It’s not easy being a parent in the information age. Where once a child had to scour the park bushes or late-night TV to catch sight of something inappropriate, now they simply need to log on and let Google do the rest. Given the sheer amount of adult content floating around the web, keeping their online interactions safe can quickly become an epic headache. Luckily, developers are constantly coming up with new add-ons to protect your little tykes and take the strain off you a bit. Below are the 5 best designed specifically for Firefox:
If you’ve got very young kids, Zoodles without a doubt should be your first port of call. Not only does this nifty little add-on block everything even remotely offensive, it comes with a unique kid-friendly interface to get them slowly started in the virtual world. For them: safe surfing, free games and videos. For you: a parental dashboard allowing you to customise their experience any way you see fit. Handy pie-charts show you what sort of sites your kids are using, and where their interests lie; while another nifty addition allows you to promote certain subject-based games over others (so they have a choice of more maths-based games and less science-based ones). With its lack of URLs, search engines and pictorial navigation, Zoodles is more an introduction to the web than a bona-fide browser. For ages 4-8, however, it should be perfect.
Web Filter Pro
Web Filter Pro is for those a bit older than the Zoodles crowd. Rather than creating a whole new interface, it simply restricts access to certain sites, displaying an ‘Access Blocked’ sign if the link is clicked. While this is a standard feature of most parental add-ons, what makes Web Filter Pro a winner is the degree to which it can be customised. Naturally, porn, violence, gore and drug references are blocked, but you can further set it to target any online gaming site, illegal download site, dating site, or even social media. By controlling access to games and social media (read: the lifeblood of the pre-teen), you can gain infinite leverage in the nightly homework debate. Even better, the add-on automatically blocks attempts to circumvent it via proxy sites and so-forth. A must-have for those of us with difficult teens.
Rather than come with a ready list of blocked sites, FoxFilter targets sites based upon your own choice of keywords. While this may sound worryingly vague, in practice it makes blocking out anything from pornography to simple distractions much easier. Kids spending too much time watching videos of cats falling over? Simply add ‘videos’ to your keyword list, and goodbye youtube. Security settings require a password before it can be disabled, uninstalled or otherwise bypassed, meaning you can install it on even your most net-savvy kid’s laptop without worry.
Google Safe Search
If your kids are older and you simply want to guide their surfing without stepping on their toes, Google Safe Search is an easy solution. With password protection and the option to choose varying degrees of filtering, Google Safe Search can be installed on the quiet, without your kids even noticing (unless they go looking for hard core stuff, in which case a talk is in order). Probably the best option for those in their early-teens, who might object to too much parental interference.
At the end of the day, education may be the best route to go down. You can hide the world away from your kids all you want, but they’ll eventually realise it’s out there and want to know about it. A frank talk (perhaps combined with one of the above options) may work better than any amount of mollycoddling: after all, studies suggest that prohibiting something without explanation simply makes kids want to experience it more. Be open, be frank and be firm: ultimately, it will save both you and your child a headache in the future.
Would you ever use extensions to keep track of what your children are doing online? Are there any you’d recommend?