I installed NetNanny software on the kids’ computer to control their access to inappropriate web sites and to be able to shut off services if necessary – for example, to turn off instant messaging or file sharing. It works fine but it’s a bit complex to set up.

Linksys has announced an interesting new service that parents might want to look at – a “Parental Control Service” that controls Internet access at the router, rather than by software running on each computer. If you buy a particular model of 802.11g wireless router, then you can subscribe to this service – roughly $40/year. Here’s the main page advertising the new service, and here’s the press release with more details.

The router manages the Internet access for the entire house and all of its devices. Profiles are set up for each person, so there’s lots of flexibility for the different members of the household. They promise these features:

– Manages access for all major Internet applications — web browsing, e-mail, chat, and instant messaging

-Enforces time-of-day and day-of-week restrictions

– Protects all Internet-capable devices on the home network including desktops, laptops, game consoles and PDAs

– Internet usage and governance based on personal profiles, rather than devices, to reflect individual maturity levels and needs

– Web site filtering based on millions of URL classifications within 18 separate categories including, for example, pornography or violence, which are updated on a daily basis by an independent rating service

Web site classifications can be overridden on a case-by-case basis based on parental judgment

Online reporting to monitor household Internet activities (including Web surfing and chat), on-demand from any location inside or outside the home network

Intuitive setup and management allows any parent or guardian to increase the safety of their household’s Internet access

If they can offer all that and make it easy to use, it will be well worth the investment in the hardware and the subscription price. I haven’t seen any feedback about it yet – I’ll keep you posted!

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