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How To Configure Real PC Parental Controls?

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the keep-it-clean-folks dept.

Censorship 618

Orange Crush writes "As the resident computer geek in an office full of accountants, my boss recently asked me how she could reasonably keep her teenage son from using the family computer to 'access inappropriate sites.' I of course responded 'Give up now. There's nothing in this world that can keep a determined teenager from acquiring porn.' Sadly, she was dissatisfied with this answer. I mentioned that there was in fact software available for this purpose, but that all of it was trivially easy to bypass for a clever young mind. I really can't think of another answer. She could password protect the BIOS to prevent booting a different OS, but that's easily defeated with a screwdriver at most. The only solutions I can think of involve upstream firewalls/proxies/etc to which I gleefully redirected her to her ISPs tech support number. As much as I disagree with her reasoning — and ignoring the obvious 'go to a friend's house' loophole — is there really any other way (on a home budget) to netnanny a household computer?"

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618 comments

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covenant eyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20606763)

Covenant Eyes software is actually pretty good. It doesnt block but it sends your "accoutability" partner an email report of sites visited.

Re:covenant eyes (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606827)

The only problem with this is that in about 30 seconds I could go to 10,000 different urls. Also if you are looking at porn you are going to get the links to all of the sites ads (if they download images direct from them). Also if they are looking at a set of porn you will have www.someport.com/something_else/set1/1.jpg to www.someport.com/something_else/set1/15.jpg or something so it is just a bunch of crap and the lady will not have time to search it all etc.

Re:covenant eyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20606987)

Ctrl+F --> "xxx" done, porn most likely has been found in the log.

Re:covenant eyes (4, Insightful)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607083)

No, sorry most porn is something like www.someurl.com/somefolder/some girl name/some set name/number.jpg All the porn I have ever seen never has xxx in it. I guess you could search for .jpg but it is still a lot of work. I think just talking to your child is the best thing to do. But who has time for that these days?

ChInA (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20606775)

Move to china they are good with censorship :)

Edwards' Law (2, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606867)

Is probably a worth a reference in this context:

"You cannot apply a technological solution to a sociological problem".

It's not exactly true. You can very well do so. To expect a determinable result is to court dissapointment, however.

Tor like oatmeals! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20606777)

Tor like oatmeals!

parenting? (0)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606787)

Seriously, what is she really worried about? Is she questioning her job as a parent and worried the big, bad internet is going to so corrupt her son that all of the important life lessons she has imparted will be pushed aside?

Re:parenting? (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606875)

Exactly.

Also, It might slow him down a bit if you put the PC in the main room of the house (near the living room). Although he's just going to 'rub one out' while you've gone to the shops.....

Slash-parenting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20606917)

Or she could simply be removing temptation like any proper parent should.

Re:parenting? (3, Insightful)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607013)

I really don't get that at all. What do these people think will happen if these kids run across some porn? I know this one guy I work with has two kids about 13 or 14 and he doesn't have internet access at home for just this very reason. He feels that the safest situation but completey ignores the fact that his kids have friends in the nieghbourhood and some if not all of them have internet access. It seems to me if you rasie your kids right they should be able to handle just about anything they comeacross without completey falling apart. It worked OK for me.

Re:parenting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20607021)

Is there a firewall that blocks the really disgusting stuff, but not the more soft of the hard core?

I know I personally stumbled across some things on the internet that were completely inappropriate for anyone in high school to look at. They got quickly closed, but even now it would be nice not to accidentally stumble across.

Just tell her (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20606791)

to suck your dick, and film it. Sprinkle liberally around the intertubes. That way, when her kid goes looking for porn, (s)he is scarred for life.

Not really (5, Insightful)

geekmansworld (950281) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606799)

If the son has a decent knowledge of computing, there's really nothing that can be done.

My opinion is that she should just approach her son and talk to him frankly about any issues that she's concerned about.

Re:Not really (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606911)

See... I don't think most children or people would really be smart enough. Or at least it would take them a good while to get around whatever blockade. It would be educational for the child, but learning to hack is probably not one of the mother's goals for her child!

Re:Not really (1)

Trigun (685027) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607067)

"Hey, the nerd at school gave me a cd I can put in, and it will bypass all software on the computer, and not leave a trace."

Re:Not really (5, Insightful)

toleraen (831634) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607105)

Why not? That's how I learned to format a computer, and arguably why I started tinkering deeper into computers in the first place. Not really for the end result, but just to see if I could get around it. Parental controls + teenage angst = future geek!

Take away the video card? (5, Funny)

nategoose (1004564) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606803)

Take away the video card so Jr can't see the hot action? Or sit there with the computer so Jr can be monitored at all times. Cancel internet access. Encrypt the hard drive so that Jr can't use the computer at all. Put a picture of Jesus over the monitor.

