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How Parental Controls Work | October 13, 2008

 
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Get in touch with technology with Tech Stuff from howstuffworks.com.

Chris Pollette

Hello, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. My name is Chris Pollette. I’m an editor at How Stuff Works. And today, I have sitting next to me Jonathan Strickland, one of our writers.

Jonathan Strickland

[Inaudible].

Chris Pollette

I suppose I should remove the tape.

Jonathan Strickland

Yeah, well. I was gonna make a great Al sound, but I don’t even actually have tape. That was radio magic.

Chris Pollette

Who?

Jonathan Strickland

Or podcast magic, if you will.

Chris Pollette

Oh, okay. Yes, podcast magic. Well, the reason Jonathan sounded muffled up front was because we’re talking today about parental controls.

Jonathan Strickland

Yes.

Chris Pollette

Although, I’m not his parent.

Jonathan Strickland

No. No, no. Let’s clear that up right away. No, he’s not my long last father. My father is neither long nor lost.

Chris Pollette

He doesn’t happen to wear a big black suit with a mask over his head and wield a light saber?

Jonathan Strickland

Not often.

Chris Pollette

Okay.

Jonathan Strickland

All right.

Chris Pollette

So anyway, parental controls are a subject of much debate simple because let’s get down to the nitty gritty. It’s a form of censorship.

Jonathan Strickland

Yes.

Chris Pollette

About which many people, including Jonathan and I’m probably not gonna sound like it, but I’m an anti-censorship person, but I also have two young daughters, one of which is too young to do any more than drool on the keyboard.

Jonathan Strickland

Right.

Chris Pollette

But recently, I have a kindergartner who’s very computer savvy. I started thinking about that the other day, looked at the Mac OS, and there’s a parental control suite built into the operating system.

Jonathan Strickland

Yes.

Chris Pollette

Just like there is for Microsoft Vista.

Jonathan Strickland

Um-hum.

Chris Pollette

These are really simple solutions. It says, “Turn off the computer at a certain time on school nights,” or, “Only allow them to use the computer for,” and then you get to set it to half an hour, whole hour, three hours, and you get to pick. Those kinds of things, really, okay, not censorship, but you do have some control over how much time your child spends using the computer, and they’re built right into the operating systems, which seem pretty cool.

Now, they also go farther. You can allow them to block dirty words in the dictionary, websites that might be offensive. Of course, you’re relying on somebody else who set those sites up to say, “Go ahead and subscribe to these conventions,” so you’re sort of trusting somebody else to block your websites for you. That’s essentially how it works. I thought, “Well, I would like to limit my kids’ time on the computer,” so I set up a basic set of parental controls. So I’m, so far, pretty happy with it.

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