Review: Webroot’sChildsafe Internet Monitoring and Filtration
been said that the dangerous neighborhoods of the city of Los
Angeles are even more dangerous than their counterparts in New
York, not because they are any more inherently dangerous, but
simply because they don’t appear to be so. Hazardous neighborhoods
in this city make themselves immediately obvious as such. The
Palm trees and perpetual sunshine of the West Coast often seem
to disguise what would be readily apparent in our urban environment.
To me, that’s a valuable metaphor for the Internet. While being
a powerful tool for education and enlightenment, the Information
Superhighway can be just as much of a threat as the most dangerous
sections of our city. Unfortunately, due to its multimedia-oriented
presentation, as well as the typically non-threatening situations
in which the technology supporting it is accessed, like the California
Southland, the Web can mask the hazards it may manifest.
What can a parent or teacher do to help deal with this problem?
The answers in the past have been double-edged. The standard formula
for security on the Internet has been filtration, either by pre-packaged
software, or by utilizing so-called “family sites,” which do a
censor’s job for them and only allow previously-approved content
to be accessed. But this solution also causes about as many problems
as it solves, and it does not even solve those problems well.
Because of the exponential proliferation of adult or child-unfriendly
sites, keeping filters current is an extraordinarily time and
resource-consuming challenge, which even full-time workers cannot
completely meet. As many articles in education trade publications
have already testified, the same software filters often actually
prevent legitimate uses, robbing classes of the benefits of our
school’s technological investment. A standard program which indiscriminately
blocks any site that contains the conceivably inappropriate word
“breast,” may make it impossible to research health care, romantic
poetry, or medieval lore.
Webroot Software’s Childsafe offers an alternate approach. The
Childsafe utility acts as a monitoring function. Operating silently
in the background, the program collects information about the
Internet sites and facilities that the monitored system visits
and uses, and provides reports which clearly display usage. After
receiving the program CD, I was able to install the software in
approximately four minutes, and in less than 10, I was able to
get a system usage report, which startled me with its comprehensiveness.
The report screens quickly gave me complete information on the
trial Internet run I made on my laptop, including URLs, screenshots,
analysis statistics, and even keystrokes entered. In addition,
Childsafe also possesses a basic filtration capacity, blocking
any selected URL from use.
By making clear that any and all Internet functions can and will
be monitored, and blocking specific known inappropriate sites,
teachers and system administrators can effectively ensure voluntary
complicity with existing usage guidelines. And, the capability
to establish violations certainly and accurately is the key to
implementing informed discipline. With a minimum of installation
hassles and a very reasonable price, Webroot’s Childsafe v5.0
will help New York City schools reap the benefits of the information
technology we have already plugged in.
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