As a mom trying to raise my teens to be morally strong in a toxic culture, I welcome all the help I can get.
Thanks to Adam Thierer -- a former Heritage Foundation scholar and currently a senior fellow with The Progress & Freedom Foundation -- I've got a handy new guide to essential tools to assist in the battle for my kids’ souls. It’s called “Parental Controls and Online Child Protection.” Whether we’re talking about TV, the Internet, movies or video games, Thierer’s report shows that you have options beyond escaping to a cabin in the woods (which sometimes seems your only recourse as you wade through today’s omnipresent pop-culture sewage).
Let’s start with TV. Most people are aware of the “V-Chip” and similar features that allow parents to filter TV programs by rating. (For those unsure of how to navigate such tools, Thierer suggests www.thetvboss.com, which offers tutorials on how to program V-Chips.) However, not everyone knows you can block individual channels and lock them with a password. There are also several tamper-proof “TV time management” devices on the market that allow parents to set limits on how much time is spent watching TV. You can even buy a special remote for children (a “Weemote”) with large, simple buttons that parents program to access only approved TV channels.
Parents, as I’ve written before, can learn more at the Web site of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. NCTA affiliates provide free parental controls to customers who request them. Just log on to ControlYourTV.org. I have the controls on my digital-cable access, and I love being able to block programming based on rating, channel or other criteria.
And were you aware that you can get a system for your TV that filters out profanity? Seven million Americans use “TVGuardian” boxes to keep crude language out of the family living room. Parents can also check a range of good Web sites (including “Plugged In Online,” which I’ve recommended before) that offer detailed reviews of movies and other media. Many sites grade on specific content, so you can make an informed judgment about whether a particular show is right for you and your family.