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Consumer magazine warns of fallibilities in parental control software

Consumer magazine warns of fallibilities in parental control software

LONDON – Computing Which?, the consumer magazine has warned parents that parental control software is not a foolproof method of ensuring that kids do not access unsafe content on the Internet. The magazine said that even with the best software around, blacklisted pornographic, violent or racist websites could still be accessed making it doubly difficult for parents to monitor their kids’ online habits.

The magazine sounded out six popular “parental control” software kits and said that most of them were beyond the comprehension of parents thereby preventing them from fully utilizing the package. The magazine said that Apple’s Tiger operating system was the only one, which exercised some degree of control over unsafe content. These packages filter the content by using “blacklists”, that block out unwanted websites and “whitelists” that allow kids to view the said sites. However, Computing Which? found that out of 30 blacklisted sites several managed to bypass the controls.

“Software can help make the Internet a safer environment for children but there’s no substitute for parental involvement,” said Sarah Kidner, the acting editor of Computing Which? “Parents need to take an active role in monitoring what their children are looking at online so they don’t inadvertently put them at risk.” The magazine has advocated that parents should regularly monitor their kids’ activities on the Internet, only then they can ensure that the net is a safe place for their wards.

The magazine’s tests found that the parental control segment of Norton Internet Security 2005 had the lowest acceptance rate and was hence ranked at the bottom with an overall 31 percent. MSN Premium preceded it at 34 per cent. Cyber Patrol 7 scored 61 percent while McAfee Internet Security Suite scored 51 per cent.

Computing Which? has released the following tips to help parents monitor their kids’ Internet activities:
* Ensure that the PCs are not in the child’s bedroom
* Constantly monitor your child’s online activities
* Make sure you change your parental control access password regularly
* Encourage children to be open about any “bad” content that they found
* Do not depend heavily on parental control software
* Talk frankly to your kids about the dangers that lurk online

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