Monitoring software is available for mobile devices, just like it’s been available for laptops and desktops for some time.

The software is simple. Parents create an online account and set filtering restrictions, and then download a small piece of software onto the phone.

Once the parent enters the logon information on the phone, the software synchronises with the online account and applies the filtering restrictions. At the same time, it records sites visited.

Childline in the UK has reported that abuse through mobile phones and the internet is one of the major issues facing young people today. Worse still, out of the 3745 counselling sessions they conducted last year over these issues, 250 of those were from children who said they were being ‘groomed’ online.

Concerns around what children are viewing online remain. An increase in calls about online pornography were found to include children as young as 11.

It added that previous research had shown many teenagers see “sexting” and hardcore pornography as the norm, with some describing it as “mundane”, and some had been blackmailed or coerced into sending indecent images of themselves to strangers or other youngsters.

Only 3 weeks ago in NZ we heard about the arrest of a 20 year old from Upper Hutt using a fake name on Facebook as ‘Nick Davis’.  He was arrested at his workplace after making inappropriate online advances to two 12 year old girls.

Stories like this bring these issues right back home when we read that it is also happening in our own back yard.

Many internet safety advocates, including us, believe parents need to install monitoring and filtering software as soon as their child reaches 5 years of age.

First users of the internet will easily stumble across inappropriate material accidentally, if they have an unprotected computer. Misspelled words, cartoon characters, female names and various pet names will all return pornographic links in the search results, if the computer is unprotected.

Given that the software blocks sites by the category they fall into, and there are about 50 categories to choose from, it makes it very simple to block material with the click of a button.

As your child grows, so too will their responsibility around safe internet surfing. Parents can then open up some of the categories they may have blocked, and use the monitoring function of the software to ensure children remain not only accountable, but use the internet responsibly.

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Dean Stewart is the owner of WebSafety NZ and has over 27 years of experience in the IT industry. His career has taken him to Australia, UK and South Africa, before returning home after a 14 year overseas stint. Outside of work, Dean has two teenage children, is a keen tramper in the outdoors and enjoys growing his own produce.

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But how effective is this software? A recent documentary on UK tv called ‘Porn on the Brain’ discussed the issue of internet safety and highlights the difficulty of truely effectively screening out dangerous sites. They suggested that becuase of the things the software look for (dodgy terms, % skin colour suggesting nudity) are all blunt tools, and that plenty of stuff slips through, and also a fair amount of normally considered safe stuff gets blocked. How much can we actually trust this software?

Dean Stewart

We filtering software uses several algorithms as the reader has pointed out, and does this quite effectively. For the general user, objectionable material will be filtered out when the appropriate categories are set to block. Some filtering software may work better than others. The same software has the ability to monitor activity as well. It is of general opinion that the practice of making older children accountable, rather than putting many blocks in place is the preferred option. By making them accountable they take responsibility for their own surfing. It must be understood that devices such as gaming consoles and… Read more »

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