Parent power

Let's face it, PCs wouldn't be even half as interesting without the Internet. Take the web out of the equation and you lose online shopping and gaming, email, music downloads and the ability to chat on Messenger. In other words, the very activities that most of us bought a PC for in the first place.

The Internet isn't just a perk any more -- it's an essential requirement. Many devices and software require a web connection to complete an installation or for registration purposes. And, of course, there are the endless Windows updates...

Computing and, to a certain degree, our lifestyles would return to the dark ages without the Internet. I'd prefer to do without a mobile phone than a broadband subscription. And with customers rushing to sign competitive deals, I'm clearly not the only one who adores ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line).

There is a down side to loafing around online, and that is the need for vigilance. It's vital that we ensure anyone who logs on to our family PC will be safe.

Sadly, few days pass without a news story describing paedophiles contacting children online. Worryingly, it often happens right under parents' noses.

But parents are far from defenseless. There are software applications that tailor web access with sophisticated filtering techniques, keeping children away from unsuitable content. These programs allow concerned parents to specify what their kids can get up to online, and when. It's easy to restrict certain applications and to monitor their use of the web.

Over the next few pages, we show you how to take back control of your family PC using CyberPatrol's content-filtering tools. We look at how to set parameters within which your kids can surf safely, without reducing your ability to browse the Internet as you choose.

Child-proof your Web connection

1. Download the free 14-day trial from or our cover DVD. Choose a password for the Headquarters, which is where security parameters are set. You'll be asked for a password reminder question. Don't make it something that's easily guessed -- such as the name of the family pet.

2. Next, you'll need to set a default filtering and access profile by choosing the Environment type. You should select the age group from the User Type list as well. Here, we've chosen Young Teen as the target age group. Once you're satisfied with the options chosen, click the Open HQ button and type in the password you set up earlier.

3. From the Manage User Profiles tab you can add extra profiles, which is useful if you have children of different ages. If you have multiple Windows User accounts, you can allow CyberPatrol to adopt them and switch between filtering profiles as they log on. Alternatively, set up profiles manually. Click on Create User to begin.

4. If existing accounts are detected, CyberPatrol will ask whether you want to create a user profile for them. For a manual profile creation, select No and enter a username and password. Choose Allow Windows integration for the User Profile if you would like to associate the policy with the Windows login.

5. Whichever method you choose, you'll be presented with the same profile settings box. This shows the settings in place and extra options that you can select. You can adjust the level of filtering according to the age of the user, and the extent to which online activities are recorded. We've set recording to On -- All Web Pages.

6. To impose restrictions on when your offspring are able to access the Internet or particular applications, head to the Customize Filter Settings list in the Options menu. Under Access Level, ensure Time Management is set to On and then click on the Customize button. On the next screen, click on Customize Time Restrictions.

7. Ensure the correct profile is selected, then click-and-drag to select multiple blocks, or left-click on individual ones. With the times and days highlighted, click on the Set to Blocked Access button. To allow access in certain periods, select the blocks and click the Set to Filtered Access button.

8. To limit access to an application, click on the Programs tab, followed by Customize Programs. Next, choose Add, Find New Programs. You can allow CyberPatrol to search automatically or you can browse to locate the application manually. Select from the list the programs you'd like to restrict access to.

9. Under the Web tab you can restrict access to websites depending on their content. Click on Categories and choose a preset filter strength. You can adjust the sliders within each content category. For advanced filtering, click on the keywords and site access lists and add entries accordingly.

10. To censor your child's instant messaging, click on ChatGard. You can block any terms that could identify a user, as well as swear words. Click on Add to enter keywords or phrases, then define the IM programs to monitor under Chat Programs. To view sites visited and adjust surveillance, head to the Monitoring tab.

Tips and tricks

Keeping tabs on your children's chat

Protecting children while they're using IM (instant messaging) and social-networking applications can be a real challenge for parents. Applications such as CyberPatrol help immensely, but there are a few things you can do from within the IM programs themselves. For example, you can set Microsoft or Yahoo Messenger applications to allow contact only with those on your messenger list, preventing unauthorized chats with strangers.

Use the Ignore List option in Yahoo's Preferences, or Options from within Microsoft Messenger. It's a good idea to require agreement before being added to a contacts list, or at least to demand notification.

Helpful downloads

Watch this Space could be just the thing for concerned parents of teenage MySpace users. Parents can monitor a child's activity, track profile changes and keep a history for up to five profiles.

Border patrol

GreenBorder Pro safeguards your identity and data online by setting up

a virtual browsing session. The program also reroutes downloaded files to a special folder for added security. Prices start at US$30, but a free trial is available.

Password protection

If you share a PC, keeping your passwords safe and remembering which one you've used can be a painful process. RoboForm2Go sets up a USB key as home for all your passwords and bookmarks, which are then safely encrypted.

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