Though nothing beats human oversight when it comes to monitoring your child’s Internet activity, it doesn’t hurt to get some help from security applications. Fortunately, there are some really great browser extensions and add-ons out there to aid you in your monitoring as we all know it’s difficult to be over your child’s shoulder at all times.
In the past I’ve recommended that parents use Internet Explorer as it has better parental control options than Mozilla Firefox; however, Firefox is becoming increasingly popular among the younger crowd, and unfortunately it lacks any useful parental controls other than integration with the parental controls on your operating system.
So I did some research and found a useful extension that parents can add to their Firefox browser.
ProCon Latte: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1803
Once you download this extension and restart Firefox, you can start changing the settings by going to Tools=> ProCon.
- From my experience, ProCon doesn’t allow you to customize the settings when you have a custom theme installed on your Firefox browser. I had to go back and use the default Firefox theme so that I could configure the settings the way I wanted to.
The first thing you want to do is set a password. This ensures that you, and only you, have access to the settings. Setting a password is important because anyone who goes to Tools can easily uninstall or disable ProCon.
THE GENERAL TAB allows you to customize how users see the ProCon tool.
- Hide it from the Tools menu altogether so your child doesn’t even know it’s there. If you decide to do this, the way you (the parent) access ProCon is by going to Tools=> Add-ons=> click on the Extensions tab=> ProCon Latte Options button.
- You can also prevent a user from having the option to disable or uninstall ProCon. If you choose to check this box, the only way to reverse it is to follow the same steps mentioned above.
- You can also enable “Right-click Options” which basically lets you “allow or block” certain websites as you come across them during your own browsing time.
THE MAIN FILTER TAB allows you to choose how you want to filter the content that you choose to filter.
First off, make sure you check the box, “Enable Explicit Material Filter”, otherwise it won’t block anything.
Additionally, you can add custom warning messages that pop up when a restricted website is visited. You can also redirect blocked websites to a website of your choice, as you can see above, I chose Yahoo.com.
The presets area allows you to choose between ProCon’s presets of secure, moderate, or light. I recommend the moderate setting if you decide to go with a preset. “Secure” blocks every website that isn’t on the Whitelist (details coming up), which works fine if you have a very young child who you want to limit to a few websites and nothing else. Moderate takes into account all of the settings that you’ve applied, as well as the blocked words and websites that you list. This gives the user room to freely browse the Internet but still restricting them from explicit content.
I tested this out, and it works wonderfully. But keep in mind, when making these changes, in order for them to take effect you have to restart Firefox. A couple of times I made a change and had to restart Firefox a few times before they took effect, so just a heads up, you might have to be patient with it at times, but it works nevertheless.
THE WHITELIST TAB works mainly with the “Secure” setting described above. You can add specific websites that you want your kids to have access to. When paired with the Secure setting on the Main Filter tab, any website NOT on this list is automatically blocked.
THE PROFANITY FILTER TAB allows you to block (or replace) certain profane words on websites.
All you have to do is add the word to the list and tell ProCon what word to replace it with and you’re set.
I tested this feature out as well. It works, but I highly recommend that you add all of the words that you want completely blocked to the Explicit Material Filter and not rely on the Profanity Filter to block explicit words or websites.
There are other extensions that parents can download, but one of them, Glubble for Families, is a bit confusing to set up. The other, FoxFilter, claims to be “THE Parental Control for Firefox”, but after I installed FoxFilter, it asked me to register so that I could get the “premium features”, which apparently is the only way to set a password. In order to get these premium features you have to pay a yearly fee of $9.99 or $14.99, something I wasn’t planning on doing especially since most of the features in FoxFilter are identical to the features in ProCon Latte.
If you know of any other useful extensions or add-ons for Firefox, please, feel free to comment and share with others. Then again, if you don’t feel like dealing with extensions and add-ons, Internet Explorer is a great browser for parents.