Internet filtering: What is it, and how does it work?

What is internet filtering?

Internet filtering is a way of restricting what sites, apps or services certain users can access on a web-connected device. It is sometimes also referred to as ‘content control’.

For example, employers might restrict certain sites from being accessed via work computers such as social media. Parents or carers might want to stop children from accessing certain material while they browse online, or may want to restrict them from making purchases. Schools often also use internet filtering in the same way.

Filtering can be implemented on a range of devices. This is especially relevant for those concerned about children’s internet use. According to a recent report called ‘EU Kids Online’, for most children across Europe, smartphones are now the preferred means of going online, with the majority of children reporting using their smartphones daily or almost all the time.

Keyword filters

Keyword filters allow an administrator to stop users from accessing sites related to certain words – for example, a school may want to stop students from accessing sites related to adult themes such as pornography or extremism.

Block and allow lists

If there are certain sites you don’t want users to access you can add these to a blocked list. For example, you may wish to stop users accessing a certain gambling site or social media platform. Or, you can create an ‘allow’ list, which enables users to access those sites only, and not any others. For example, you may want to restrict a device to only be able to access news sites or company web pages.

Email filters

It is not just sites that can be filtered for specific content. Email filtering can be used to protect against spam and scam emails.

Program filters

You may also want to restrict certain programs or apps from being downloaded. Sometimes a user might inadvertently download malicious software designed and deployed by cybercriminals. Program filters can help protect against such downloads.

How to use internet filters

You don’t have to be a tech wizard to use internet filtering tools. For example, most internet service providers now provide easy-to-use filtering options on home broadband connections.

This can be especially helpful for parents keen to keep their children safe from inappropriate content. A number of apps are also available that can help parents monitor, track and control the time their children spend online. You can find out more about how to set up parental controls on different devices here.

It’s not just parents who might want to use filtering to ensure a safe and positive experience online. For example, some people might use content filtering to help them to spend less time on social media or to limit impulsive online shopping.

For other tips on how to ensure a positive online experience for you and your family, you might find the following articles useful:

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