In the years since the introduction of the V-Chip, a device which utilized television show ratings to block viewing of shows with unacceptable content by minors, a number of computer programs have been introduced to prevent the viewing of inappropriate material on the internet as well. Unfortunately, many of these programs were either unable to filter out all objectionable material or were too good at their filtrations and blocked websites that didn't deserve to be blocked. Due to the nature of the internet and the way that internet access is provided, there is no real way for manufacturers to make a true V-Chip that can be used on computers to control internet access by minors. However, a number of steps have been taken to create a rating system to greatly improve the effectiveness of internet filters while minimizing the number of false positives that result in appropriate sites accidentally being blocked.
The Internet Content Rating Association, also known as the ICRA, has been developing an internet rating system similar to those used by movie studios, television stations, and video game manufacturers. To make better use of this rating system, the ICRA has developed a number of selective filters that can be programmed to allow different levels of access to different members of the family. With companies such as Microsoft showing support for the ICRA and their ratings, using filters that support ICRA ratings is one of the best ways to match V-Chip effectiveness while still allowing a certain amount of freedom to different members in your household. In order to find the best ICRA-compatible filter for your needs, you should do the following:
- Use your preferred search engine such as Yahoo!, Google, or DogPile to search for internet content filters for children. You'll likely receive several pages of results, including well-known filters such as NetNanny.
- Open several of the results pages into new browser windows or tabs, allowing you to inspect several different products without having to go back and forth in the same browser.
- Read the documentation on each of the websites, comparing what the filters offer and considering your specific needs.
- After you've taken the time to compare the different filters, you should be able to determine which one will best meet the needs of you and your family to keep your children safe online.
Filtering programs such as these can serve pretty much the same purpose as a V-Chip, and have the added benefit of being a simple software installation that can be updated or changed easily by simply downloading a newer version. A true V-Chip couldn't offer the flexibility of customization or updates.
Of course, in order to keep your children safe online, you should do more than just install a program and assume that it will catch everything. In addition to finding internet filters for your computer, you should also take a more active role in keeping your children safe online by visiting the ICRA website and other family-friendly browsing sites where you can learn about safety measures.
- Talk with your children about what is appropriate and inappropriate, and why.
- Add sites to the ICRA database for rating.
- Find links to family-friendly websites, with activities and advice for families who allow children some internet usage.
- Become active in the ICRA or other groups that promote safe browsing for families and children.