BOOT CAMP 112
SAFETY ON THE NET, Part 2
Last week we looked at ways for concerned parents and
teachers to control children’s Internet access using the built-in content and
ratings facilities in Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator. This week
we’re considering web ‘filter’ programs and the major Search Engines.
It’s worth checking the contents listing and subscriber
services menus on your ISP’s home page for parental controls or web filtering
options, you may be lucky, however many of the newer and smaller ISPs and in
particular those providing free net access without any significant web content
of their own, do not seem to bother with such extras. Most people’s first port
of call after logging on to the Internet is a Search Engine and several of the
major ones can be set up so they will not look for or block access to various
types of material. There are also a number of search engines, designed
especially for youngsters that will only allow access to ‘safe’ sites. If your
ISP’s web site has no controls of its own it’s
worth setting up a search engine up as your browser’s Home Page, so that
it becomes the first thing that appears when you, your children (or your nervous
granny…) logs on to the Internet.
In Internet Explorer this facility is on the View or Tools
menu under Internet Options, select the General tab and type in the Search
Engine’s address in the Home Page box and click the Use Current button. In Netscape Communicator it’s listed under Preferences
on the Edit menu, in the Home Page box.
Now choose your search engine, and be warned not all of them
have filtering facilities, here’s some that do. AltaVista has a fairly good set
of controls called Family Filter, it can be found to the right of the search
field. Click on the link and it will take you to a page to set up a range of
preferences, which can be locked with a password. Infoseek (now called go.com) has
a password protected screening feature called Go Guardian, there are no user
settings but the page claims it screens out ‘objectionable’ material. In Lycos
click the ‘Parental Control’ link immediately below the Search field, this leads
to a password protected preferences list which includes an option to disable
Lycos’s chat, email and message boards.
Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) has some useful advice for parents
under Family Accounts (click on ‘More’ at the end of the list of subjects
underneath the Search field), but on the two occasions we tried to set up a
password protected Child Account the site returned ‘page not found’ error
messages. Both Lycos and AltaVista have child safe search engines, Lycos’s is
called Lycozone and Yahoo’s is Yahooligans, the addresses, along with a list of
other child-friendly search engines can be found in the Contacts listing below.
Now for those commercial programs mentioned earlier.
Cyber Patrol (V4.0) is generally reckoned to be one of the most
sophisticated packages; a fully functioning trial version can be downloaded from
the web site listed in Contacts (it normally costs £24.95). Cyber Patrol can be
set up for up to nine users and it works on a number of levels. There is a
facility to control when and how long much time each user spends on line. Filters
can block access to specified sites and prevent downloads of potentially virus-
infected .exe files. The program comes with its own extensive list of dubious
sites, (covering twelve different categories or subjects). A facility within Cyber
Patrol called ChatGuard oversees chat-room activities by looking out for specified
keywords and the program generates a full report on each user, logging the
sites they’ve visited and any attempts to access areas of the net that are
Net Nanny is one of the best-known web filters and the
latest version (4.0) is due out shortly.
A 30-day evaluation copy of the current version (3.1) can be downloaded
from the web address below; the program retails for around £30, which includes
an upgrade to version 4 when it becomes available. Net Nanny supports up to
twelve users and in addition to controlling net browsing and chat-rooms it can
also restrict access to programs, applications and system files on the PC.
Prohibited sites can be blocked by name and keywords and the program includes
its own list of undesirable sites.
SurfWatch contains a regularly updated list of undesirable
sites in covering five subject areas, namely violence, hate messages, sexually
explicit material, drugs and alcohol and gambling. Web sites can be locked out
and the user can specify their own key words and web page addresses. The
program is widely distributed and sells for around £30.
CyberSitter (£30) is another program that relies on a database
of sites in conjunction with user-defined restrictions, defined by web site
address and words. A key features is that it operates secretly, in the background,
monitoring and logging all Internet activity. Options include blocking sites, block
and log attempts to access restricted sites and programmable alerts that warn
the user if an attempt has been made to log on to a prohibited site. The makers
claim it is almost impossible for a child to defeat... A 10-day trial version
is available from the CyberSitter website.
Shareware and freeware programs are fairly thing on the
ground but one that’s definitely worth trying is We-Blocker. It works pretty
much like its commercial rivals, using a combination of restricted site lists (seven
categories: pornography, violence, weaponry, drugs & alcohol, gambling,
adult subjects and hate speech), plus user-defined addresses, keywords and
phrases. It free and can be downloaded from the site listed in Contacts.
Next week – introduction to DOS
CHILD-SAFE SEARCH ENGINES
WEB FILTER SOFTWARE
An ‘executable’ file or program that tells the computer to
do something; viruses are often hidden inside .exe files
Words or phrases that elicit a programmed response from a
software application; in this context obscenities or words of a sexual nature
Important files (Autoexec.bat, config.sys, command.com,
win.ini etc.) containing text-based commands, that set up and configure Windows
and the programs running on the PC
The jury is still out on this week’s tip, so please let is
know if it works for you (don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe!). Changing Internet
Explorer to full screen view, by pressing the F11 key appears to speed up
Internet browsing by a small but noticeable amount, (pressing the F11 key a
second time toggles IE back to normal view). The smaller toolbar and menus contain
all of the most frequently used options and are almost as functional as the
full size ones; moreover you gain around 10% more screen area. (More if you
enable Taskbar auto hide, Start > Settings > Taskbar and Start Menu). Try