Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sex and the net

My son has recently learnt to spell some familiar words.  The includes the word 'youtube'.  So it shouldn't have surprised me the other day when I found he was looking at videos on youtube having searched for the word 'poo'.  Very mature humour around our house at present.

While I don't condone his choice of subject matter, I was at least relieved that it wasn't any worse.  As the years go by, he'll learn other words that I really don't want him to google or enter into youtube.  Because who knows what might come up.  And those images, once enter into the brain, cause trouble.

I understood that if you go looking through cyberspace, you can find plenty of porn and violence (sometimes together).  But what I didn't realise until a couple of years ago was how easily you can accidentally stumble across it.  One day I was looking at teletubby clips on youtube  (oh save me!  never again!) with my youngest child.  I had  entered the search words "teletubbies" and we were going down the list of videos available.  And to my very great surprise there was a clip entitled "Teletubby sex".  Even if my kids were never going to look for elicit material, it would find them.

So that day I did something I'd been putting off for a while.  I installed internet filtering software.  They can still find "poo" but they can't find "porn".  I use a program called SafeEyes.  It's easily downloaded from the web and paid for by an annual subscription.  When I went to Harvey Norman to check the price against installing an off-the-shelf program, the nice salesman politely told me he had never had anyone ask for net filtering software before and that they didn't carry any.  Seriously?  No one?

Anyway, the advantages of this particular software is that it filters on a clip-by-clip and page-by-page basis rather than shutting you out of whole sites.  So I can still surf youtube but if I click on an inappropriate clip it won't let me through.  Occasionally, I've found it to be too ferocious but I have the administrator password and so I can unlock it if I need to and then reset it afterwards.  It is also sensitive enough to tell when a site is using certain words legitimately i.e. I've never found myself locked out of a medical website.  Each week it emails me a summary of usage with any notable searches recorded.  Plus as administrator I can set it to block internet access for certain hours of the day if I want to.  For example, if I had kids regularly walking home from school and staying home by themselves until I got home at 5.30, I could block internet access until my usual return time.  I am thinking that when the kids get older and we all have wireless tablet computers lying about the house, I will block the internet after about 10.30 pm so that I don't have teenagers messaging and surfing the net till 3 am without my knowledge.

The downside is that you might experience a slight slowdown because your requests for websites have to be checked via SafeEyes before being delivered to your computer.  I couldn't sense a difference but it might be more for other users.  SafeEyes is also available for mobile phones. I would seriously encourage all parents to consider some kind of filtering software.  Click here for the Safe Eyes site.


Karen said...

We asked our minister about this ages ago and he mentioned the site to us. We haven't done anything about it, though I am thinking after reading your post that perhaps we should...

Deb said...

Yes, I've heard good things about covenanteyes too. They are a bit more expensive ($60 a year if you only get filtering and $120 if you get their accountability options as well...SafeEyes is $50 a year or $70 if you decided to roll it in with and antivirus package) but they aim to do something different with emails to people you nominate who will make you accountable for what you are viewing online. And the set up can be made more complex by having different levels of protection for different family members. SafeEyes was the more straight forward which helped my limited technical skills.