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Creating Your Own
Digital Toolbox


The beauty of building your own digital toolbox is that it can be customized to meet your unique needs because of the diversity of solutions from which you get to choose. You will be able to select the tool (or combination of tools) that will help you provide a safe online experience for your child, depending on your parenting goals, your relationship with your child, the level of protection needed, and the amount of flexibility you desire.

You may be bewildered by all your options. Here are a few scenarios of tool implementation based on certain criteria that many parents have determined to be necessary for their homes. All of the following approaches should be partnered with your house rules, building a trust relationship with your child, monitoring your child's online time, and spending time with your child online.

Scenario 1-The Simplest Solution: One-Stop Shopping

I'm completely computer and Internet illiterate. I don't have a clue which tool to use. What's the simplest solution I can choose with the least amount of worry? If this is your situation, I would suggest that you choose either an ISP that offers filtering as part of its service or an ISP with server-based solutions (Clean ISP) that automatically blocks inappropriate content. Both options offer parents a one-stop shopping approach.

Choosing to use parental controls provided by your service provider will give greater parental customizability as opposed to a clean ISP, but this choice may not provide your child with as much access to the Internet as a server-based solution. Some ISPs and online services allow you to opt out of the protected system with an adult password. If your child needs or wishes to access content online, which may be blocked at the server, the flexibility of a password allows you to opt out of the closed system to surf the Net with your child.

Scenario 2-The Safe and Secure Solution

I want the simplest solution but I can't be present all the time when my child is online. How can I make sure my child's online experience is 100 percent safe? Currently the only way to achieve 100 percent safety is through a closed secure system. Unlike filters or blocking software, closed systems allow children access only to those preselected Internet sites that have been determined appropriate for children. Unlike filtering or blocking software, closed systems lock children out of the Internet rather than locking inappropriate content on the Internet away from children. Note: A closed system is 100 percent safe as long as the system is activated. Always remember, a computer-savvy kid can disengage any of the software tools.

Scenario 3-The Safe Yet Flexible Solution

I'm comfortable with implementing software solutions. How can I select the safest combination of solutions that allow a flexible approach? You have many options from which to choose. You may want to install an end-user blocking/filtering software that allows you, the parent, to opt out for unrestricted Internet access. A number of end-user software solutions now allow for a tremendous level of flexibility to customize lists of approved and denied sites and to block chat rooms, e-mail, and USENET.

Certain server-based solutions allow tremendous flexibility to customize lists of approved and denied sites and to block chat rooms, e-mail, and USENET while still providing maximum Internet access without inappropriate content. If your child is computer literate and has Internet savvy, you may want to layer your protection. A layering approach involves using various software solutions in tandem with one another.

© 2001 by Donna Rice Hughes. Request permission if you wish to reprint or post.