Re:Take away the video card? (3, Funny)

mrjb (547783) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607071)

I was going to suggest a VT100. Then I remembered aalib.

Simple (5, Funny)

flu1d (664635) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606805)

Poke out his eyes, problem sovled

no, no, no (1)

Trikenstein (571493) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606849)

use a spoon to scoop them out

Braille porn! (5, Funny)

Treskin (555947) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607077)

You, Fine Sir, must be unfamiliar with the wild world of braille porn. It's especially nice if you learn how to read it with the correct digit.

Re:Simple (1)

middlemen (765373) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607109)

or the kid could see his Mom totally naked... that would work too rather than the physical poking eyes out thing...

CyberSitter (1, Insightful)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606811)

Why waste time looking for a more sophisticated solution to a problem that is misunderstood by your boss anyway? Just get one of off-the-shelf filtering solutions and let the teenager bypass it if he is smart and determined enough to install Firefox.

I shudder at the lack of trust between this young man and his mother though. If it is justified, he will probably end up in jail once he turns 18 and can no longer be legally restrained.

Re:CyberSitter (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607019)

I shudder at the lack of trust between this young man and his mother though. If it is justified, he will probably end up in jail once he turns 18 and can no longer be legally restrained.

Really? Would you really trust any teenager (especially a teenage boy) to not look at porn, even if you said "don't look at porn"?

Re:CyberSitter (1)

masdog (794316) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607091)

Not really, but then who really cares if the kid looks at porn? The better question that the poster should have responded with is "Would you like me to show you how to lock your computer down so if your son does go to porn sites, it won't infect your machine with a ton of crapware?"

logging firewall and TALKING (5, Insightful)

dj.delorie (3368) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606819)

At my house, all outgoing traffic passes through an OpenWRT firewall, which redirects all web traffic to my caching proxy. It logs all accesses. I get reports. If I see something "unusual", I bring my kids in and have them explain it. I TALK TO THEM. It's useless to try to mechanically block their access, but if they know that EVERYTHING they do IS monitored (and they do), they seem to act responsibly.

Technology is not a substitute for good parenting, but it can be a useful tool for it.

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (3, Interesting)

mcspoo (933106) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606869)

So you have the Great Firewall of China in your house?

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (5, Insightful)

OS24Ever (245667) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607101)

Sounds like the great log of china not a firewall. They can get there, he reviews it, and brings it to their attention.

So far my kids are 4 and 6. I just use Mac OS X parental controls and they can only visit the sites I book mark for them in Safari. They can't get to getfirefox.com to download it, so problem solved for that.

As my daughter (the oldest) gets older i'll loosen it up a bit for her as they each will have an account on the machine. I'll log IM chats and use it to gauge what's going on but I'm not going to search it obsessively.

I look at it this way, I'm a guy, I've used porn, I found it without access to the internet in the early 80s. All it takes is one older brother, one parent, one shoplifting experience and that magazine will be passed around the school until some moron either drops it while walking down the hallway in front of a teacher or is a freak and reports you too a teacher. My wife and I are not afraid of porn. As long as the US Government doesn't go insane in the next ten years it's going to be something both of my children will find out about it, right about the 11 - 13 range if history holds true. Admonishing them for that lovely hormonal surge that is going to happen whether I like it or not and their exploration of it isn't helpful and creates the puritanical environment we enjoy today here in the states. I still fight my upbringing of being ashamed of the human body and somehow just the site of it is 'evil'. Little thing called intent that needs to be adjusted more than just existing.

That being said, there are several tools available to baby sit your kids computer expierence, pick one and recommend it. I thought there was a windows package that would do similar features that Mac OS X does with the parental controls on IE 7 but i can't find it now that I'm looking for it again.

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606907)

Why you did not get modded up for that is beyond me. That is the most reasonable answer to this problem, and puts the onus back on the parent, where it should be. It also relieves the IT guy of having to fix the solution when it is bypassed in less than 3 hours after implementation.

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (2, Insightful)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606969)

It takes me all of 10 seconds to set up an ssh tunnel, 10 minutes if I need to download cygwin first. Even in high school I had a bunch of friends who had ssh servers I could possibly use for this (which also would have had a convenient game on it in case you questioned why I was on it) I could have also used the internet connection at school or at a friends house or stolen wi-fi from a neighbor. Hell there are even likely web based ssh encrypted proxies. I could have run one off my high school web account (or rather someone else's, the passwd file was widely distributed) if I really wanted to.

In other words if I was being monitored by my parents I'd have simply found a way to make sure they can't see what I'm doing. At worst I'd have told them to f-off and challenged them to do something about it.

