What is it?
Parental control means that parents can choose certain settings to restrict what their child can see or do while on the internet, or when gaming or watching pay TV such as Foxtel. It can also refer to blocking software that filters content from the internet.
How does it work?
A number of companies involved in gaming, media and the internet have recognised that they provide a lot of content that is not appropriate for children, and so have provided parental control options which are usually well labelled. These settings allow parents and guardians to define what can and can't be seen or done.
As well, some internet sites, especially search engines and those with large online communities with thousands of games, applications and other material, and millions of images, such as on Flickr, allow you to set search settings (often referred to as SafeSearch), which usually turns off adult content. These are not always reliable, however and so you may also want to use blocking software.
Many countries have an official review process to determine if content is appropriate for the entire community, or needs to be restricted, such as for children. In Australia, most gaming and media content is rated by the Classification Board (G, PG, M, MA15+, and above) which helps parents make decisions about what is appropriate viewing for their child. The ratings system also helps shops restrict game sales to certain ages and for cinemas to restrict audiences by age.
Why is it useful?
Parental controls are just one of the many ways parents can restrict content for their children.
What do you need to keep in mind about your child and parental controls?
Generally, parental controls also include passwords and other ways to make sure that they can only be changed by the parent or guardian. However you may want to discuss with your child that parental controls protect them from inappropriate and unsafe content, and are not to be tampered with or changed in any way.
Because parental controls and blocking software are not always fool proof, you may also want to encourage your child to tell you if they see offensive or upsetting material as this may help you to refine some settings, especially through blocking software.