Parental controls

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Parental controls are features which may be included in digital television services, computer and video games, mobile devices and software that allow parents to restrict the access of content to their children. These controls were created to assist parents in their ability to restrict certain content viewable by their children. [1] This may be content they deem inappropriate for their age, maturity level or feel is aimed more at an adult audience. [2] Parental controls fall into roughly four categories: content filters , which limit access to age inappropriate content; usage controls, which constrain the usage of these devices such as placing time-limits on usage or forbidding certain types of usage; computer usage management tools, which enforces the use of certain software; and monitoring , which can track location and activity when using the devices. [3]


Content filters were the first popular type of parental controls to limit access to Internet content. Television stations also began to introduce V-Chip technology to limit access to television content. Modern usage controls are able to restrict a range of explicit content such as explicit songs and movies. They are also able to turn devices off during specific times of the day, limiting the volume output of devices, and with GPS technology becoming affordable, it is now possible to easily locate devices such as mobile phones.

The demand for parental control methods that restrict content has increased over the decades due to the rising availability of the Internet. A 2014 ICM survey showed that almost a quarter of people under the age of 12 had been exposed to online pornography. [4] Restricting especially helps in cases when children are exposed to inappropriate content by accident. Monitoring may be effective for lessening acts of cyberbullying within the internet. [5] [6] It is unclear whether parental controls will affect online harassment in children, as little is known about the role the family plays in protecting children from undesirable experiences online. [7] Psychologically, Cyberbullying could be more harmful to the victim than traditional bullying. [8] Studies done in the past have shown that about 75% of adolescents were subjected to cyberbullying. [9] [10] A lack of parental controls in the household could enable kids to be a part of cyberbullying or be the victim of cyberbullying. [11] [12]

Parents have access to 100% free online platforms to control the websites that their child goes on by restricting it or controlling the content that they can view.


Behavioral control consists of controlling the amount of time a child spends online, or how much the child can view. Psychological control involves parents trying to influence children's behavior. [13]

Several techniques exist for creating parental controls for blocking websites. Add-on parental control software may monitor API in order to observe applications such as a web browser or Internet chat application and to intervene according to certain criteria, such as a match in a database of banned words. Virtually all parental control software includes a password or other form of authentication to prevent unauthorized users from disabling it

Techniques involving a proxy server are also used. [14] A web browser is set to send requests for web content to the proxy server rather than directly to the web server intended. The proxy server then fetches the web page from the server on the browser's behalf and passes on the content to the browser. Proxy servers can inspect the data being sent and received and intervene depending on various criteria relating to content of the page or the URL being requested, for example, using a database of banned words or banned URLs. The proxy method's major disadvantage is that it requires that the client application to be configured to utilize the proxy, and if it is possible for the user to reconfigure applications to access the Internet directly rather than going through the proxy, then this control is easily bypassed. Proxy servers themselves may be used to circumvent parental controls. There are other techniques used to bypass parental controls.

The computer usage management method, unlike content filters, is focused on empowering the parents to balance the computing environment for children by regulating gaming. The main idea of these applications is to allow parents to introduce a learning component into the computing time of children, who must earn gaming time while working through educational contents.

Lately[ when? ] network-based parental control devices have emerged. These devices working as a firewall router use packet filtering, DNS Response Policy Zone (RPZ) and Deep packet inspection (DPI) methods to block inappropriate web content. These methods have been used in commercial and governmental communication networks. Another form of these devices made for home networks has been developed. These devices plug into the home router and create a new wireless network, which is specifically designed for kids to connect to. [15]

Parental controls on mobile devices

The increased use of mobile devices that include full featured internet browsers and downloadable applications has created a demand for parental controls on these devices. Some examples of mobile devices that contain parental controls include cell phones, tablets, and e-readers. In November 2007, Verizon was the first carrier to offer age-appropriate content filters as well as the first to offer generic content filters, recognizing that mobile devices were used to access all manner of content from movies and music to short-code programs and websites. In June 2009, in iPhone OS 3.0, Apple was the first company to provide a built-in mechanism on mobile devices to create age brackets for users that would block unwanted applications from being downloaded to the device. In the following years, the developers of all major operating systems have presented in-built tools for parental control, including Linux, [16] Android, Windows, and even the more business-oriented platform Blackberry. [17] There are also applications that allow parents to monitor real-time conversations on their children's phone via access to text messages, browser history, and application history. An example of one of these is TrendMicro [18] which not only offers protection from viruses, but also offers parental controls to phones and tablets of almost all brands. Most of these offer the ability to add extra features to parental controls. These apps have the features mobile devices already have, but have additional features such as, being able to monitor and filter texts/calls, protection while surfing the web, and denied access to specific websites. Applications of this sort have created a rising competition in their market. [19]

