With the rising popularity of smartphones and iPads, many people have almost constant access to the Internet. While it can be a benefit, that access can also be a stressor for people wanting to keep certain content out of the wrong hands.
"The chance that we could ever filter everything is probably slim to nill," Click Rain partner Eric Ellefson said.
Ellefson deals with the contents of the world wide web on a daily basis with is work at Click Rain. He says the best way people are able to keep certain things on the Internet out of sight is by using a filter, an option used to block anything it's told to block.
"At their core, they look at key words, and they look at a specific set of sites," Ellefson said.
Filters can be programmed to keep viruses away and key in on individual websites.
"You can say I want to filter the type of content that I'm showing on YouTube on this particular device, and you can lock that down and put a password on it the same way you could with any device," Ellefson said.
Parents are the most likely ones to use filters as they try to keep their kids away from any indecent material online. Businesses also use filters to make sure the Internet is being used for work and not for play.
Filters on electronic devices seem like a sturdy safety net for anyone wanting to keep certain things out of view, but that same safety net could actually be a bad thing if the filters are removing beneficial sites from use.
Some filters can be too good at what they do.
For example, Ellefson says if someone wanted to do research on breast cancer, that could be hard to do if certain filters are put in place.
"If you just look at the top level, the word 'breast' can start to filter out a very relevant site, say, the American Cancer Society, because it has that type of key word in it," Ellefson said.
Filters can also go the other way and not catch everything.
That was one of the issues parents in the Sioux Falls School District were concerned with when their students brought home Chromebooks this year. The filters on those devices worked effectively, except for when it came to the Chrome Web Store.
The district was able to block the downloading of any inappropriate material, but those pictures were still available to view, something Ellefson says is out of the district's control for now.
"The developers at Google or at Apple, they have, ultimately, the control over what they will allow to be filtered and what will not be filtered," Ellefson said.
That is something that the developers are slowly allowing groups to control at a local level.
Out of all the talk about the power of technology filters and what they can and cannot block, what could work even better is a simple conversation.
"It should never be a replacement for open communication and just open dialogue with the dangers that are out there online," Ellefson said.
That may be the way to filter out the distractions and emphasize the importance of ideal Internet use.
Ellefson says that people finding ways to get around filters is becoming more of an issue as more people become experienced with technology, but he says that only proves that filters cannot replace a conversation about Internet use.