In the face of the flood of available pornographic images of child abuse – often called child porn – available online, it may seem that there is little you can do to protect your children, or yourself, from this type of content. This isn’t true. There are a number of ways that you can shield your children from pornographic, sexually explicit, or otherwise inappropriate content online.
We've identified eight essential tools and tactics to eliminate – or significantly reduce – the risks of you or your child coming across pornographic material.
Eight tools to help block internet pornography
- Set your search engine to “safe search” mode: For Google users go to http://www.google.com/familysafety/; Bing users go to http://www.bing.com/preferences.aspx; and, if you use another search engine, go to the safety settings and find this feature. If you child uses services like YouTube, be sure you have set the “safe” mode on those platforms as well.
- Use the family safety tools provided by your computer or other device’s operating system: Both Windows and Mac operating systems provide family safety settings.
- Use family safety tool services and apps: Sometimes called parental controls, these tools allow you to set specific filters to block types of content you find inappropriate. This isn’t just something to apply to youth; plenty of adults prefer to filter out pornographic and other forms of content – like hate and violence. The appropriateness of some types of content will change as children mature; different types of content may always be unacceptable. To find the tools that best fit your family’s needs, search for parental-control or family-safety-tool reviews.
- Keep in mind that these tools need to be installed on every device your child uses to go online: game consoles, cell phones, tablets, personal laptops, and computers. Some services have coverage for all types of devices; others are limited to just computers or phones. You may find that using a single solution on all devices makes your monitoring much more manageable.
- Periodically look at your children’s browser history. There are some phrases youth use to get around pornography filters – like “breastfeeding” and “childbirth” – and some fast-changing slang terms that filters may not have caught up with like “walking the dog,” which is a slang term for sex. If you see odd search terms, give the sites a quick look.
- Have your children restrict access to their social networking sites to only known friends, and keep their sites private. A great deal of pornography gets shared among private albums on social networking sites.
- Scan the photos on your child’s cell phone once in a while. While the youngest kids aren’t sexting, by the time they’ve hit their tweens they have begun participating in this type of behavior. Let your children know that every so often you will sit down with them and go through the pictures they have stored on their phone.
- Review the applications your child has downloaded to their phone or tablet. Mobile content filters may not catch all the potentially inappropriate apps.
- Disable access to adult sites on workplace and public WiFi networks. By taking control of web access at the DNS layer, businesses and public network owners can prevent these types of sites from being accessed at all, providing the ability to enforce usage policies and added protection from malware.
Lastly, remember you are your most reliable tool. No technical blocking solution alone is enough to protect a determined child or teen from finding pornography online. Have the “talk” on an ongoing basis with your children and spouse about the content your family finds appropriate and inappropriate; this exchange should never be a one-time conversation. For businesses and public WiFi owners, determine what you consider to be acceptable-use policies and enforce them via a DNS-layer security solution.