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Parental controls: An overview

         Larry Magid
           Co-Director
        ConnectSafely.org




         Safer Internet Day
         Moscow, February 2012
Filtering technologies


                            Device
     None                               DNS Level




                                        ISP Mandatory
                         Router
ISP Optional
What parental controls can do
• Block undesirable content such as sites containing
  sexual images or advocate violence or use of drugs or
  alcohol
• Block websites that parents or authorities are
  concerned about such as social networking
  (Facebook, Google+, Twitter)
• Limit how a child uses a device by total amount of
  time per day, time of day or day of week
• Block or limit features on device such as
  texting, games, web access or any specific program or
  app
• Monitor & report on use of device or service
Technical Issues around filtering
• Overblocking
• Underblocking
• Levels of control
   • Granularity gives greater control but more
     confusing
• Parental white listing tools
• Parental black listing tools
• Filtering vs. monitoring
   • Issues of “too much information”
   • Children’s privacy (trust factor)
   • Stealth vs. open
What filters can’t do very well
• Prevent bullying and peer harassment
• Prevent posting inappropriate content
   – reputation damage
• Prevent inappropriate or unwanted contact*
• Tech self-control and critical thinking*

*Monitoring technologies can be used for these purposes
Monitoring
• Can run on device or on network
• Should it report report all activity or just
  suspicious activity?
• Should it report on private conversations or
  just public postings or what people are
  saying about child?
  • Safetyweb vs. Spectorsoft
• Can run in stealth mode or require child to
  know it’s running
Social Issues around parental controls
•   Openness of what is being filtered and by what
    criteria
•   Part of a conversation or stealth mode?
•   How and when do you wean children away from
    filtering?
•   Values that go into filtering are not necessarily
    universally accepted
•   Free speech issues
    • Especially with social networking
•   Privacy and trust
•   Failure to teach critical thinking
Illegal content
•   We need to separate the question of “child
    pornography” from Internet safety.
    • Child pornography (child abuse images) is a legal
        issue.
    • Internet safety is a social issue
•   Most NGOs and government officials in the U.S. are
    very careful not to mix child abuse images with other
    concerns such as adult pornography, drug abuse,
    extremism and intellectual property protection
•   There is some concern that controlling any content
    could lead to banning more content, including
    political speech

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Filters and monitoring: Panacea or band-aid

  • 1. Parental controls: An overview Larry Magid Co-Director ConnectSafely.org Safer Internet Day Moscow, February 2012
  • 2. Filtering technologies Device None DNS Level ISP Mandatory Router ISP Optional
  • 3. What parental controls can do • Block undesirable content such as sites containing sexual images or advocate violence or use of drugs or alcohol • Block websites that parents or authorities are concerned about such as social networking (Facebook, Google+, Twitter) • Limit how a child uses a device by total amount of time per day, time of day or day of week • Block or limit features on device such as texting, games, web access or any specific program or app • Monitor & report on use of device or service
  • 4. Technical Issues around filtering • Overblocking • Underblocking • Levels of control • Granularity gives greater control but more confusing • Parental white listing tools • Parental black listing tools • Filtering vs. monitoring • Issues of “too much information” • Children’s privacy (trust factor) • Stealth vs. open
  • 5. What filters can’t do very well • Prevent bullying and peer harassment • Prevent posting inappropriate content – reputation damage • Prevent inappropriate or unwanted contact* • Tech self-control and critical thinking* *Monitoring technologies can be used for these purposes
  • 6. Monitoring • Can run on device or on network • Should it report report all activity or just suspicious activity? • Should it report on private conversations or just public postings or what people are saying about child? • Safetyweb vs. Spectorsoft • Can run in stealth mode or require child to know it’s running
  • 7. Social Issues around parental controls • Openness of what is being filtered and by what criteria • Part of a conversation or stealth mode? • How and when do you wean children away from filtering? • Values that go into filtering are not necessarily universally accepted • Free speech issues • Especially with social networking • Privacy and trust • Failure to teach critical thinking
  • 8. Illegal content • We need to separate the question of “child pornography” from Internet safety. • Child pornography (child abuse images) is a legal issue. • Internet safety is a social issue • Most NGOs and government officials in the U.S. are very careful not to mix child abuse images with other concerns such as adult pornography, drug abuse, extremism and intellectual property protection • There is some concern that controlling any content could lead to banning more content, including political speech

Editor's Notes

  1. None:Effective for some children, especially teensDevice level:Works best for younger children. Teens can often get around it and may not need it. Doesn’t work on “other” devicesRouter level in home or schoolAn excellent way to regulate content throughout home or school. Can have adult “accounts.” Doesn’t work away from home (mobile)DNS LevelSimilar to router control only coming from DNS serverISP optional blocking (allows parents to request blocking by ISP)ISP mandatoryRaises serious free speech issues, Can be defeated via proxy servers and tunneling. One-size fits all approach for everyone, regardless of age