What Is a Computer Filter?

By Michael Marcus

The natural parental impulses of wanting the best for our children, and wanting to shield them from inappropriate influences, come into serious conflict on the Internet. There's a tremendous amount of information available online, information that children can use to learn their way around the world. There's a tremendous amount of dubious material online, as well as spyware, adware and computer viruses. As parents and Internet users, we need to know how to keep the harmful spam at arm's length without compromising the benefits of the World Wide Web.

Computer Filter Software

Computer filters are software programs designed to protect a computer system. They come in two main varieties: parental control filters, which block access to sites or categories of sites from a particular computer, and anti-virus filters, which prevent malicious software from infecting the protected computer. Filters are must-haves for anyone with Internet access; they can prevent computer viruses from stealing personal information, and they can help parents keep inappropriate content away from kids.

Features of Computer Filters

Computer filter programs are especially useful for parents. They can block websites, monitor email traffic, block file sharing or chat systems, and even limit the length of time of an Internet session. Most filters come with default settings that are very good at blocking access to pornographic sites. Parental control programs also allow the system administrator to monitor all Internet traffic on the protected computer.

Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software is a type of filter that specifically blocks harmful computer viruses, spyware and adware. Anti-virus programs can be active filters, preventing the transmission of viruses to the host machine via the Internet connection, or they can be passive "cleaning" programs that detect and remove viruses after infection. The most effective anti-virus setups are combinations of both.

Kid-Specific Browsers

In addition to filter software, parents can use "kid browsers" as an extra layer of both monitoring and protection for children's Internet use. A kid browser, like KidZui, sets up an Internet browser on the computer. The parents get an account, with subaccounts for the kids. Kids can access the Internet through the browser, and will only be able to access approved sites. While filter programs allow everything except what is blocked, a kid browser blocks everything except what is permitted, giving parents greater control over what the child sees.

Choosing the Right Protection

Most computer filters, anti-virus programs and kids' browsers are fee-for-service based, meaning you'll have to either buy the product or sign up and buy a membership account to use it. Smaller free versions are frequently available, but they will not provide as effective protection as the full purchase or membership. The better known filters, like Net Nanny, have been widely reviewed online and have their own websites. With the variety available, it's easy to find the product that offers the right protection for the right price.