryPi get the bloody boards on sale (pleeeease hurry up, I can't wait), is Dansguardian on their distro on an RPi board - full content filtering on a 1W device ! That'll keep my little scrotes off 90% of dodgy stuff (and make them moan a lot). Hope DG will compile !

    Equally, might be quite fun to block YouTube for a week for giggles.

  46. Semaj
    Devil

    Kids Aren't Innocent

    One of the first things I searched for when I got the net was porn, I knew it would be there and I knew what I wanted. I am sure this is the case for everyone. I also remember people talking about stuff at junior school. Kids aren't innocent - they know all about it, they just don't say anything to their parents.

    It had no adverse effects at all. In fact if anything, not being wrapped in cotton wool has made me the man I am today. Had I not had fully unfiltered net access from that age I am certain I'd have grown up to be a mindless pleb.

  47. M Gale

    Kids shouldn't even be on the Internet.

    I think the problem was when the Internet started hitting the big time late 90s/early 2000s and the government seemed determined to expose every kiddy to the Internet via the school systems, then telling parents that they all had to have a computer and the Internet. Schools should have always been set up on some kind of AOL-alike network with restrictions that make Apple's App Store policies look tame, with the real Internet being something you might start work on in high school once you're starting to learn what this thing called "trust" is, and you're likely already aware of the aforementioned computer game character fetishists.

    Anyway, hindsight's a wonderful thing (even if some of us had the foresight to see this Daily Mail wailing happening a long while before it happened), and we've just got to deal with the aftermath of the idiots who made it so it's now almost a necessity to have kids on the Internet. Technologically, a whitelist is probably about the only way you're going to stop someone going on sites you don't want them on, and even that doesn't stop them seeing whatever some hacker decides to graffiti a website's home page with.

    A friend has a lovely solution though, that I believe one or two people here already use: The computer is in the living room. Only the older kids have devices that can get on the Internet. If you're somehow a younger reader that's stumbled onto this dark corner of the Internet and think that's cruel or draconian, think about how cruel or draconian a world would be where nobody can have access to an unfettered Internet because of all the "think of the children" wailing? You'll grow up. The rest of us won't^Walready have.

    (and please don't tell mum that the Reg has been telling you about Sonic pr0n, I like this site when half the editors haven't been arrested)

  48. Malcolm Boura 2

    Arguing from a false premise

    This article is much better than many but it still omits the essential first step. Before worrying about how to censor the internet first determine what needs to be censored. That can only be done from facts and evidence. Myth and prejudice have no place is making policy over children.

    The internet is about to have draconian censorship imposed. The politicans concerned, think Mary Whitehouse MP, claim that they are only following the recommendations of the independent Bailey Report. However Mr Bailey was appointed by the Home Office, assisted by the Home Office, presumably paid by the Home Office, he represents one particular religious group and I have little doubt that he was chosen because he would provide the answer desired. See Government Dirty Data, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/10/dirty_data/ There is strong evidence for the widespread and often serious harm that results from the attitudes associated with prudery but he completely failed to even consider the possibility that harm could result from his recommendations.

    There is strong evidence that prudery results in harm, no good evidence that it provides benefit, and a bunch of neo-puritan politicans using "child protection" to further their own agenda. The causal links may be less obvious than a sexual assault but prudery is every bit as much child sexual abuse.

  49. JamieL
    Linux

    And they have phones too

    Don't forget that most kids eventually get phones and most have web browsers on them. You'll have to rely on their network providers to control what they see on those. Not all come with content control in place out of the box (although Vodafone does), I'm amazed how many parents have no idea what kids look at the the playground these days.

    I've got a fairly well controlled home network so I know what they're looking at but I know that'll only last until my boys get their first phone... But I'm going to make sure they pay for their own data plans.

    1. jake Silver badge

      @JamieL

      "most kids eventually get phones"

      Not unless their parental unit(s) provide same, which is a vital point that most are missing.

      "and most have web browsers on them"

      Not in this household. Here at Chez jake, a telephone makes and receives telephone calls. That is all. Why? Because that is what a telephone is for. Making and receiving telephone calls. Simple, no?

  50. Big_Boomer
    Boffin

    Web filtering exists...

    and it is getting cheaper and cheaper. Soon you will be able to buy a box for £200 that does it all.

    I know a company that sells very solid filtering systems to schools and colleges as schools/colleges are already aware of the need to control access via their networks, especially w.r.t. mobile devices via WiFi.

    These systems actively block external proxy servers and most of the other methods that todays canny Teens find to circumvent many web filters. Websites are categorised and allowed/blocked according to their category. The SysAds can allow normally blocked sites and vice-versa but most are pretty happy with the standard categorisations. Not only that but if someone goes to a new/unknown website, it is blocked by default, but it also sends a message to the software developers and that site is then visited and categorised by a robot, and occasionally by a human.

    While I can see the need to filter what kids get access to there is still the question of what the cut off age is or do you go for a phased approach. Legally at 18 years old, you can only restrict access on a network that you own.