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (2, Interesting)

s.bots (1099921) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607081)

In other words if I was being monitored by my parents I'd have simply found a way to make sure they can't see what I'm doing. At worst I'd have told them to f-off and challenged them to do something about it.
And then pappy whips you with the buckle end of the belt. Sister calls you a brat. Mom cries and wishes it was legal to have a 72nd term abortion. Its happened.

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20607143)

Sounds like your parents (well, probably parent) didn't care about you. If one of my kids told me to "f-off" they wouldn't be leaving their room for a month.

Also, if you're doing the router thing, it's also trivial to disallow SSH tunnels, and DNS requests would certainly be logged. I'm sure you think you're pretty 31337, but there actually are people smarter than you.

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (5, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607145)

In other words if I was being monitored by my parents I'd have simply found a way to make sure they can't see what I'm doing. At worst I'd have told them to f-off and challenged them to do something about it.

You sound like you were a spoiled brat whose parents needed to give a serious attitude adjustment. I would've taken away your computer for a couple of weeks if you spoke to me like that (or if you bypassed my measures), probably along with your cellphone, your ipod and all your music. And if you still had a bad attitude, I'd take your door off the hinges. If you STILL didn't get it, I'd come to school with you and follow you around, making sure your friends saw you, until you begged for mercy.

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607159)

I think, once the kid has hit that point, that you're going to have to hope you've done your job well enough that they'll be making good choices.

A solution like the one above, however, will protect them through the period where they're not able to bypass it. Think of it as a test of skillz..."If pr0n you seek, pass my test you must."

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (1)

Nilych (959204) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607099)

I never thought of porn as irresponsible. As long as they use a good browser, antivirus, anti-spyware, etc.

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607113)

It's useless to try to mechanically block their access, but if they know that EVERYTHING they do IS monitored (and they do), they seem to act responsibly.

Back when I was growing up my father added a box to the computer which had a simple lamp timer inside (the ones you use when you go away on vacation) that turned the computer on at times he allowed and off at others. The only way around this, aside from physically removing the powersupply and putting in another, was to use a pencil and move the timer ahead until it clicked on or to use his bypass key which was one of those vending machine types.

Because I didn't have the key I had to use the pencil which he caught onto the first time he saw that the time had jumped ahead on the timer. He filled the holes in with some more sheets of aluminum and I couldn't get through it.

So, it isn't useless to mechanically block access this way and you are correct that you need to TALK to your children about what they are doing and I praise you for doing the right thing -- I only wish more parents would.

Re:logging firewall and TALKING (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20607149)

if they know that EVERYTHING they do IS monitored (and they do), they seem to act responsibly.
I don't mean to question your parenting (after all, you know your children best, so you are best qualified to make decisions about what is best for them), but your strategy seems either ineffective or unnecessary.

You say that they "seem to act responsibly" but you can only account for the web surfing that you monitor. That is, they know they are being monitored, so they know to not do anything "bad" while using those particular computers. As I'm sure we are all aware, there are trivial ways around this (ssh to a proxy, use the net at a friend's house, etc.), so the monitoring logs themselves provide little in the way of evidence that the children are acting responsibly.

So, instead, you must rely on your parental intuition about your children, to make sure that they behave responsibly. But, if you trust your children to behave responsibly while at a friend's house (or at the library, etc.) then why don't you trust them at home? In short, what does the monitoring accomplish other than make it a little less convenient for an irresponsible child to act irresponsibly?

(The only advantage I can see is to catch instances of a young child unknowingly getting caught up in something... e.g. if they accidentally visit porn or hate sites and are confused by them but too ashamed to bring it up with you.)

Total isolation (1)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606825)

Simple, don't have internet access at home. Remove the power supplies/batteries from all computers when you leave. Keep your credit card numbers secret and the cards themselves on your person at all times. That should solve the issue of accessing inappropriate material at home.

Its her computer, and her right to as she wishes (1, Redundant)

coulbc (149394) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606831)

If a minor is involved, parents have a right to set limits.
Can he get around them? Most likely.
Does that absolve her of responsibility. No.

Re:Its her computer, and her right to as she wishe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20606999)

::scrolls up and re-reads earlier comments::
Um, where did anyone say she didn't have a right to do so? Telling her there's not really any effective way to do so does not equal telling her she can't.

place in public area, remove ram. (3, Insightful)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606833)

Put the computer in a public area. Remove the ram everytime you aren't going to be in that public area. Install all the limitations you can on the user account in whatever operating system you are using so settings can't be changed and run everything through a proxy server with a filter list that is also updated from a third party service with a block list. Seriously though - this is rather extreme. How about just having the parent talk to the kid about why they think porn is bad and put the computer in a public place.

