The internet is a wonderful source of information. I could not do my job without it, and quite frankly, could not imagine being without it. Considering the fact that I grew up without it, and never heard of the internet until I was in my 30’s, it’s pretty amazing how big a part of my life it is. If you have kids that surf the internet, it is an absolute must that you know what sites your kids are going to, and that you control where they are surfing. It is not realistic to expect that you will be sitting behind your kids every time they need to use the internet. Software exists to assist you in this area. Parental-control, and parental-monitoring are two key areas in software you need to be aware of. Parental-Control Parental-control software keeps the younger kids from accidently getting onto “adult” sites, while at the same time keeps teens from visiting them deliberately. In this article, I am not going to make any specific recommendations for what software you should be using. I do not have kids, so have never had a need for this type of software. However, I think the topic important enough to give you some basic information to allow you to do some research and come to an informed decision on what you choose to deploy at home. One of the first things to look for in parental-control software is per-user configuration options. If the family all shares one computer, you hopefully have separate login accounts for each family member. With per-user controls, you can set up the parental-control software to monitor and control the kids accounts, but leave your account alone. The settings you would choose for your 5- year- old are going to be drastically different from the settings you choose for your 16-year-old. Just about every parental-control software offering allows for some sort of category-based content-blocking. When researching parental-control software, pay attention to how many categories the software can block. I am told Sentry at Home only blocks adult/porn sites, while PC Pandora, Web Parental Contols and KidsWatch allow for over 60 caterogry blocks. Most parental-control software packages will also allow you to limit the times your children log onto the interent. Additionally, they will also allow you to set time limits once your child is on the internet. Taking it one step further, some packages will also control overall PC usage. This is handy for the child that likes to sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to play games. A good software package will not allow the system clock to be tampered with. Teens can be resourseful and try and change the system clock. Net Nanny actually gets it’s time from the internet and not your computer. Face it, you are not always going to be home when the kids want to use the internet. You want to make sure you purchase a software package that will send you an email every time your child attempts to go to a blocked site. Even better, look for a package that will send you notification via phone or text message as well. You also want to be sure you look for software that allows for remote configuration. Maybe your child needs access to a site that is blocked, and you need to approve that access – you may need to do it remotely. Parental-Monitoring So your kids are out surfing the internet. You have blocked categories of sites for them to visit, and you have restricted the times of day or amount of time per day they can use the internet. But you still do not know what they are doing while on the internet. Parental-monitoring software has the ability to log every site that they visit, what times they logged in and what software they have used on the computer. Parental-monitoring also has the ability to record every instant message conversation, record all email address sent to, as well as the contents of all email messages. Like I said above, I am not going to recommend any software packages for parental-control or parental-monitoring, but I will provide a list of ones for you to consider in your research, and in the words of Dancing with the Stars, these are in “no particular order”: 1. Bsafe Online – Parental-control 2. Net Nanny – Parental-control and parental-monitoring 3. PC Pandora – Parental-monitoring 4. Safe-eyes – Parental-conrtol 5. Snoop-Stik – Parental-monitoring with a bit of Parental-control Good luck!