Selecting a filter
In conjunction with parental supervision and household rules for internet use, filter software can be an effective tool for managing children's access to the internet. There are a number of products available. Some are better than others at blocking particular types of content. The following information is provided as a guide to assist internet users in selecting a filter that meets their specific needs.
- Filter types Different filters work in different ways. Some allow the user to access only a selected number of sites ('whitelist'). Some prevent the user from accessing certain sites ('blacklist'). Others analyse content as it is being accessed by the user. A number of products offer a combination of these features.
- Whitelist filters are the most effective in blocking access to offensive and harmful material, but they also block a lot of material that may be innocuous. Such filters are likely to be appropriate for younger (primary school age) children, where protection from unsuitable material may be more important than having access to a wider range of content.
- Blacklist filters provide access to a wider range of content, but may still allow access to some unsuitable material. Such filters are likely to suit families with older children, where having access to a wide range of content is an important consideration.
- Multiple users Some products include the option of allowing different levels of filtering for different users. This may be useful where there are children of different ages in the family.
- Monitoring filters that keep a record of visited sites can be useful for monitoring children's access to the internet to see what sites they are visiting.
- www, email, chat, newsgroups Some filters work only with internet content, while others can be used with a wider range of internet applications.
- Updates To help ensure that your filter is as effective as possible, you may want to install a product that is updated automatically when you connect to the internet. Alternatively, your ISP may offer a filter that they administer and update for you.
ISP or user? Products that are installed on a home computer are likely to provide more flexibility in configuring the software to the user's requirements. However, they may be more easily circumvented than a filter that is administered by an ISP.
The ACMA has registered a code of practice for ISPs that requires them to provide each subscriber with one of the filters listed in the code. Some ISPs offer this service free of charge, while others charge a fee. See your ISP's home page for details of the product they offer.
Remember: A filter can be only partly effective, and is not a substitute for parental supervision. The ACMA provides a range of useful cybersafety information for parents and carers. The Cybersmart websites provides a range of useful information.