How Kids are Bypassing Porn Content Filters
The pervasiveness of the web is such that anyone, regardless of age, is able to gain access to whatever content they please with little, to no, barriers. It is, by design, the benefit that comes with an open web and the coinciding free flow of information.
There is a dilemma that exists in which we have to ask ourselves - what is the age that warrants that level of freedom and access?
For non-parents, the answer is usually that the freedom is independent of age and that even a child is deserving of this freedom and the right to do as they please on the web. Ask a parent, however, and that it’s hard to find one that would agree that children are ever mature enough to yield that power.
Here at CleanBrowsing we built the service to help parents with this problem, because that there is a flavor of that belief that we ourselves believe in. The challenge is that, children, like the fox in our logo, are sly and constantly finding ways to circumvent the controls we implement.
Three Ways Kids Bypass Porn Filters
No matter how hard we try, achieving 100% will evade us for a long time but we can definitely get smarter together. There are three things we’ve learned over time from our customers, and our own kids, on how kids bypass our controls.
1 - Parents are Technically Naive
The reality is that most parents are not technically equipped, or prepared, to deal with the pace of today’s technological advancement. They are a) unable to understand the various technical aspects of the technology and / or b) incapable of doing so.
Children however, are the complete opposite. They are being introduced to technologies at a point in their lives in which they are best prepared to absorb and understand it. Their greatest asset is the flow of information that happens in their immediate communities (e.g., school, online games, etc…).
The net outcome of this dynamic is that parents might attempt at deploying a control, but often fail at doing it correctly in turn locking the windows but leaving the front door wide open.
Recommended Solution: Parents need to be more patient and invest more time better understanding the mechanics of the web. There is no short-cut to this problem. A great resource to assist you with this is the Protect Young Eyes organization. They have an overwhelming amount of resources, like this page that highlights everything from tools at your disposal to the latest trends in technology.
2 - Proxies and VPN’s
The most common technical bypass childrens use are Virtual Private Network (VPN). These solutions allow a kid to create their own connection to the outside world, which in turn allows them to bypass any controls that might exist on the network. By design, these tunnelled networks have their own rules, and if your kid is using it they do have the ability to see whatever they want unobstructed.
VPN’s, unfortunately, are very tricky to deal with. There are VPN applications that need to be installed on the machine (e.g., phone, notebook, desktop) or VPN’s that get installed in the browser via extensions or plugins.
Recommended Solution: The most effective approach is to restrict your child's ability to install and uninstall applications on their mobile or notebook devices. Too often we have parents that want to deploy solutions on the devices of their kids, but they fail to take the basic steps into consideration - the most effective being roles / permissions.
3 - Leveraging Caching / PDF Sites
One very ingenious approach is the use of caching sites. Caching sites are sites that can function as time machines; they are a way to go back in time and see what a site might have looked like a year ago, 10 years ago.
These types of sites have often been considered benign, but it’s one of the go-to solutions to see pornographic content. Another similar solution is the use of PDF generating sites; sites that allow you to submit a site and they generate a PDF of the page for the user.
Recommended Solution: The most eloquent approach is to use something like a DNS based filter, but you can also add these sites to your blocked domains in most routers.
Safe Browsing Experiences Requires a Partnership
When working to create safe browsing experiences for your kids you can’t approach it looking for a solution that will solve all variables. Doing so will cause you an overwhelming amount of heartache and frustration. What you can do is go into it with a very pragmatic approach.
First, always start by thinking about the permission your child should have on their device. If you give them administrative rights they will be able to undo even the most advanced controls (yes, even if the control has a password). We recommend every parent start here. To help simplify the process, almost all devices have some form of parental control option available.
Second, look at technologies that help you solve for the most diverse environments you can think of. Those that are able to solve for mobile devices, notebooks, but also gaming devices (e.g., switches, kindle’s, etc.) and TV’s. Almost every device you can think of that has an app store has the potential to be used to access less desirable content. CleanBrowsing, a DNS-based content filtering technology was built for this reason specifically, an agnostic solution that is able to filter content based on your needs.
Lastly, be patient. Children are sly little foxes. They are naturally curious and more creative than most adults. There will come a time where no matter the control, they will find a way to circumvent the system. This is natural, and something most parents have a hard time coming to terms with.