Parents can control what children access online

Courtney McGrail takes a look at the types of software available to stop children accessing unsuitable material online

For the digital natives of the ‘noughties’ generation, information can be accessed instantaneously through the internet where information on anything and anyone exists. If you don’t believe me, ask the National Security Agency.

Years ago, it was easier for parents to protect their children from questionable, crude or scary images, and information designed for adult eyes and ears alone. It was easy with analogue TV – there was less choice for innocent eyes and, when Sky appeared, parents were able to restrict certain channels and even tell what you were watching from another TV. I am confident that the latter is a sneaky lie to fool us 90s kids, but it demonstrates how parents are willing to tell little white lies to protect their children.

Thankfully, the sinful acts of fibbery and deception are no longer necessary because parental controls do a lot to spare that Catholic guilt. Parents can now use device settings to ensure their children and teenagers can access only age-appropriate content.

With so many types of devices and systems, it’s easy to get confused, but there are some basic controls which parents can introduce.

Parents could withhold devices until homework is completed. Their use would then be a ‘reward’ for well-behaved students. Or, without having to do anything technological, children may do work using the internet in the presence of parents, who can supervise the content.


But we’re all busy people who don’t have time to monitor kiddies’ every tab, and so there are some free controls parents can use just by using the device’s settings.

iPads, iPods and iPhones are Apple products and therefore they will operate more or less in the same way. On an iPad, for example, you can access the general settings and click on restrictions. Then you can create/enter a four-digit password and can restrict the web browser, YouTube, iTunes and other websites.

This also allows parents to remove the ability to install specific apps and set up a ratings restriction for which apps can be installed.

Mac, also being an Apple product, will be somewhat similar. Although there are different systems (such as OS X, Mavericks and Lion),  parental controls can be accessed in a similar way. Open the system preferences and select parental controls, click the ‘lock’ icon and make changes. Then enter the administrator name and password, select child’s username and enable parental controls. If the child does not have a username, create a new user but remember, when done, click the ‘lock’ icon to save your changes.

On personal computers which use Microsoft’s Windows as the operating system, go into the parental controls via the control panel, go to user accounts and family safety and then set up parental controls.

Select or create the user, enter the administrator password and click on enforce current settings. Like the other systems, through this, parents can enforce time limits, censor games and block specific programmes.

Parents can also use web browsers such as Google Chrome or Safari to filter content and can also access Adblock through Google Chrome, which prevents unwanted ads and images appearing on your device.

Security software packages can be bought and OpenDNS enables filtering through the router where your settings take effect across everything on your home network: a computer, Xbox, Playstation, Wii, DS, iPad and even iPhone. However, it’s just as easy and safe to use the control settings on your devices or via the internet router.