How does Snitch software compare with parental controls?

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A guide to the differences between parental control software and Snitch porn eraser

A number of questions often arise in relation to Snitch and parental control software; what are parental controls, is Snitch a parental control program, and how do these programs relate to one another? Are they completely separate products or are they interrelated? Should I buy one or the other or both? Which one do I need, or do I need both? We will try to clarify the differences between Snitch and parental controls, by first explaining what the key types of parental control software do, how they work, and what they are needed for. Then we will discuss where Snitch fits into the picture.

Internet filters

Parents are often concerned about the type of material that their kids are being exposed to as they use the Internet. Kids are expected to use home computers when they are available, when doing homework and research, and therefore they need to be protected from inappropriate material that they might happen across while doing their work. One class of parental controls is known as the 'Internet filter'. Internet filter programs are designed to block access to inappropriate websites to protect users from undesirable material. An Internet filter users various techniques to detect inappropriate websites and content, including

  • Predefined lists of pornographic websites, as well as other undesirable URLs such as violence and hate related content, drug use, terrorism etc. This list is known as a 'blacklist'. Blacklisted sites are typically blocked entirely, and attempts to access them are often recorded in a log. Parents can enter their own items for blacklisting.
  • Predefined lists of know safe websites, known as a 'whitelist' or 'safelist' allow safe passage to child-safe content. Again parents are typically able to enter websites that they deem safe for their children.
  • Content analysis, which is used when visiting websites that are not in the blacklist, as a second line of defense against inappropriate websites that are not in the blacklist. Page content is analyzed for keywords and sometimes images can be tested for nudity. Web pages that contain suspicious amounts of inappropriate content are flagged for manual review and possible addition to the blacklist.
  • Some internet filters handle not only browser traffic but they may also filter chat conversations, peer-to-peer downloads and email activity.

Internet filters are a powerful way of reducing online risks for young users, and they are also widely used in companies, schools and businesses to prevent abuse of computing resources and bandwidth by employees and students. Snitch can be used in conjunction with Internet Filters to cleanup internet history that has not been filtered properly.

Child safe browsers

Child-safe browsers are web browsers designed for children, that allow access to a strictly limited set of guaranteed clean websites, usually containing material specifically aimed at, and of interest to, children, such as educational games, safe chat tools, and fun websites. Child-safe browsers have properties in common with Internet filters, but whereas an internet filter will allow users unhindered access to sites that are not in its blacklist, child-safe browsers typically only allow access to a smaller selection of trusted websites that kids can roam around in without any risk, and will not let them out into the general internet. Parents can usually control the available websites manually if desired.

These browsers are very useful tools when you need total peace of mind, but your kids need access to the internet so they can contact each other and get computer experience.

Monitoring software

Sometimes parents feel they need to control what their kids do any time they are on the computer, and that keeping an eye on their behavior is the best way to curtail any misbehavior. This is where 'monitoring tools' come in handy. Monitoring software can be installed on a PC, which then records anything that is typed (eg. in chat, email, etc.), any sites that are visited, any applications that are opened, and so forth. It can also take periodic 'screen captures' of the system in question. Parents can later download the usage log and view what has been typed and what the user has done, and view the screen captures in a timeline format, so they can reconstruct the behavior of their kids when they are not around.

Monitoring software is often criticized for being intrusive and for violating childrens' right to privacy. Parents argue that they have the right to check that the rules of the house are being upheld, and they have the responsibility to protect the children in their care and are justified in using any means at their disposal to do this.

It is generally understood that parents have no right to monitor children above the legal age, as they are considered adults and can decide for themselves how to behave. However there are many documented cases of spouses using monitoring software to observe the behavior of their husband or wife, especially when they are suspected of cheating or infidelity. Many groups advocate the active participation of parents in their child's internet activity, as well as prophylactic methods like putting the household computer in a well trafficked area such as a living room, as a deterrent against inappropriate behavior, as well as adequate supervision.

Lockdown and scheduling software

There is another less intrusive class of software that gives parents the ability to control the home computer by means of a built in scheduler, that permits or prevents access to the computer during specific time slots. For example, parents might configure the scheduler software to prevent access to the computer before dinner time and after 9PM, but access time on the weekend might be more flexible. The computer can also be completely locked down, for example when parents have grounded a child, or other punishment is in effect, or perhaps before exams.

Porn detection and hard disk cleanup software

Another class of tools detect inappropriate material and helps remove unwanted porn on a computer system, by analyzing images, video files, text documents, etc. and determining if they contain inappropriate content. This is Snitch's primary function. It is necessary to use this kind of software regularly because none of the other parental controls are completely foolproof; kids might bring home porn on a USB stick or CD, or removeable hard drive, etc. and an internet filter will not have any control over this. Also since no Internet filter is 100% effective, it pays to make sure nothing slipped through and there is no hidden porn on the hard drive.

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