  51. Darren Barratt
    FAIL

    But oh so slooooow

    I've tried the OpenDNS thing with a NetGear router, but I reverted back after a couple of weeks and just locked down my boys PC. The NetGear kit gave me about a quarter of my usual speed, and it's not fast to start with.

  52. Seanmon
    Thumb Up

    All very interesting...

    ...assuming you're in your own house with a LAN connection through a router to outside. But how do you stop a smart phone over 3G?

    1. Bill Ray (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: All very interesting...

      All the UK network operators block access to adult content by default, requiring credit-card authorisation before they'll open access.

      It's a voluntary agreement, but one backed up with government threats and almost-certainly a working model for the government would like all ISPs to operate.

      Bill.

      1. foo_bar_baz

        Which works as long as the ISP is able to determine what is adult content and what isn't.

        1. M Gale

          I've seen Wikipedia articles blocked...

          ...and some very interesting facdn.net images allowed through.

          As you can see, automated babysitters work really well!

  53. mccp

    Logging

    I'm with the educate about dangers, rather than trying to wall them off, brigade.

    What I'd like to know though, is what's available for logging? In the old days, when my kids used MSN Messenger, we told them that logging must be switched on and random checks would be made. If logging was found to be switched off, the kids lost Internet rights for a week. Not perfect but it worked well - I was able to extract a nasty MSN exchange to resolve an issue with the school in my daughter's favour.

    Trouble is, these days it's all Facebook & Skype. Is there any way to log the chat apps on these?

  54. Graham Bartlett
    Flame

    @Malcolm Boura

    "There is strong evidence that prudery results in harm, no good evidence that it provides benefit, and a bunch of neo-puritan politicans using "child protection" to further their own agenda. The causal links may be less obvious than a sexual assault but prudery is every bit as much child sexual abuse."

    Define prudery.

    I've got a 14-month son, so I know I'm going to be having this problem in a few years time. I don't much mind if he sees pics of naked people on the internet. I got all my pre-experience knowledge of "anatomy" from top-shelf magazines. Whatever.

    Thing is though, everyone automatically assumes that's the *only* thing that you'd want to restrict kiddy access to on the internet. Not so. How's about pics of dead, mutilated bodies? Pics of corpses of soldiers burned to death? Excerpts from any 18-rated horror film? or even a fair amount of 12-rated stuff? There's *STRONG* evidence that this *DOES* result in harm if the kid is not equipped to deal with it.

    For anecdotal evidence, I submit my own case. My folks didn't have TV when I was small (late 70s/early 80s, British austerity and all that), but I happened to come downstairs and be listening outside the living room door when Radio 4 were doing some Dracula radioplay, and just at the point where there was a pretty detailed description of a post-vampire-attack corpse. I don't know exactly how old I was, but I probably wasn't older than six. I wasn't scared of the dark before - I damn sure was after, and I didn't sleep well for *years* as a result.

    So I suggest you fuck off back under your rock and stop bullshitting us that any kind of restriction on what children see is child abuse.

    1. jake Silver badge

      @Graham Bartlett

      "Define prudery."

      I'll bite. "Prudery" is Graham Bartlett's opinion of jake having a front-row seat when Graham Bartlett's wife is getting out of the shower. (Hopefully the concept doesn't cause you to lose sleep for *years* ... ).

      Your anecdotal evidence is just that ... anecdotal. Testimonials are a major part of the problem.

      Note that I agree that restricting what kids can see isn't "abuse" ... but I kinda think that sensationalizing personal experience can be self-abuse, in some cases.

  55. Graham Bartlett
    Facepalm

    @Jake

    Bite all you like. But when I particularly say that I'm not too bothered about who sees naked people and your best line is about seeing naked people, then you're biting on the wrong end of the brown sticky stick. ;)

    One anecdote does not make for conclusive evidence, sure. Try the National Institute for Mental Health for size instead.

    http://www.ehow.com/about_5030719_effects-horror-movies-children.html

    Which is why I'm more worried about my son seeing violence than sex.

    1. jake Silver badge

      ehow? C'mon, Graham, I know better than that. ehow's worse than wiki ...

      And see that "reply" button? It exists for a reason.

      During the meanwhile, are you actually inviting all the lusers posting here on ElReg to come watch your wife shower? The mind boggles.

      Back to the point, why are you allowing your child to access TehIntraWebTubes[tm] without parental supervision? Will you also allow them to wander around in the nearest big city without supervision, at all hours of the day and night? Do you see why this might be an issue?

  56. Tom Rowan

    Alternative Internet Access...

    So, you secure all the network access via your own router... and they simply crack the WEP for the neighbour's wireless...

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We cant stop it, but creating hoops (making it harder) definitely helps.

    The main problem with the internet is it's trivially easy to access smut and someone who would never dream of going into a shop to get a magazine from the top shelf, can at a fleeting whim (that yes, can arise from seeing an ad or something), access the sort of stuff we are talking about. i'll probably get flamed for saying it, but It's a problem for adults as well as children.

    Although any controls can be bypassed if you put enough effort in, it helps to add a few hoops so you really have to think about what you are doing and make a choice.

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