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Dear Otto: What Online Parental Controls Work?

Posted by on February 18, 2014

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Michelle:

Dear Otto, What parental control system would you recommend?


If you’re looking for computer-installed protection, there are quite a few good options–McGruff, NetNanny, CyberPatrol. You can also use the Google Safe Search settings (or similar in other browsers)–more info here.

Truth, there’s nothing more effective than keeping an eye on your child while they’re on the computer–until the day you can’t. By then, hopefully, they understand the dangers and have created good habits. Talk to them about digital rights and responsibilities. In my tech classes, that starts as soon as students use digital devices to access the www–that includes not only the internet, but multi-player game systems. Discuss stranger-danger, cyberbullying, what do do if someone makes the child uncomfortable, how to avoid those situations, staying on safe websites (not clicking ads and bling). Treat the internet neighborhood like the physical one–how do you teach safety there?

When your child understands the virtual world, by the time they’re old enough to get around every safety device you’ve installed, they won’t want to.

How do you keep your children safe online?

More on Internet Safety

Dear Otto: Where Can I Find Kid-safe Images?

29 Steps to Internet Safety for Kids

Help Kids Use the Internet Safely with a Start Page

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a columnist for, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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