By Anne Collier
Parental-control technology – filtering, monitoring, screen-time controls, etc. – isn’t for all families all the time, but it’s a valuable part of the parenting toolbox, along with values, regular discussion, rules, rewards, repercussions, etc. There is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution in that mix and, since ’97, when I started writing about youth tech, media, and safety, I’ve heard from a lot of parents who so wish there was – at least in the tech-tools area. It would be nice for parents, but not so nice for kids, who are all about change and individuality even in a single family. But, if not the ultimate parental-control product, how about the ultimate guide to such products? Check out GetParentalControls.org’s 2010 Product Guide.
What you get is a tremendous service: at-a-glance comparison-shopping organized in a number of ways: e.g., by kids’ ages (up to 7, 8-10, etc.); by type (filtering, monitoring, etc.); by location (at the operating-system, router, or ISP level); by activity (Web browsing, email, IM, search engines, video-sharing, virtual worlds, social networking, etc.); and by device (cellphone, game console, media player, etc.). All cleanly presented with a librarian’s appreciation for “accurate, unbiased information.” It’s the brainchild of David Burt, a former librarian who in 1997 founded the nonprofit Filtering Facts (cited in a US Supreme Court decision in 2003) and now works for Microsoft. Get Parental Controls is the new face of FilteringFacts.org. In an email interview, Burt told me, “I’ve wanted to get back into online-safety activism, and I wanted to find something that would have an impact but wouldn’t be duplicating what others were doing. What set the direction for me was when in June of 2009 I read the PointSmartClickSafe Task Force Recommendations for best practices for child online safety, one of the recommendations really struck me: “The following is a sample of the limitations connected with the purchase, installation, and use of filters: No standardization or benchmark exists to differentiate an excellent from a merely good or mediocre product.” [See also this review of NetNanny’s monitoring software for cellphones in the Wall Street Journal blog, with insights into the challenge even a trusted brand has offering working controls for teen mobile phone use.]