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A reader who shall remain nameless writes in with a concern about a child’s Internet use.

I’m entirely new to computers and I’m not sure how to make sure my 11-year-old daughter does not accidently open inappropriate web sites. I downloaded LimeWire and let’s just say when she put in a band name she wanted to download a song from she received something no child should ever see. How do I know a web site is protected from [content] like that?

Before I launch into a couple of specific suggestions, I might offer that your newness is showing. I don’t mean to leap atop the soapbox, but providing your daughter access to a peer-to-peer file sharing application isn’t such a hot idea. Not only can she download mountains of inappropriate material, but lots of the content on P2P is ill-gotten—pirated movies and music, for example. Moral issues aside, if your daughter is found, by the wrong people, to be sharing copyrighted material, you and she could be looking down the barrel of a nasty lawsuit.

So, first step, get rid of LimeWire.

Next step, educate yourself about the dangers of the Internet. Regrettably, there are just as many crooks and creeps online as there are in the real world. You and your daughter need to clearly understand that you should never provide personal or financial information to an unfamiliar source, whether it’s on a website or in a chat room.

Once the two of you have the lay of the land, it’s time for you to think about filtering the content your daughter sees. I can suggest a couple of options.

One is Intego’s $60 ContentBarrier X4. This program offers a variety of protective measures including filtering out inappropriate websites (adult and violent content, for example). You can configure it to block streaming media, P2P networks, chats, and email. You can also set up a “white list” of acceptable sites as well as create schedules that allow your child to use the Internet during only specific hours. ContentBarrier can also send email alerts to parents when certain untoward events occur.

Another option is SafeEyes. This is a $50-per-year service/application that offers some of the same benefits as ContentBarrier. It will block unwanted web content, eliminate browser pop-up windows, let you restrict access to programs your child might use unwisely (P2P and chat, for example), and allow you to create schedules for Internet access. Additionally, it monitors and logs what your child is doing, providing parents with a list of access attempts and transcripts of chats. You can give SafeEyes a free 15-day trial spin.

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