Porn sites are all over the Internet and, unfortunately, kids are certainly smarter than adults are about computers. The good news is that all the major commercial online services provide tools for parental control. With varying degrees, they let you surf for what you want without worrying too much about whether your kids can also find the material. You can, in fact, allow your children to use the computer and still protect them from cyberporn and other inappropriate online content.

Educating your kids

But, as always, common sense prevails: Tell your kids that the same rules they use when walking down a street apply when they surf the Net. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (800-843-5678) has an excellent pamphlet, Child Safety on the Information Highway, which lists some good guidelines:

  • Set guidelines for how your child uses the computer and discuss those guidelines with your child.

  • Don’t let your child give out personal information, such as address, phone number, or school name, online.

  • Don’t let your child arrange for online meetings with a stranger or send his or her photograph.

  • Tell your children to come to you immediately if someone sends them messages that they don’t like.

Controlling kids’ access

Allowing adults access to a wide range of material while protecting children from it has thankfully become a priority for online companies and users. The commercial online services, as well as the Internet, have several ways of protecting curious young minds from getting inappropriate materials.

To get the latest information, visit This site is provided as a public service by Internet corporations and public interest organizations. On this site you can find search engines for kids that don’t bring up unwanted sites, free downloadable filtering software, and information about kid-safe browsers. Dozens of software filters are now available, and can lead you to the one that has the features you want.

No matter how safe you make your home computer, your child may have access to other computers that don’t have such filters. While elementary schools may install these features, public libraries usually don’t because the filters would block adults from accessing legitimate information, which raises free speech issues. And, of course, your child’s friends’ computers may not have the same safeguards as the one in your home does. So be sure to include other computers your children may use when setting the rules for them. And it would be a good idea to talk to the parents of the children your child visits often and ask if they use filters on their computer. These parents may not use any filters just because they don’t know they exist.