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Modern Parenthood

Chrome browser's parental controls could be a game-changer

Google Chrome's 'Supervised Users' option could offer parents a more efficient way of monitoring children's viewing habits, eliminating the need for third-party parental control software.

By Contributing blogger / October 23, 2013

Google Chrome's 'Supervised Users' option could change the landscape of parental controls.

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Are new revisions to the Google Chrome browser the future of parental security options on computers?

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Contributing blogger

James Norton got his professional start at the Monitor as an online news producer, before moving over to edit international news during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since leaving the Monitor in 2004, he has worked as a radio producer, author, and food blogger. 

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While parental monitoring and surfing restriction software already exists (this PCMag.com rundown gives you a nice overview; this more recent techradar writeup has a program-by-program rundown), the Chrome "Supervised Users" option would bring into the mainstream the ability for parents to limit and/or monitor their kids' browsing habits to an extraordinary degree. By bundling the power to regulate kids' browsing with the browser itself, it obviates the need to research and install third-party solutions, which brings the practice of parental Internet monitoring another step away from the realm of tech-savvy activists and toward general practice.

In a nutshell, the Supervised Users option in Chrome would let parents create secondary user accounts for their kids governed by a parental administrator account. Kids would log in to their own account (which would have its own parent-tailored settings and permissions based on their age, behavior history, and the parent's parenting style) and browse. The new software allows both "whitelists" and "blacklists" of sites: the former creates a world of approved sites that the browser could go to, with everything else off-limits; the latter creates banned sites (with everything else approved for browsing by default.)

But the key to the effectiveness of the new software is, like so many things, dependent on having active and involved parents. There really is no off-the-shelf solution that instantly fixes the Internet for kids – it takes time and energy to create blacklist or whitelist sites; it takes time and energy to review those sites periodically and expand or contract your kid's online universe appropriately; and most critically in the case of the new software, it takes time to review your kids' browser history to look for patterns and get a sense of how they're using the Internet.

For some parents and some kids, it might be enough to offer general guidelines and just review the browser history every week or two; for others, a carefully curated whitelist might be the best way to ensure productive and safe use of the Web.

Handled with the light touch of an observant parent, Chrome's new parental controls could help usher in a new era of safe (OK: safer, or "semi-safe" might be a bit more accurate) surfing for young people.

Of course, this is all well and good until your kids install a secret browser. Or use an unsecured computer at their friend's house. Or penetrate your administrator account with keystroke software or old-fashioned espionage. The cloak-and-dagger dance of parenting and children's mischief waltzes onward...

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