Parental Control and The Internet

The World Wide Web: educational or detrimental?

For most computer users, the Internet is something that has become a part of our daily lives. Many use it all the time, at work and at home, and could not imagine being without it, which is really no surprise considering that the Internet is a practically infinite source of information. The volume of information available on the Internet has already exceeded 500 billion Gigabytes and in addition to being an indispensible tool for data mining, it has many other uses in our busy modern lifestyles. We already use the web to pay our bills, find a school for our children, and among other things, plan the itinerary for our summer holidays. However, the Internet, much like a reflection of real life with its criminal and extremist groups, fraudulent organizations and drug trafficking, has a dark side. Furthermore, the Internet, which was created by adults, is for the most part targeted at adults. The many dating sites and websites with pornographic or other sexual content are, to some degree, legitimate, though most of them are inappropriate for children.

Meanwhile, more and more children and teenagers are using the Internet every year. These days, children and teenagers are some of the most active users of the World Wide Web. This generation was born in the age of information technology and cannot remember a time when there was no Internet. However, these young Internet users are unfortunately often ill-equipped to process the enormous amount of unverified, poor quality, outdated and sometimes simply dangerous information that could harm their computers and even themselves.

The greatest danger, in our opinion, is that a child could gain access to information that is not appropriate for their age. Online encounters with potentially harmful information meant for an adult audience could result in considerable damage to young, impressionable minds.

Just about every parent asks themselves what they can do to ensure that their child is able to use the Internet productively, expanding their world view and honing their communication skills — without exposure to harmful information. Most parents have worried about whether or not their child has been looking at inappropriate content when they are not around.

It is also worth pointing out that children can end up viewing inappropriate websites quite accidentally, simply by being the unwitting victims of online marketing ploys and fraud. Many online resources either overtly or surreptitiously try to coerce users into visiting sites with questionable content. To accomplish this, innocent-looking links and banners are displayed, in addition to flashing windows, animations and other underhand tactics. Essentially, many sites that promote themselves in this manner may well be malicious. Thus the issue at hand is not just parental control over Internet resources, but also involves parental protection in the web’s virtual environment.

According to statistics, 25% of preschool-aged children use the Internet without parental supervision. Over 30% of children under the age of 14 have unwittingly opened websites containing pornographic content, while up to 15% of children have come into contact with online gambling content and resources about violence, alcohol and drug abuse.

Parents cannot help but worry about the situation and strive to protect their child from traumatic images and potentially harmful information.

How to protect your child against unwanted content

In recent years, many computer security companies have released “safe home and family” products designed to ensure children’s safety when surfing the Internet.

Kaspersky Lab also has its own solution, Kaspersky Internet Security, which includes a Parental Control module that limits children’s access to websites containing unwanted content and gives parents the opportunity to restrict the amount of time their children spend on the Internet. Let us take a closer look at how Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control module works.

How the Parental Control module works

By default, the Parental Control module is not activated; allowing adults to work without restriction when using the Internet. However, it can be customized to activate when your child logs on to the system.

Parents may select which categories of websites they want to prohibit their children from viewing. These may include sites with pornographic content, obscene language, those offering illegal software, weapons and drugs, or websites promoting violence and cruelty. Parents can also block their children’s access to social networks, email, online stores, e-payment systems and other resources.

When a young Internet user is online, the Parental Control module moderates what is displayed. If a webpage is in one of the prohibited categories, the product will block the site and display a restricted content message.

Website categories

The goal of page verification is to be able to define web content as belonging to one of the known categories.

Technically, there are two webpage categorization methods: black lists and white lists, and a heuristic approach that places web resources into particular categories according to their characteristics.

The heuristic method is more flexible and modern, but at the same time, there is a possibility that it will assign a website to the wrong category. In order to minimize the error margin, the Parental Control module in Kaspersky Internet Security includes the ability to send Kaspersky Lab a complaint report for web pages that were blocked, but should not have been:

All of these reports are collected and processed by Kaspersky Lab. Many pages that were needlessly blocked are verified again manually. This helps to analyze the workings of the heuristic function and provides a deeper understanding of why the error occurred. In this way, the algorithm can be adjusted to help prevent permitted pages from being blocked in the future.

This verification process has shown that only 3% of all of the complaints received are related to the improper categorization of web pages. The remaining 97% are complaints about…the correct functioning of the module! In the vast majority of cases, web pages are categorized properly and access to the page was blocked in line with the rules that were put in place by the parents. It is most often the children who are unable to view the pages that click on the link to file a complaint.

Overall, approximately 80% of all of the sites for which the Parental Control module functioned correctly, but the user sent a complaint regarding a false positive, are sites with pornographic content or adult language. The remaining 20% are websites with content related to weapons, gambling, violence, etc. This ratio has not changed much at all over time, which says something about the consistency of Internet users, who, in such cases, are generally children and teenagers.

Of course, the statistics also include supposedly accidental viewing of unwanted Internet resources as described above, although the percentage of these incidents is negligible.

We do want to emphasize that providing the categories in question were marked as restricted by the parents, those adult content and other sites that fall within a restricted category are blocked by our Parental Control module, regardless of the number of times a complaint is sent.

Instead of a conclusion…

According to the latest data, the Parental Control system in Kaspersky Lab’s personal product range assigns websites to the ‘pornography’ category over 4 million times per day. That means that every hour, underage users make roughly 160,000 attempts to access adult content sites.

The Parental Control module effectively prevents children’s attempts to access unwanted content. Of course, only parents can decide which categories of websites are off-limits to their children. Just like any other tool, parental control can only help parents do their job, it cannot and should not, replace them. In the end, the best kind of parental control comes from mutual trust between parents and children.

Parental Control and The Internet

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  1. Bryan

    A big hole in Kaspersky’s parental control is that it doesn’t kick in until a few minutes after a computer starts (at least with Windows 7). Even though the antivirus protection starts right away during the booting process, unfortunately the parental control feature does not. Is Kaspersky doing anything about this, or do they plan to?

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