Mobile device software enables parents to restrict which applications their child can access while also allowing parents to monitor text messages, phone logs, MMS pictures, and other transactions occurring on their child's mobile device; to enable parents to set time limit on the usage of mobile devices; and to track the exact location of their children as well as monitor calls and the content of texts. This software also allows parents to monitor social media accounts. Parents are able to view posts, pictures, and any interactions in real time. Another function of this software is to keep track of bullying. [20]

Most internet providers offer no-cost filtering options to limit internet browsing options and block unsuitable content. Implementing parental controls and discussing internet safety are useful steps to protect children from inappropriate information. [21]

Although parental controls can protect children, they also come with some negative factors. Children's anxiety may increase due to parental controls. [22] In extreme cases, a child may become so angry that they destroy their device, defeating the purpose of parental controls entirely. In that case, it might be a better idea to forgo installing parental controls.

Methods to bypass parental controls

Several methods of bypassing parental controls can be used.

Filtering that occurs outside of the individuals computer (such as at the router) cannot be bypassed using the above methods (except for 'Incognito/InPrivate' modes). However,


While parental controls have been added to various electronic mediums and have increased in popularity, the question has been raised if they are enough to protect and deter children from exposure to inappropriate material. It has been speculated by researchers that the strict focus on control may hinder a child's ability to learn self-governing skills and restricting the growth of open communication between parent and child. [26] And while some argue that it provides the child a sense of care and concern from their parents, parental controls can also create a lack of trust between the parent and the child. In rare cases, they may actually trigger an emotional breakdown where the child breaks their device as a result of being unable to finish what they are doing before their device locks.

Video game systems that have used parental controls

Violent video games

If parents correctly manage the use of age-appropriate games for children, they should not worry about their behavior. Restrictions on video games can help children and adolescents form a positive and healthy relationship with games, which would result in video games being used with great results. For example, according to Tobias Greitemeyer, “playing prosocial video games increases helping behavior and decreases aggressive outcomes. Likewise, playing cooperative team-player (relative to a single-player) video games increases cooperative behavior”. [27] With the right video games children could develop positive skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, planning, and strategy. In addition, for those children who suffer physical or mental problems, the parents could provide them some special games that could help them as a treatment in their partial or total recovery.

Operating systems with parental controls

Below is a list of popular operating systems which currently have built-in parental control features:

See also

Related Research Articles

Content-control software, commonly referred to as an Internet filter, is software that restricts or controls the content an Internet user is capable to access, especially when utilised to restrict material delivered over the Internet via the Web, e-mail, or other means. Content-control software determines what content will be available or be blocked.

Proxy server Computer server that makes and receives requests on behalf of a user

In computer networking, a proxy server is a server application or appliance that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from servers that provide those resources. A proxy server thus functions on behalf of the client when requesting service, potentially masking the true origin of the request to the resource server.

In computer security, a DMZ or demilitarized zone is a physical or logical subnetwork that contains and exposes an organization's external-facing services to an untrusted, usually larger, network such as the Internet. The purpose of a DMZ is to add an additional layer of security to an organization's local area network (LAN): an external network node can access only what is exposed in the DMZ, while the rest of the organization's network is firewalled. The DMZ functions as a small, isolated network positioned between the Internet and the private network .

Internet security is a branch of computer security specifically related to not only Internet, often involving browser security and the World Wide Web, but also network security as it applies to other applications or operating systems as a whole. Its objective is to establish rules and measures to use against attacks over the Internet. The Internet represents an insecure channel for exchanging information, which leads to a high risk of intrusion or fraud, such as phishing, online viruses, trojans, worms and more.

Ad blocking or ad filtering is a software capability for removing or altering online advertising in a web browser or an application. This may be done using browser extensions or Other methods.

A web accelerator is a proxy server that reduces web site access time. They can be a self-contained hardware appliance or installable software.

In computer networking, egress filtering is the practice of monitoring and potentially restricting the flow of information outbound from one network to another. Typically it is information from a private TCP/IP computer network to the Internet that is controlled.

