AOL Makes Parental Controls Available for Free to All Online Users

AOL says its Parental Controls software is now available to all Internet users at no cost. AOL Parental Controls are designed to give parents the tools they need to help protect their children from inappropriate or dangerous online material. Easy-to-use features of the software include standard age-based access controls, as well as specific controls on IM and chat, online timers, and e-mail reports on their children's online activities. In addition, AOL offers an Internet Access Control feature that prevents children from bypassing protective features on broadband-connected computers.

Among the features of the free AOL Parental Controls service:
- Age Controls: AOL offers an age-appropriate online experience with standard settings for kids (ages 12 and under), young teens (13-15) and mature teens (ages 16-17), which can be customized and enhanced by the parent.
- Web Unlock: This feature lets parents easily customize Web filters to allow or block individual sites based on what they think is appropriate for their children.
- IM Controls: Parents can block their children from sending and receiving AOL instant messages, or they can decide who can send their child instant messages, and whether or not they can use enhanced IM features like video, voice and file sharing.
- Chat Controls: Parents can block their children from AOL chat rooms or limit them to chat rooms that are monitored. (Chat rooms for children and teens on AOL are continuously monitored by staff members on AOL's internal enforcement team.)
- AOL Guardian: Parents can sign up for an automatic e-mail "report card" which lists every Web site their children visit or attempt to visit, as well as the screennames or e-mail addresses of the people with whom their children exchange e-mails and IMs.
- Online Timer: Parents control the amount of time, number of hours during the day, or even days of the week that their child can go online.
- Access Controls: If using a broadband connection, parents can download Internet Access Controls to prevent their children from bypassing AOL Parental Controls by using other Web access software.

A study released last December by AOL and the National Cyber Security Alliance found that most parents with children in the home do not use parental controls software. The survey revealed that only 20% of parents with children under 18 in the home had parental controls software enabled on their computers. There is no cost or obligation to download or use AOL Parental Controls. To ensure that the person setting up the Parental Controls is the adult in the household, however, users need to provide a credit card for age verification during registration. AOL Parental Controls works with Windows XP (Home & Professional) and 2000, and requires approximately 128 MB of spare disk space.

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