Re:place in public area, remove ram. (5, Insightful)

TheReaperD (937405) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607057)

Putting the computer in a public place really helps a lot. Knowing that they could be walked in on is a great deterrent. It's not 100% but, it does really limit what they can do. It wouldn't help if the child is home alone, however. If the child is home alone often enough that it is an issue, you have a much bigger family problem on your hands then the computer.

I've worked at multiple ISP's and it amazes me how surprised parent's are by this answer. They had never considered moving the physical computer an option before I mentioned it.

I agree with the consensus of the other Slashdot posts that no amount of software is going to solve the problem. If the computer is in their room and they have unlimited time to work on it, any software can and will be circumvented.

If you must... (2, Insightful)

posterlogo (943853) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606837)

I don't think anything short of good parenting will help. But, if you must, perhaps blocking in combination with monitoring might help. At the most extreme, this would mean putting in a surveillance tool (software or preferably hardware) that monitors all traffic.

K9 Web Protection (2, Informative)

Snotboble_ (13797) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606843)

I've been using this for my kids:
http://www.k9webprotection.com/ [k9webprotection.com]

It's free and it's not (too) easily defeated. Of course the usual applies (if physical access to the machine is available, all measures are null and void in the end), but it's something at least.

Re:K9 Web Protection? AN EASIER & FREE WAY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20606901)

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=294137&cid=20570167 [slashdot.org]

The custom adbanner blocking HOSTS file there you can download can easily be adapted to a "parental control" mechanism, simply by equating pr0n sites to either 127.0.0.1, OR, 0.0.0.0 addresses inside of it using notepad.exe.

Re:K9 Web Protection? AN EASIER & FREE WAY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20607073)

And since there's only like half a dozen or so domain names that serve porn and no new ones ever show up, this is quick and easy.

Re:K9 Web Protection? AN EASIER & FREE WAY! (1)

berashith (222128) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607133)

I see two big problems in this solution. First, you have to find the name of EVERY pr0n site that you don't want the child accessing. Second, after this is done, the kid has a comprehensive list of EXACTLY what you don't want then to see. This will quickly be at a friend's house.

Its easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20606847)

Most firewalls have hosts files on them, that can allow/deny connections. By default, deny all connections. And only allow a few specific hosts to get there. (*.google.com (might be bad, google images == easy), *.slashdot.org *.wikipedia.org for example) this way, All things are denied until given a reason. Put the brat in a locked user account, don't use 'god' as the admin/root password, and it should work well. This way the kid has to ask to use a site.

Domain? (1)

superstick58 (809423) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606851)

Is there multiple computers in the household? I imagine it's possible to get a very cheap box and use it as a domain controller then give the kid a user and password to log into the domain then restrict the crap out of them. Of course this doesn't filter websites I guess, but maybe it will help in other areas such as whether they can delete their history files, open certain programs, etc.

I don't have too much experience in this, but it seems there may be an option here somewhere.

BIOS password + case lock (1)

Laebshade (643478) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606855)

Password the BIOS and put a lock on the case. Make the only boot device the hard drive. Disallow boot drive selection (if necessary). Unless he breaks the lock or the case, no way he can get around that.

Re:BIOS password + case lock (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607097)

Password the BIOS and put a lock on the case. Make the only boot device the hard drive. Disallow boot drive selection (if necessary). Unless he breaks the lock or the case, no way he can get around that.
It still doesn't solve the problem. CyberSitter, et al., can still be bypassed without booting the computer into another OS.

How about actually supervise your child (5, Informative)

spribyl (175893) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606859)

Move the computer to a public location.
That way you can watch them.

God forbid you actually raise your own child.

"It's 10:00 do you know where your children are?"

Re:How about actually supervise your child (1)

cplusplus (782679) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607065)

"It's 10:00 do you know where your children are?"
Obligatory Simpsons quote: "I told you last night, NO!"

Re:How about actually supervise your child (1)

kenjishikida (324233) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607075)

the most clever answer, by far

firewalls/proxies/etc (3, Insightful)

krgallagher (743575) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606861)

"The only solutions I can think of involve upstream firewalls/proxies/etc to which I gleefully redirected her to her ISPs tech support number."

That is about all I can think of that really works. The other thing I would do is to not actually block anything, but to maintain copious logs and review them regularly. I think it makes more sense to have an open frank discussion with your child than to simply block access. There will always be a loophole to blocked access, but there is no way around a parent who is genuinely interested in their child's welfare.

Social Control (2, Informative)

Lucan Varo (974578) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606863)

Put the PC in the living room.

Can't look at porn when mum can walk bye at any moment.

Microsoft solution? (1)

sam0737 (648914) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606873)

Vista + BitLocker + Parental control?

Re:Microsoft solution? (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607007)

That's fine and works until they boot a live CD of some distro.

Training (5, Insightful)

Jaguar777 (189036) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606887)

How do you keep your children away from drugs, cursing, promiscuous activity, and other undesirable things?

