Censoring Web Content

You've probably heard that there are programs that can control what your kids see online. So why didn't I just mention them in the first place and save you all this "online rules" crud?

Well, it's debatable how effective these programs are. First, most are really focused on the Web and aren't much protection elsewhere, such as in chat or email. And most censoring programserring properly on the cautious side, I supposeinevitably censor out totally benign stuff that you or your kids might find valuable . (You'll see an example of this later, with Content Advisor.)

Also, these programs might filter out sexual content, depictions of violence, and profanity, but what about ugly ideas? For example, these programs generally do not block out racist, sexist, or nationalist hate-mongering as long as those views are expressed without the use of profanity or epithets.

So even though these self-censoring tools are available, they're no replacement for adult supervision and safe-surfing practices. And if you really do supervise your kids, you probably don't need a censoring program. Still, you might find one or more of these programs useful, and they are getting better.

Getting a Safe-Surfing Program

Microsoft Internet Explorer has its own censoring program, which you'll learn about next . So does AOL, which you'll also learn about in a minute or two. But you might also want to check out the Web pages of other popular self-censoring utilities.

From these pages, you can learn more about each product and, in most cases, download a copy for your system:

  • Net Nanny www.netnanny.com

  • SurfWatch www.surfwatch.com

  • Cybersitter www.cybersitter.com

  • The Internet Filter turnercom.com/if

  • Cyber Patrol www.cyberpatrol.com


If you use WebTV as your Internet window, note that it supplies its own censoring system that you can apply to restrict what your kids can see.

Using Internet Explorer's Built-In Content Advisor

Internet Explorer, versions 3 and newer , has its own built-in system called Content Advisor for controlling access to Web sites. Content Advisor works very much like the other safe-surfing programs, except it's a little harder to use than some, and it possesses many of the same strengths and drawbacks.

Understanding Content Advisor

Content Advisor relies on a rating system from the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC), which also rates entertainment software and video games .

The RSAC ratings system assigns a score (0 to 4) to a Web site for each of four criteria: Language, Nudity, Sex, and Violence. The higher the score in each category, the more intense the content that page contains.

For example, if a site has a score of 0 in the Language category, it contains nothing worse than "inoffensive slang." A Language score of 4, however, indicates "explicit or crude language" on the site. After a Web site has been rated, the rating is built into the site so that Content Advisor can read the site's score before displaying anything.

Using the Content tab, you choose your own limit in each RSAC category. For example, suppose you are okay with violence up to level 3 but want to screen out all sexual content above a 2. After you set your limits and enable Content Advisor, Internet Explorer refuses to show you any page whose RSAC rating exceeds your limits in any category, unless you type in a password which you create. So, for example, if you screen out all nudity, and then try to go to Playboy's Web site, you'll be blocked (see Figure 14.3).

Figure 14.3. After you've enabled it, Content Advisor blocks Internet Explorer from displaying Web pages whose RSAC ratings exceed your limits.


There's one problem: Only a tiny portion of sites online have been rated. Enabling Content Advisor therefore blocks not only rated pages you might find offensive, but also all pagesoffensive or notthat have not been rated, which includes most of the Web.

As you might guess, blocking unrated pages severely cramps your surfing and has little to do with protecting you from offensive content. As you'll see in the upcoming example, you can choose an optional setting to allow unrated pages, but doing so defeats the purpose of Content Advisor because those pages will be permitted regardless of their content. You can also create a special list of pages that are always accessible (or never accessible) regardless of the Content Advisor's settings, but obviously that list would be pretty short relative to the wealth of sites available online.


Content Advisor works for both Web browsing and Microsoft's Chat program (see Chapter 6), blocking entrance to unsavory or unrated chat rooms.

To use Content Advisor for Chat, replace step 1 of the following example by opening Chat and choosing View, Options, and then choosing the Settings tab. Proceed with the remaining steps.

However, note that although Content Advisor might keep kids out of X-rated chats, it does nothing to protect them from the pervs who wander into G-rated chats. My advice, no matter what censorship tools you might deploy: Kids don't belong in chat. Period.

Here's how to enable and configure Content Advisor:

  1. In Internet Explorer, open the Internet Options dialog box (choose Tools, Internet Options), and then choose the Content tab (see Figure 14.4).

    Figure 14.4. Step 1: Open Internet Options and then choose the Content tab.


  2. Click the Enable button to display the Content Advisor (see Figure 14.5).

    Figure 14.5. Step 2: Click the Enable button to display Content Advisor.


  3. The Rating scale appears, showing the current setting for Language.

    Point to the slider control, click and hold, and drag the slider along the scale (see Figure 14.6). As the slider reaches each marker on the scale, a description appears below the scale with the type of language that setting permits . The farther to the right you pull the slider, the more lenient the setting. (Think of 0 as a G rating, 1 as PG, 2 as PG-13, 3 as R, and 4 as X.) After you've found the rating level you want, release the slider.

    Figure 14.6. Step 3: Adjust the slider.


  4. Click on Nudity and choose your rating for that category. Do Sex and Violence, too (see Figure 14.7).

    Figure 14.7. Step 4: Do the same for Nudity, Sex, and Violence.


  5. When you have finished choosing ratings, click the General tab and check either (or neither , or both) of the following options (see Figure 14.8):

    Figure 14.8. Step 5: Click the General tab and then select User options.


    Users Can See Sites That Have No Rating. Check this check box to allow the display of unrated pages. Content Advisor will continue to block rated pages that exceed your settings, but will permit unrated pages regardless of their content.


    Depending on whether this is the first time you've accessed Content Advisor and the exact order of steps you follow, you will be asked at some point to choose the supervisor password. Once it's entered, no one can change any Content Advisor settings without entering it.

    Supervisor Can Type a Password to Allow Users to See Restricted Content. When this check box is checked, a dialog box pops up prompting for the Supervisor password whenever someone tries to open a page that Content Advisor would block. If the password is typed, the page appears. With this useful option, your kids can appeal to you for a temporary censorship waiver for a particular Web site.

  6. Click the Approved Sites tab. Type the address of any Web site you want to be handled in a special way, and then click Always (to make this site always accessible, regardless of any other Content Advisor settings) or Never (to make this site inaccessible). Continue typing addresses and clicking Always or Never until the list shows all the sites for which you want special handling (see Figure 14.9). The approved sites show up with a green check mark next to them, while the disapproved sites have a red minus sign.

    Figure 14.9. Step 6: At the Approved Sites tab, enter lists of approved and disapproved Web sites.


  7. Click OK on any tab, and then click OK on the Internet Options dialog box. Your settings are now in effect, and they will stay in effect until you change them or click the Disable button on the Content tab. (The Supervisor password is required for disabling Content Advisor or changing the settings.)

Sams Teach Yourself Internet and Web Basics All in One
Sams Teach Yourself Internet and Web Basics All in One
ISBN: 0672325330
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 350
Authors: Ned Snell

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