Sent to you by Chris Hunter via Google Reader:
I don't have children, nor do I expect (or want) to have them anytime soon. However, as a kid who grew up in the Internet age, I know how easy it is to get around web filters. As a matter of fact, my main vice was getting around the school "protection" system, and with a variety of methods to choose from, it was a little too easy.
You may say to yourself that you've installed the finest web filter available, and I'm sure that it's a solid piece of work. However, no filter is impenetrable, and the truth is that the only 100% complete protection against the Internet is no Internet. Alas, we can't just get rid of the web, can we? (You'd probably have the same success hiding nude models in library books on photography.)
Instead, maybe we can at least explore how filters are bypassed. Below are a few common ways that your children can get around them.
The first method of getting past the school filter that I ever discovered was a web proxy. In-browser proxies like these essentially act as middle men who let you access the outside web. If you go ahead and search Google for them, you'll probably find dozens. With that said, there isn't really an effective way to block them. All your child has to do is type in the URL of the website they want to go to in the web proxy's search box, and they will be sent to it without a hitch. In layman's terms, proxies allow for the viewing of a desired website through another website's server.
But let's say you have somehow managed to sit down and block all the URLs for every single web proxy in the world. (I'll be the first to say that you can't, but I'm aware that there are some obsessively dedicated parents out there…) Well, it is possible to create a proxy on your own. It takes a little technical know-how, but there's a great article on how to do it right here on MakeUseOf: How To Create Your Own Proxy Server In Minutes
Using the IP address of a website in the navigation bar can get you where you want to go, too. Unless you've blocked the specific IPs (or are using a bit of software that handles it for you), this is a possible way of getting around filters. Personally, I've tested it, but I learned that most filters can block it. However, there's a method other than simply typing it in the browser.
For instance, you can create a text file, type in the IP address, save the file with a .html extension, and voilá – the site is perfectly accessible simply by clicking the file.
Disabling Internet Filters
One of the easiest methods of getting past Internet filters is by disabling them! Yep, sometimes it's that simple. Whether it be going to your browser's plug-ins or checking out the control panel of your PC, it can be done. Granted, you may have a third-party application which has a password protection, and this is more secure, but not perfect.
Utilizing Another Browser
Personally, I keep a filter for myself to block distracting websites (Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) solely when I'm working or doing research. However, the problem is that the filter is in my browser, and it's easily turned off. As I mentioned before, it's not hard to go into my Chrome extension settings and to just click disable.
But let's say I was a more desperate 12-year-old kid who doesn't know how to do that. Well, I could easily switch over to Firefox, Opera, or even Internet Explorer. Your ethics may not agree with this, but chances are the history is available in these browsers. If you have no issues with spying, you may want to check it.
People don't really care about their passwords. We use our family dog's name, our street and house number, and even our grandmother's birthday. Every single one of these items is totally guessable, and even if you think your password is like a steel door that blocks the evils of the Internet, it probably isn't. I'd suggest is using a combination of numbers, letters, and a lot of them. If you want a completely unique password, check out this article from the directory: Passwordgenerator.net: Create Strong, Random Passwords That Are Harder To Hack
Breaking Out The Mobile
Sure, you may have placed a filter on the family computer, but have you taken a look at your child's smartphone, tablet, or iPod? This is where personal Internet access is going these days, and while you may be confident in your PC's protection, you can't always be sure about your child's mobile device. There are mobile Internet filters, but I cannot personally attest to any of them. See what's out there, and hopefully, you find one that's solid.
Using A Media Console
The Internet is really available on anything and everything, isn't it? Take your Xbox 360, Wii, or even your Smart TV. All of these are capable of accessing the Internet via on-screen browser. Yes, it's a bit more of a hassle, but it's possible to look at all kinds of sites through these means. I highly doubt that your child would resort to this since these devices are usually placed in areas where people commonly are passing through, but you never know.
How To Handle It
I've already established that it's very hard to block the Internet. Although you may use one method of prevention, there's always going to be another way to circumvent Internet filters. Rest assured, my intentions are not to stir up fear or create hopelessness whatsoever. Personally, I think the problem lies elsewhere.
Maybe, just maybe, today's generation of parents are relying way too much on technology to babysit their children.
I'm not bashing parents, guardians, or adult mentors at all. But I do think that simply taking something away doesn't teach a child not to use it. Sure, you may have prevented certain activities for now, but most children will grow curious over time. If you are really concerned about the future of your children, then why not look toward it?
Perhaps you could work on building relationships with your kids. This way, your children can trust you enough to know that your decision to block certain sites is a good one, and they will voluntarily stay away from it even when other options are presented before them. This helps strengthen integrity, and it also opens the gateway to gradually explain things as they get older.
On a more extreme method of action, you could always just ditch the filters, have an in-depth discussion, and lay out the harms of certain activities on the Internet (like pornography addiction). Once again, this builds integrity, but it also establishes a certain level of cooperative trust. By doing this, you aren't sending your child out into the wild. Instead, you are merely helping them learn to walk safely while in the forest.
(This isn't to say there aren't just some totally bratty children who will access certain sites. Parents, I know you do everything you can – sometimes there are just kids who are tough to deal with.)
Human nature is to fight authority regardless of who it is, and whether you are using an Internet filter to block websites or trying to instill a positive parent-child relationship, it's not going to come out perfectly. There will always be rocky roads, so don't be too hard on yourself (or your kids).
How else have kids figured out how to circumvent Internet filters? What other methods of Internet filtering do you use? Have you opted to not use filters and trust your children?