You can't be with your children 24/7, and they will leave the house someday (no basement jokes needed). You need to train them to think for themselves, and how to recognize good and bad decisions before they learn the hard way.

A measure of character is how you act when nobody is watching. Do you want a child that knows he shouldn't be looking at midgets with horses porn, and keeps his own activity in check? Or do you want a child that you have to keep in check using technological measures?

I wonder if people once had the same discussion about chastity belts.....

I think you hit the nail on the head. (4, Insightful)

bigtangringo (800328) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606889)

When you said "Give up". If the kid is going to have access to the internet, he'll have access to pr0n, period.

Any sufficiently motivated teen will circumvent even the best system. You can try to fight human nature, but in the end you will lose.

I'd put my money on the kid ending up even more depraved as a result of such a tight parental grip.

The best solution is not to block them! (1, Redundant)

Flyskippy1 (625890) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606891)

Don't get software to block them, just get software to track where they go. And tell them about it. They'll always be able to find some porn site that doesn't get blocked, but you'll be able to tell it's porn.

They'll know that if they go to a porn site or try to disable the software, you'll know about it. Which is more of a deterent then some anonymous blocking could ever be.

-Chris

BSAFEONLINE (2, Informative)

hurting now (967633) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606895)

My mother is a full time baby sitter. She has some kids (ages 7 - 10) who want to use the computer.

To make matters worse, she hates the "damn machines" and doesn't know anything about them.

In comes bsafeonline http://http//bsafehome.com/ [http]

This products locks down damn near everything. You can customize almost everything, and its a bitch to bypass. Time restrictions are firm, co-ordinated to the bsafeonline clock, so changing the local time on the machine doesn't do anything.

As a service, if disabled it will force a reboot.

My mom (meaning I set it up) has it set up to e-mail her (my dad) anytime a rule is triggered.

Its a good product and very effective.

Re:BSAFEONLINE (1)

hurting now (967633) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606951)

sorry, bad link.

http://bsafehome.com/ [bsafehome.com]

Parental Duties (1)

Hack'n'Slash (3463) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606909)

It's called being a parent - She needs to talk to her child to instill her values and beliefs in him, put the computer in a public location (ours is in the living room), and limit computer time to a "healthy" amount. (That is subjective, some people say less than an hour, some believe 20 hours per day is fine.) Other than that, you're right. A determined child will get around any restrictions - heck, it might even ENCOURAGE the behavior since it is now "off limits!"

Good luck to the control freak. :)

Easy (2, Insightful)

Supergood-ape (959376) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606913)

Put it in a high traffic area where it is easily viewed and monitored.

How hard was that?

(and if you plan to respond with why this won't work, don't bother, I have no desire to read excuses from lazy parents)

Some suggestions (1)

Eberlin (570874) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606919)

1) Put the machine in the living room. That'll help a little by making it easier to visually monitor.

2) dansguardian or squidproxy. Yes, proxies and filters aren't foolproof but if you're willing to at least try, it's a good way to go.

3) the obligatory -- talk to and spend time with your children...though at the teenage years, that may be more challenging.

disclaimer: I'm a clueless non-parent

MyEyes(tm) works wonders (3, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606923)

PC in a common room of the house, screen facing out into the room. Knowing at any time a parent or sibling may walk past does wonders.

Next step is NoFun(tm). Kid gets caught doing someting mommy doesn't want him to, mommy takes away some priveledge.

You can't fix this with technology. Not on a home budget, anyway.

Assuming a slight level of trust (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606927)

I'm not familiar with most 'parental' tools for computers, and I assume most slashdotters, with their similar disdain for such tools, won't know much about them either.

A tool that my mom used for controlling video game time for my younger sister was controlling the power cord. Hand it out when it is game time, remove it when it is time to do homework.

You could probably do something similar with the computer or modem power cable as well. Limit their time on the computer to times when you are actually around. Certainly the teenager could probably go to circuit city and buy a replacement, but if he is that untrustworthy, then you won't be able to stop him anyway. I can't think of a good solution, since there probably isn't one.

Maybe put the computer in a high traffic area... or better yet, let your son learn to moderate his activity on his own. Otherwise I shudder to think what happens when he can have porn and booze and no sense of self control.

Make your own upstream firewall (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606933)

You could set up a LAN in your house* with all traffic going through a central server, then install filtering software on that.

The whole point is raising the bar; this is just another way to do so.