OpenDNS Domain name system provided by Cisco using closed-source software

OpenDNS is an American company providing Domain Name System (DNS) resolution services—with features such as phishing protection, optional content filtering, and DNS lookup in its DNS servers—and a cloud computing security product suite, Umbrella, designed to protect enterprise customers from malware, botnets, phishing, and targeted online attacks. The OpenDNS Global Network processes an estimated 100 billion DNS queries daily from 85 million users through 25 data centers worldwide.

Microsoft family features, is a free set of features available on Windows 10 PC and Mobile that is bundled with the Windows 10, Home edition operating system. On the 17th of July 2020, Microsoft released Microsoft Family Safety on Google Play and App Store (iOS) as well. Starting in Windows 10, a Microsoft Account is required to use the Microsoft family features. A parent can manage settings for a child if both of their Microsoft Accounts are in the same family. When parents turn on settings for their child, these settings are applied to every device that the child logs into with that Microsoft Account.

Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is a technical standard for accessing information over a mobile wireless network. A WAP browser is a web browser for mobile devices such as mobile phones that use the protocol. Introduced in 1999, WAP achieved some popularity in the early 2000s, but by the 2010s it had been largely superseded by more modern standards. Most modern handset internet browsers now fully support HTML, so they do not need to use WAP markup for web page compatibility, and therefore, most are no longer able to render and display pages written in WML, WAP's markup language.

Accountability software, or Internet accountability software, is software which monitors and reports Internet usage, in order to incentivize the avoidance of any content deemed objectionable. Accountability software may monitor Internet use on a personal computer, or Internet use by a specific user on a computer. These software applications then generate reports of Internet use viewable by a third party, sometimes called an accountability partner. It sometimes also doubles as content-control software.

Net Nanny

Net Nanny is a content-control software suite marketed primarily towards parents as a way to monitor and control their child's computer and phone activity.

Norton Family

Norton Family is an American cloud-based parental control service. Norton Family is aimed at "fostering communication" involving parents and their children's online activities. Computer activities are monitored by the software client, and reports are published online.

Mobicip is a cloud-based Internet filter and parental control service that works on all major platforms of mobile Internet devices. Mobicip is supported on various types of devices used by families such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Windows, macOS and Chromebook. Mobicip was launched in 2008. Mobicip used to be a safe browser app but is now a VPN on iOS & Android that filters any browser. Mobicip is a parental control application that protects internet, regulates screentime, allows/blocks apps and tracks location as well, while allowing parents to customize the configuration and view activity reports. Using the web-based or mobile applications, parents can customize the filter to set up whitelists and blacklists, block categories of websites, and manage users and devices. In addition, the application lets parents monitor the Internet activity on the device, group the activity by user, by allowed or blocked websites, sort by time etc.

Internet censorship circumvention is the use of various methods and tools to bypass internet censorship.

Securly American web filtering software provider

Securly, Inc. is a venture-backed student safety & device management software provider headquartered in the Silicon Valley. Securly was founded in January 2013 by former McAfee network engineers Vinay Mahadlk & Bharath Madhusudan, and former lead designer from Citrix Systems Nikita Chikate. It was registered to transact business in California on July 19, 2013.

The precise number of websites blocked in the United Kingdom is unknown. Blocking techniques vary from one Internet service provider (ISP) to another with some sites or specific URLs blocked by some ISPs and not others. Websites and services are blocked using a combination of data feeds from private content-control technology companies, government agencies, NGOs, court orders in conjunction with the service administrators who may or may not have the power to unblock, additionally block, appeal or recategorise blocked content.

mSpy brand of mobile and computer parental control monitoring software

mSpy is a brand of mobile and computer parental control monitoring software for iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. mSpy monitors and logs user activity on the client device.

Internet Matters is a nonprofit organisation, based in London, England. It was set up to help parents keep their children safe online.

DNS over HTTPS (DoH) is a protocol for performing remote Domain Name System (DNS) resolution via the HTTPS protocol. A goal of the method is to increase user privacy and security by preventing eavesdropping and manipulation of DNS data by man-in-the-middle attacks by using the HTTPS protocol to encrypt the data between the DoH client and the DoH-based DNS resolver. By March of 2018, Google and the Mozilla Foundation had started testing versions of DNS over HTTPS. In February 2020, Firefox switched to DNS over HTTPS by default for users in the United States.


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