Technofile: Logon Log Locked

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A number of programs, such as Net Nanny, are available for parents who want to block their children's access to websites containing unsuitable material. One criticism of censor software is that it is a blunt instrument, which may deny access to educationally useful sites by imposing blanket bans on words such as "breast". Not all parents feel happy about subcontracting their moral guardianship to a software package, either. Others reject the idea that censorship is the best way to guide their children's activities

Having grown up in Ireland during the era of censorship, Jacinta Cullen heartily agrees with them. Now based in Boston, she and her husband Stanley Wallerstein have developed an alternative. With NetSnitch the names and addresses of sites are stored and the records cannot be changed without a password. Children are free to go where they wish, aware that their parents may question their choices. Principles aside, NetSnitch offers the flexibility that censor software lacks. A child can visit medical sites containing anatomical words, or play online games when the homework is done.