Windows XP / Networking

Use ISP Restrictions

Several ISPs offer built-in control features for children. In this section, overview of the restrictions available from popular ISPs.

MSN parental controls

At MSN, the parental control categories are the following:

  • Teen which provides access to IMs and most of the Web
  • Preteen which has some restrictions on Web access, as well as limits on e-mail and IMs

Young child Within each age category, parents can adjust IM settings as follows:

  • No Access, which blocks all use of Microsoft Messenger
  • Restricted Access, which allows IMs from people on the child's contact list (parents can approve the child's contact list)
  • Full Access, which has no restrictions

MSN also has a parental control that lets you block file downloads. In addition, MSN will e-mail reports to parents about their children's activities. The reports don't include the text of the child's conversations, but they will tell you which Web sites were visited and the online identity of everyone the child communicated with using MSN Messenger and MSN e-mail.

You can enable the recording of online IM conversations. Sign into your child's account, choose Tools → Options, and then click the Messages tab. Select Automatically Keep a History of My Conversations. Because this setting is within the child's account, not a parental control, your child can disable it if he or she realizes it is enabled.

The parental control settings apply to MSN software. MSN lets you control the use of other browsers, but it does not let you stop your child from using non-Microsoft IM programs.

AOL parental controls

If you use AOL, filtering does not take place via the AOL browser; filtering is built into the user's screen name. When you create a username for your child, you can designate an age group. Your choices are Kids Only, Young Teen, Mature Teen, and Unrestricted Access (intended for the parents). These categories determine to what extent AOL filters Web content and activities. Although some of the settings can be customized, the following describes the default limitations:

  • The Kids Only category blocks instant messages.
  • The Young Teen category provides IM access, but blocks the ability to exchange files.
  • The Mature Teen category limits chat features and Web surfing, but permits all IM features.

You can use the Parental Controls feature to restrict e-mail so that kids can send or receive e-mail from only a selected group. You can also control when and for how long your child can log in to AOL. This is a good way to manage teenagers who seem to spend too much time online.

Limits imposed by the parental controls for AOL apply only to features built into the AOL software. Most children figure out that they can launch the “real” browser instead of the browser built into AOL. Kids also figure out how to sign up for IMs outside of AOL (such as Microsoft Messenger). To resolve these problems, you can turn on AOL's Internet Access Controls, which prevents the use of non-AOL software.

Comcast parental controls

For cable broadband subscribers using Comcast, a wide set of parental controls is available. (Incidentally, since Comcast has been buying other broadband services, such as AT&T, you may be a Comcast customer soon.) Comcast's parental controls include the following features:

  • Web site content filtering, with customized exceptions.
  • E-mail messages that report visited Web sites.
  • Specific restrictions for each child account.
  • Limits on time of day and length of online sessions.

Other ISPs, such as Earthlink, also provide parental controls. Call the customer support or sales department to learn more about your ISP's offerings.

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