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Back to School

Are there parental controls for the laptops my school sends home with kids?

Most one-to-one programs (wherein each kid gets a laptop or device) include all the software and hardware students need to do their work, and they can't be customized with specific parental-control features, though you can ask if they come with built-in controls. (Learn more about best practices from Common Sense's comprehensive 1-to-1 Essentials Program.)

If the device doesn't come with preinstalled parental controls, content will be filtered through the school's network when your kid is on campus. But once the device is at home, that's not the case.

Your best bet may be to install an Internet filter on your home network that's similar to the one used by the school. We (and many schools) like the free service offered by Open DNS. Open DNS blocks sites at the router (the device that connects your home machines to the Internet), so inappropriate content never enters your house.

Meanwhile, use the school laptop as an opportunity to help your kid learn to regulate his or her own computer use. Parental controls are one tool to help your kid resist online distractions, but they aren't fail-safe.