Though many parents worry about their children accessing inappropriate content online, most are unaware of the solutions available to keep them safe. While there is a variety of software and hardware that can help ensure children’s safety online, the most convenient method for managing their internet usage is often to just make a few adjustments to their web browser settings. A web browser is a software application that allows you to access the Internet, with the most common being Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Edge, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. Each of these browsers include various settings and options that can be adjusted in order to block access to certain content, giving you a sense of relief when they spend time online.
Internet Explorer & Edge
Internet Explorer was once seen as the standard for web browsers, but these days it has fallen out of popularity, with most users preferring Firefox or Chrome. Even Microsoft sought to replace Internet Explorer with the introduction of Microsoft Edge. Regardless, Internet Explorer is still standard on virtually any non-Apple computer, so it is important to know how to secure both of Microsoft’s web browsers.
For both Internet Explorer and Edge, you will need to have a Microsoft account. After which you can create side accounts for family and other people, allowing you to create a profile specifically for your child that is connected to their email address. Any family members added to your account are subject to the Microsoft Family Parental Control options, which blocks potentially inappropriate content while also allowing you to blacklist specific websites. If you are concerned about your kids trying to use another browser to get past these restrictions, you can also block access to all non-Microsoft browsers as well.
Like Edge and Internet Explorer are for Windows computers, Safari is the default web browser for Apple computers. Much like the default Windows options, the basic parental control features for Safari center around creating a user profile for your child, which can be accessed under System Preferences. Once you’ve created their account, you can choose from a few options: unrestricted access to websites, limited access that tries to block adult content, and a restricted mode that only allows access to specific websites that you set.
Google Chrome has quickly become one of the most popular web browsers for both Windows and Apple computers due to its overall functionality, with its ability to connect directly with other Google services being very useful. It is also a default option on all Android devices and Chromebooks, and much of its protection options are wrapped up in the Google Family Link app. By tying their Google account to Google Family Link, you manage their browsing history, block certain websites, and change website permission settings. The app also allows you to monitor your child’s overall smartphone activity.
Additionally, the Chrome browser has specific features that you can toggle on or off in order to provide a further layer of protection. This includes turning off autofill on passwords, blocking websites from showing images, and turning on SafeSearch for the Google search engine.
A free and open-source browser, Firefox is a popular third-party browser that is available across both Windows and Apple computers, along with those running Linux. Its speed and versatility make it a popular choice, with an estimated 500K+ users worldwide. However, it poses a potential challenge for those looking to limit children’s access to inappropriate content. Though Firefox will automatically check the parental controls set on your computer and will set itself to a “safe mode” as long as they are active, the browser does not have any parental control options by default.
However, there are other options that help provide additional protection in the form of downloading extensions. Extensions are free downloadable add-ons for web browsers that can add a wide range of different functions, from performing grammar and spelling checks on emails to blocking unwanted ads. This also includes a number of extensions designed for the sake of web safety. Extensions like Blocksite or Blocksi can block access to specific websites, detect harmful content, and limit internet access to a certain amount of time per day. Not only are extensions like these useful for keeping children away from inappropriate content, it is also a great way to train yourself from goofing off online when you should be working. Even if you aren’t using Firefox, similar extensions are available on virtually any major browser.
For most people, young and old, the internet is simply a regular part of their daily lives. But keep in mind that what a user can install or set up, a user can uninstall or change setup. There are programs available that do not allow users (as in tech savvy children!) access and they provide stronger protection. From work and school to fun and recreation, you cannot really get away from the internet. It’s important to be aware of the tools that are available to make sure that when your children are online, they have access to all of the best parts of the internet while protecting them from the uglier of the web. That extra awareness of the options included in your web browser will allow you to keep them safe without having to rely on outside software and hardware.