(* I know it's not you that wants it, but it's easier to phrase if I pretend that it is.)

k9 windows filter (2, Informative)

whtmarker (1060730) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606935)

www.k9webprotection.com [k9webprotection.com] is a great windows based filter. It installs as a service. If you disable the process you disable the internet (a quick reboot to fix). You can even block all internet access from, say, 10pm to 7am. It has filter over-rides, and complete logging. Best of all its free. While you could pay $30/year for contentwatch or netnanny, k9 web protection is the most fully featured freeware filter out there. Its not about free speech. The parent who is paying for the computer, and internet connection ought to be able to control what content is allowed and what is disallowed. Then when the kid goes off to college they can make their own decisions. But while porn is no good at any age, it is especially harmful to children who haven't learned to control their urges.

Zywall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20606937)

works for our young ones. Will need another approach when they figure out how to use the neighbor's wireless signal...

What's the problem being solved? (4, Informative)

Frater 219 (1455) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606941)

As a computer technician I'm sure you've encountered cases before where a user asks you, "How do I do thus-and-so?" when really they're looking to accomplish some goal only tangentially related to what they're asking. Maybe this is best treated as the same sort of problem.

What is the user actually trying to accomplish? Is she worried that her son will become some kind of sex fiend? It's too late -- to paraphrase a line from Buffy, even linoleum makes teenage boys think about sex. Is she concerned that he'll get bad ideas about sex from Internet porn? Maybe some sex education is needed: "Son, just so you know, real women don't like bukkake gang-bangs. They like hugs. And clitoral stimulation too, but hugs first." Does she just have moral or ethical objections to porn in general? Maybe she should be talking about her values with her son a little more.

No matter what the problem is, it's almost certainly a social and educational one, not a technical one. Deploying a technical solution is probably not the answer.

Use humiliation. (5, Funny)

altinos.com (919185) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606943)

Have the only computer in the house hooked up to a 50" plasma or LCD screen in front of a window facing the street.

Parenting (5, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606959)

Seriously, this is a teenager, not a six year old. Her concern should be revolving around what her kid is actually motivated to view, because it ain't being pushed to him against his control.

But this is your boss, and not someone you want to give this lecture to. Just throw the names of some filters and/or logging spyware for corporate intranets at her, and let it go. Do not fight her battles.

Only really one way (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606971)

There's only really one way: install a Web proxy with filtering software on the gateway to the Internet, configure that gateway's routing tables to redirect all outbound connections to ports 80 and 443 to the gateway itself (so they'll go to the proxy) (add other ports supported by the proxy as needed), block all ports that aren't handled by the proxy (this is critical, without it the proxy can be bypassed, but it also breaks IM software and a bunch of other things), and make sure the kid has no logons whatsoever on the gateway and doesn't have any passwords to anything running on it. Oh, and make sure he doesn't have physical access to it, because if he does he'll be able to give himself a logon.

Yeah, that's a lot of work and calls for a full-time geek to install and manage it. And it'll break lots of things, and require constant maintenance of the filtering software to update it for new sites and problems. And you'll find the filtering software misses 50% of what you want it to block and blocks a goodly percentage of things you don't want it to. And the kid can take a laptop down to the local coffee-shop and browse porn to his heart's content anyway.

Household WWW/Internet Filtering (2, Interesting)

lorddarthpaul (730954) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606975)

After a lot of scouting around just to have anything that works to do minimally invasive net content filtering for a reasonable cost, I came up with the Linksys WRT54GS router (review) [pcmag.com] and their Parental Controls service. Not by any means perfect, but most of the time, it does the job and works on ALL the connected computers, you just define different users. It is not ideal for households where everyone shares the same computer. What it's best at is cutting off services at certain times of day. You can configure the filtering and then largely set and forget it, although you need to err on the lax side unless you always want to be overriding the controls. For whatever reason, Linksys doesn't really advertise this service very much, despite being one of the more cost effective options out there. For this reason, I am always thinking that they are going to discontinue the service, but they haven't (and I've had it for a couple of years now). The fact that it is administrated through the router is a big plus, comparable to corporate solutions costing much, much more.

The best there is! (5, Interesting)

Lazypete (863757) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606983)

The absolute solution to this, easy Put the computer in the living room or somewhere where he can't hide what the kids doing. There's no way the teen can get around that. Thats the most effective and costless solution.

NetNanny (1)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 7 years ago | (#20606995)

As a number of people have pointed out, the first thing to do is to place the computer in a public place.

Then, make certain there's only an ability to use it when there are adults around - in this case the parent.

Almost all social issues that parents don't want kids involved in are practiced solely away from the parent's eyes. This is one of the reasons that I'm adamant to make my home as enjoyable for my kids as possible without going across any of my own boundaries - if their friends only want to be here, then it makes my job orders of magnitude easier to know what my kids are getting themselves into.

Since we homeschool our kids, their use of the computer isn't always monitored. But then, they don't yet know how to clear their browser history. As for when they do, I have root and they don't. Also, our Kyocera router which gives them wireless access keeps logs.

