How To Block Self Harm Websites

How To Block Self Harm Websites

How To Block Self Harm Websites
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Pro Self harm websites are unfortunately popping up all over the Internet. One of the platforms where pro self harm blogs is sadly proliferating is www.tumblr.com .

There is very little advice to parents on how to block this content whilst still allowing their child to use the internet for school work and good social networking. So I felt this post had to be written.

To see what is really going on in the dark underside of the internet Google “Pro Ana”  & “AnaBul” and see what comes up, it’s truly horrifying and sad.

Young (mostly) girls who are unfortunately caught up in the horrible cycle of anorexia and cutting and other forms of self harm, know exactly where to go to get “support” for their particular self harm. Pro Self Harm websites and blogs are easily found when searched for in Google or Bing for terms such as “Cutting”, “Pro Ana” (Pro Anorexia) or “Pro Mia” (Pro Bulimia). The first suggestions that come up in search engines are generally for blogs encouraging self harm and hosted on the blogging social network Tumblr. This is despite the promises that Tumblr made last year in 2012 Feb to block and take down such blogs. They also promised to show a help line suggestion when search terms such as these were used on their platform, I found only one of these for one search term. From my search there seemed to be so many of these blogs, clearly Tumblr is not doing their job of filtering these out. Tumblr is not just a blogging platform but includes direct messaging and other interactive enhancements.

Blocking self harm websites, blogs and images from search engines and browsers is very difficult if you want to prevent your child from accessing them. It took me some real ‘Super Cyber Sleuthing’ to do it, and still I’m not sure that a smart teen won’t still find ways to get around these efforts.

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Why Would You Want To Block This Content?

Parents that want to block access to these sites and the images associated with them, are concerned and loving parents desperate to minimise their child’s exposure to this content, because rather than supporting ways to prevent self harm these particular sites are encouraging self harm and almost attempting to “normalise” these sad and horrifying obsessions. Parents may already have had an episode where their child has been hospitalised for self harm. Parents seeking help with blocking these pro self harm sites, want and need to have their children to still be able to use their computers for school work and to be able to use social networks like Facebook, the later particularly so that they don’t feel even more socially isolated.

Should You Block Facebook?

In extreme cases of self harm obsession with a child over 13yrs, (under 13yrs is against the Facebook T.O.S so they shouldn’t be on there.) I would strongly suggest you block Facebook, because self harm pages abound on Facebook and you cannot block them… at all. You can certainly monitor your child’s Facebook behaviour through Social Media monitoring apps, but you cannot filter Facebook content in any way. In preference to Facebook I’d suggest your child use an app like Skype to communicate with friends until she is out of danger. But I know that this may be hard if your child’s friends won’t communicate through Skype.

Spying On Your Child? