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The five best free parental control programs

Help keep your kids safe online

Recent research by security firm AVG revealed UK kids aged six to nine years old spend an average of 4.2 hours per week using social networks. The research also nearly half (47 percent) of this age group talk to their friends online but 20 percent have admitted to being bullied online.

This clearly highlights the ever increasing need to educate children on the danger of the web. First and foremost, parents should be discussing with their kids how they can stay safe online. However, for an added layer of protection, it's worth investing in parental controls software that can block access to inappropriate content and . But it doesn't have to cost the earth, here's five free programs that can be downloaded to ensure your kids don't run into trouble

Norton Online Family

Norton Online Family is free software that lets parents monitor the websites their children visit as well as what they search for online and who they chat with. Not only can parents set time-limits for how long their offspring can use the PC for, they can also see their social networking activities and even receive an email report about all of the kid's online activities.

Windows Live Family Safety

Microsoft's free parental controls software, Windows Live Family Safety, is part of its Windows Live Essentials package that includes MSN Messenger and Microsoft's webmail client. Users can block specific sites and applications as well as controlling how long kids can use a computer. For more information on the parental controls software see our How to use Windows Live Family Safety tutorial.

AVG Family Safety

Security firm AVG recently made its Family Safety parental controls software available for free (although there is a 95p donation to Red Cross).
The software allows parents to create profiles for each child, which can be adjusted as the child gets older and as their digital behaviour and habits change. As well as blocking inappropriate content, such as pornographic sites, the software lets uses prevent access to over 80 different social networks including Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.

PGSurfer

Pareto Logic, the company behind PGSurfer, is a Microsoft certified partner. This parental controls software lets parents filter inappropriate content from their kids by offering profiles that can be set-up restricting the types of sites that can be visited. Furthermore, it also lets adults block chat rooms, p2p sharing programs and other apps as well stopping files being downloaded.

K9 Web Protection 4.0.296

K9 Web Protection is a comprehensive parental controls and web filtering package that will keep the whole family safe online.

The program is able to block access to many web sites, according to their category: pornography, drugs, hacking, gambling, hate sites and more. Some pre-defined profiles speed up this process. Selecting 'High', for instance, blocks almost everything and is suitable for very young children, while the 'Minimal' profile is more relaxed, a better option for teenagers.

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