Tech Savvy Parenting: To Filter or Not to Filter, That is the Question

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When it comes to parenting your teens through a digital age, there are some very tough decisions to make.  One of the main questions for parents is how involved do you want to be and what style of tech parenting are you going to use?

When it comes to handling teens’ use of technology for accessing online pornography or cybersex, there are a number of options.  One of those options is to use an internet filter for all of the child’s devices.  Though that may seem like an easy decision, there are many options when it comes to filtering and some pros and cons to each of those options.

The number of available options will depend on the filtering software you choose..  For example, the simplest and least complicated thing to do is to put a parental control on the computers/phone/ etc. that is age based and blocks adult content.  This option leaves the blocking to the software to notice adult content and not let it get through to your teen. Other programs will allow you to greatly customize this option.  You can enter specific websites that are blocked or, alternatively, specific websites that may come up as adult content that you wish to allow.

What can you filter?  Depending on the program, you can filter web content, email, personal information, social networks, peer to peer networks, chat and games.  Many filtering programs also offer a variety of reporting options.  You can get alerts via email or text messaging in an instant or log manner.  Many also offer options for multiple users so that several children can be on the same account.  One down side of some programs is that they are not all compatible with Apple products, but that is quickly changing.

The Pros:  One of the biggest benefits of using filtering software is that you can block your child’s access to inappropriate content on the internet.  This can be done to thwart incidental contact with these sites online or as a preventative measure after you discover your child engaging in cybersex.  The software can be active 24/7 on all of your child’s devices when you, the parent, cannot always be around.  Another benefit of the log options is that you can see all of what your child is doing online, not just whether or not he or she is looking at pornography or engaging in sexting.

The Cons:  Where there is a will there is a way.  One thing that teens are really good at is getting around internet blocks.  As soon as there is a new software or option for software out in the market, there are many You Tube videos instructing the user how to get around it.  Teens are especially tech savvy and good at getting around the blocks.  Another con to filters is that they often block content that is not sexual in nature but gets an adult rating.  This can create problems when teens are trying to do homework or research assignments for school.

Then there is the issue of privacy.  How much privacy is your child entitled too?  Some would advocate that everything they do online should be fair access for the parents and some would argue that teens have a right to privacy of their own.  Blocking does impede privacy in some manner, but logging all online activity absolutely allows the parent to see everything the child does, allowing for no privacy.

One thing is clear.  Filtering alone cannot take the place of good parenting.  Just because you put a filter or a logger on your child’s computer does not mean that you don’t have to talk to him or her about what they are doing in the tech world.  Transparency and communication build trust.  In these areas, it is best to sit down and talk to your child about their behavior online and in the chat and social media world.  In a transparency situation, either the child is fully aware of the logging or blocker and it is talked about with the parents, and parameters agreed upon, or there is no filter but the parent(s) are allowed access to the computer or phone at any time to view histories and chat logs.

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