Usability features such as “Fail Safe Mode” (which lets you boot up in a step-by-step manner, selecting which drivers load) and “Task Manager” (which lets you disable any process or task running) can allow a child to easily disable parental control software. Disabling these features is possible on some operating systems but that creates a reliability and usability tradeoff.
There are various hardware/software combination products, network routers, Internet Service Providers that offer parental control solutions for monitoring or limiting computer and Internet use. Product with a software component (including web browsers), carry the same risks as I have described above. Network routers can be bypassed, defeated, or as I have seen in my clinical work, bypassed easily by connecting to an insecure neighbor’s wireless network. Further, network based products only restrict Internet/on-line use of the computer. There are products that claim to provide computer time limiting by controlling the power to the monitor or computer through card readers or programmable electronic timers. Since the vast majority of monitors use the industry standard removable power cords, the child can simply unplug the cord at the display and replace it with another one.
The PC Moderator : Comprehensive Solution
My experience working with adolescents and their families with problems related to excess computer use led to the development of the PC Moderator. I found that only an external, hardware-only device could help parents effectively limit excess computer use. For it to be effective, it needed to have features specific to parents of teens and operate completely independent of any software running on the computer. It must not send any keystrokes such as passwords to the computer and must contain its own time clock and settings. It must not require the installation of any software or drivers to operate. It must securely lock and cannot be removed even when the computer case is opened. It must be capable of being setup on one computer then installed on the child’s.
During its one year product trial in over 50 homes (customers paid full retail for the product), the PC Moderator has been demonstrated to be effective even when all other parental control hardware and software products have failed. Not one PC Moderator that customers purchased and installed during this trial was returned, even though we offered a full money back guarantee! In 2006, PC Magazine awarded the PC Moderator the coveted Editor's Choice Award. In the product review, the editor stated that it was "best such tool I have come across".
Children’s Partnership (2004) The parent’s guide to the information superhighway. Retrieved from (http://www.childrenspartnership.org/pub/Safety/safety1.html)
Gottesman, B. (2006) A hardware solution in the software-dominated world of parental control. PC Magazine (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1948981,00.asp?kc=PCRSS02129TX1K0000530)
Microsoft (2004) Are your kids addicted to the Internet? (http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/children/kidwebaddict.mspx)
Jesdanun, A. (2003) Kids will find web controls easy to beat. TechnoFiles. Orange County Register. Technology, 13.