One interesting way to keep children safe when they want to use the Internet is with a child-safe browser. While this may not be the answer for older children, it is a great option for young kids and for when you are first starting out with child monitoring on the computer.
What are Child-Safe Browsers?
Unlike full-scale parental-control programs such as Net Nanny that allow children to still use standard browsers, child-safe browsers are a different experience. With most parental- control programs, children still use Firefox or Internet Explorer for their Internet access. With child-safe browsers, in contrast, the computer creates a new browser for the child which is much more restrictive. The child-safe browser strips away most of what you would find with a regular browser. It usually blocks pop-ups, only allows one page to be opened at a time, and hides right-click menus. Most of the time, there will only be a few buttons showing, allowing young children to navigate on the parental-approved sites without too much confusion.
Limit of Sites
Child-safe browsers also severely limit the number of sites that the child can visit. Peanut Butter PC, for instance, only gives kids access to sites that you have added to their backyard. KidZui has a collection of 600,000 pages that they've already deemed as kid-friendly.
In addition to limiting your child's access to the Internet and giving them a simple way to approach computer surfing, the child-safe browser protects the parent's files. By keeping kids limited inside a safe browser, they aren't free to explore your files or to accidently break out of the browser. Young users don't have the ability to exit the program without their parent's permission. In addition, most of these programs have a time monitoring program which allows you to set the amount of time that the kids can be on the computer.
Some of these programs alter their interface based on the age of the child. NoodleNet, for instance, has three interfaces, based on the child's age. It has a text-free play area for the youngest kids. Older kids will have the ability to search the Internet and to visit sites that have been deemed appropriate. NoodleNet and another program called Hoopah will actually suggest different age-appropriate sites as your children grow.
While these software programs can be a great start, they may not last for long with the kids. Once children are in school and can see what computers offer, they will probably protest using these kid-safe browsers. However, these products can be beneficial for kids as young as two, and certainly up until the age of six or seven. After this age, however, you'll probably need to look into NetNanny or some of the other parental-control software programs.