If, some day, they start rebooting the machine to try to mod it, then I'll mod the child to the point that they understand that hacking machines at home (in the 'break in' sense) is not done.

Curious Minds (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607003)

Honestly, what it is really going to come down to is trust. She can't police her kids internet usage 100% of the time. And the only way to lock down a computer to keep her kids "safe" 100% of the time is to simply disconnect it from the internet. But, as others have already said, they can just go over to a friends house and gain access that way. Lets face it, we are ALL curious at a young age. Obviously you don't want a 9 yr old viewing explicit material, but around puberty, kids are curious about themselves and others. I wouldn't advocate making material readily available, but a certain amount of "peeking" is healthy. When I was a kid, it was my friend and I finding some of his older brothers "hidden stash" of magazines. Am I worse off for finding it? I highly doubt it. In fact, I dare say I had less questions after being exposed to it than before finding it. In my opinion, she's going to have to just accept the fact that her kids are going to be exposed to naughty words, pictures, stories, jokes, etc. It is part of growing up. She should probably just talk to, and teach her kids a little bit first and then trust that they can satisfy their curiosities without it ever becoming a "problem".

Lock it up. (1)

Perl-Pusher (555592) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607005)

Use a laptop instead of a desktop and put it in a safe when your not around. Then when you say he can use it place it on a table in the room where you are at. While your at it lock up any telescopes and the child too. The neighbor girls father might thank you.

Seriously though if shes worried about it, she may have deeper trust issue with her child. Technology won't make your child more trustworthy, it will just make the child not trust you. Sounds like they need to talk more.

Buy a Mac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20607009)

Lock the case via the standard security slots (all Macs have one). If the kid can pick a $25 lock from the hardware store, she has more to worry about than his choice of online reading material. Install EFI firmware config software made by the guy who makes NetRestore. Install Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) when it comes out next month. Use the built in Parental Controls system preferences.

Alternatively, sit down with your child and explain why the content you do not want them to see is objectionable.

Use old technology. (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607015)

If the threat is primarily visual, then change out the monitor to a nice ol' amber monochrome display. He'll pretty much be left with trying to satiate his urges with ASCII art [wikipedia.org] .

Granted, this solution might be rather crippling on permissible usage of the computer as well.

Re:Use old technology. (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607127)

Lol, you could use a very old serial terminal hooked to the parent's linux box.

Text access, lynx, and such is sufficent for research, but not movies or pictures...

PacketProtector (1)

Teach (29386) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607017)

Install PacketProtector [packetprotector.org] directly on your wifi router. It contains Dan's Guardian, which is fairly easy to lock down. Get a USB WiFi adapter for the home computer, configure the router to only accept connections from its MAC address. When it's bedtime, pull the WiFi adapter out of the computer and lock it up in your room.

It's not perfect, but should keep an honest kid honest.

OpenDNS (1)

Brando_Calrisean (755640) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607023)

How about something like OpenDNS [opendns.com] ?

I can't say I've used it for this purpose, but it does seem to support the notion of adult site blocking, and is pretty trivial to configure, even for a non-geek.

the "good parenting" approach (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607025)

Explain the household "acceptable use policy"
Then have the household computer located in a public space in the house, not in an out of the way corner.

No one will have porn up on the monitor if it's likely that your mom (or little sister/brother/snitch) is guaranteed to walk by on a regular basis in the course of going about their normal life.

simple answer to a simple question (1)

logicassasin (318009) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607029)

get the teen a pc and put it behind a firewall and log all websites accessed. When asswatcher.com or onionbooty.com show up in the logs, bring it to his/her attention and tell them it's not permitted. if they go back to the site, go back to them with a belt in hand and wear their ass out for being disobedient.

corporal punishment kept kids in line for thousands of years, no sense in trying something else.

The Porn Nazi approach (1)

PontifexMaximus (181529) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607033)

I monitor every move my kids make online using squid and log analyzers for various things. I also deny connections to everything but SPECIFIC websites that must have my OK before added to the list. Granted it can be a giant pain in the butt to add in subdomains to sites if needed, but this is far preferable to my 8 year old stumbling across anything she shouldn't. I also think putting the system in a place easily viewable is a help, but even for my teenage daughters, synergy is great for viewing their desktops at any time. Which I frequently do while I'm working, I'll have their desktops on a separate display and they know it.

But nothing overcomes good parenting. Sadly, the good parents (and I like to think I am one) have kids well behaved enough to know not to go looking for it, but they are usually the ones who put those controls in place. It's the crappy, loser parents who don't and then bitch and moan about all the stuff on the web, or that their kid gets snatched by some predator on MySpace. With well raised kids, the THREAT of being monitored is just about enough. But even I'm not stupid enough to think my kids are perfect. I make sure they know the risks and the threats out there, I cant shield them completely, that's insane, they have to know the whole story, not just hover over them at all times thinking that if I hide them from it, it will never happen to them.

