When it comes to a tool that is both useful and dangerous, there is perhaps no greater dichotomy than that of the internet. We live in a world that demands to be connected, and it becomes a necessity for our schooling, our jobs, and even for staying connected to loved ones. The possibilities are vast and exciting, while simultaneously demanding our utmost vigilance to ensure that this tool is used appropriately and in a way that does not allow it to become an impairment in our lives and in the lives of our families.
When looking for protection online there are two primary tools that you will encounter. One of these tools is a filtering solution, which is designed to create a barrier between you and the content that you wish to limit. The other tool is an accountability software, which is designed to promote healthy online habits by fostering transparency between individuals regarding their online activities. These methods are different in their approach, but are certainly not exclusive of each other.
Filtering solutions can come in a couple of different forms. First, it could be a router-level filtering solution, where settings are applied to your router that filter all internet traffic on devices that are connected to that specific router. The second is software-based filtering, which installs on each device individually and filters internet traffic on that specific device only. With each of these methods, when it is detected that an inappropriate website is being accessed, a “wall” is created that prevents the user from accessing that content. Filtering may effectively stop a problem from occurring, however it does not typically provide an avenue to address the root of the issue, which is personal responsibility and integrity of one’s actions and decisions.
Accountability software differs from filtering software in that it does not prevent a user from accessing content or engaging in any sort of activity. The intent of accountability is not to forcefully stop someone from inappropriate activity, but to give them a reason to intentionally choose the path of integrity and take responsibility for their decisions. With accountability in place, there are accountability partners who are designated to receive reports and alerts for a user’s online activity. If inappropriate content is detected by the software, the intent is for the accountability partner to gracefully and sincerely address the problem with the user to promote personal growth. This is a very relationship-driven method of promoting healthy online behavior, and the goal is to also promote a culture of accountability that can extend into other areas of a user’s life as well.
So which method is right for me?
The good news is that filtering software and accountability are not exclusive of each other, and therefore they can be used alone or in combination. We believe very strongly in the power of accountability, especially in the formation of healthy behavior and relationships, and therefore strongly suggest that accountability software make up at least one component of your strategy.
If you would like to incorporate a filter into your setup, check out some of the free options listed below:
- OpenDNS (Router-level filtering)
- Norton ConnectSafe (Router-level filtering)
- K9 Web Protection (Device-level filtering)
- iOS Restrictions (on iOS device go to Settings -> General -> Restrictions -> Websites)
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