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Protecting children on the Internet
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Filtering Software

Overview, review and evaluation of filtering software. Most of this information is excerpted from Chapter 9 of SafetyNet.

The goal of filtering software ( referred to hereafter as "filterware") is to give parents technical tools capable of blocking access to web sites, newsgroups, email and chat that could be harmful to children. While the approaches vary, most filterware contains combinations of the same basic three components: words that trigger the blockage of a site, a list of sites to be blocked and the use of PICS Internet rating services. No single method works all the time, but a combination of all three effectively screens out most objectionable material – with one glaring exception. The exception is that when a standard search engine is used to search for web sites, the search engine results may contain very strong language and pornographic text. To circumvent this problem, check out the new child-friendly search engines.

Note that while some filterware can be relatively expensive, most can be used free for at least a trial period. Use the links below to download free filterware samples or check out the ISP’s that provide free filterware as part of their service package. See "SafetyNet: Guiding and Guarding Your Children on the Internet" for more detailed descriptions.


Click on the following links for detailed information on individual filterware.

Click here for chart comparing overall family-friendly ratings for leading filterware.

Overall Family-Friendly Rating and Contact Information

Click here to learn how to download free demo versions of leading filterware.

Compatible Computers and Free Demo Information for Filterware

Click here to see a detailed comparison of filterware features.

Filterware Features

Using Internet Browsers for Protection

Until recently, Internet browsers have not contained any family-friendly features. However, this has begun to change as browsers add new features to stand out from the competition. Microsoft Internet Explorer is the first, and as of the time this report was written, only browser to build in recognition of PICS ratings. Relying on the browser alone is not a viable stand-alone alternative because:

  • Relatively few web sites are using any PICS rating system at this time.
  • Newsgroups with pornography are still completely accessible.
  • Children can easily circumvent the browser's blocking capabilities by simply installing another browser to access the Web.
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