So, I have to be a Nazi about what they see. Just in case.

Locking down user accounts will just brake games.. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607041)

Locking down user accounts will just brake most games that he likely plays on the system and maybe buying more games may keep him off of the porn.

Also spybot's immunize will block some of the real bad ones that try to mess up the system.

Best idea I can think of. (3, Interesting)

visualight (468005) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607049)

Clone the desktop to the tv in the living room. There's plenty holes in that strategy I know, but maybe access can be physically disabled when he's alone at home? Like take the modem to work or something.

Anyway a friend did this with his daughter, drove her crazy cause she could only use the internet when he was able to flip the remote to video and see what she was looking at whenever he wanted. Once in a while he would get a black screen (screen saver) and he'd be straight to the stairs to see why.

She did once change clone to second desktop, that fooled him for about a week, but then she got grounded.

OpenDNS (1)

Colonel Angus (752172) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607051)

OpenDNS [opendns.com] ? I use OpenDNS and it has adult site blocking capabilities. I have not personally tested them. But it's a start.

The best solution is not technical (4, Insightful)

GroundBounce (20126) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607059)

This may not be what she wants to hear, but the solution that has worked for us has been a slow process of education, not technical restrictions. Different kids have different issues that need to be addressed. Our son (now on his own at college) mainly had issues with too much non-productive web surfing and to some degree, too much gaming, but not porn. Basically, he wasn't getting his homework done. I could have blocked internet access to his machine, but we decided not to do that. Over time, with constant support from us, he began to realize that doing his homework and getting good grades in school was his ticket to bigger and better things. He eventually learned to balance his time better and had no problem getting into UC Berkeley.

Our daughter (in 8'th grade) is similar but different. Her issue is also spending too much time surfing sites like myspace and deviantart, and IM'ing with friends. Educating her has been a little harder, but instead of blocking her machine, we moved it out of her room where it is easier for us to keep an eye on how she's spending her time. Since doing that, she is gradually learning to balance her time better.

Ultimately, your kids are going to be out on there own, and it is better if they can learn to balance their time (with your help) before they're gone than just block everything and have them leave with no time management skills.

URL filtering is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20607061)

Useless..

I used to have friends that were still in high school and unable to access MySpace (God forbid). Pretty simple to make blah.mydomain.com -> , and they were able to resume rotting their brains in no time.

Although, not everyone has their own domains and hosting server, but it's still pretty trivial with stuff like dyndns.com.

It's not the kid's problem (1)

dfetter (2035) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607069)

You were right to tell the kid's mother that there is no technological solution to this problem. She needs has issues around whatever she considers 'inappropriate content,' and a mental health professional could help her with those.

Chastity Belt (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607115)

Simple methods can work for simple minds, but as the subject of control is now a teenager, more sophisticated methods will be required. My suggestion is self-control based upon the strength of the relationship, which means explaining beliefs (why), expectations (acceptable behavior), and consequences (the stick).

Really now, there are no magic pills, and no magic software, that could possibly replace a human parent raising a human child. Or you could just say Fuck-it and let him be raised by daycare, then the public school system, and then finally the state correctional system.

Why this is futile (1)

localroger (258128) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607123)

So after you lock the box down so tight it can't be used for anything practical, for less than the cost of a pair of jeans junior can buy a used laptop that is more than capable of showing jpegs and playing RealMedia, plug it straight into the cable modem bypassing both your domain controller and your spiffy locked-down machine, and do whatever he wants. Oh, you use a filtering ISP? Do all of your neighbors have their wireless routers secured too?

technology isn't the solution (3, Insightful)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 7 years ago | (#20607137)

squid is only part of a solution. The real solution is sending your child to a psychologist to understand what motivates a teenage boy to want to look at naked women in the first place! If porn is wrong, then most of us, including you closeted christian freaks, are wrong.

I can't fathom not allowing my teenage son to view porn. It's the one great teenage pursuit. It's more productive than knocking up some 16 year old girl. That would be great parenting!

Hardware Filters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20607147)

I know that some of the older versions of the Linksys WRT54GS have true hardware filtering, that should make it impossible to beat for the average kid (unless he knows how to set up a proxy, you could block the instructions on how), and it works with anything that can connect to it via WiFi. The only issue is that it has a tendency to crash the router every once in a while.

nothing you can do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20607165)

the suggestions to filter sites or even monitor the sites is not
really feasible. For instance, sites such as google images can
deliver a lot of caches images that may be objectionable,
but that would pass unseen through monitoring. Social network
sites are the same way - many sites are explicit in nature.
So put the computer in a non-private place and make it known
that it is not to be used for that purpose or else there
will be consequences.
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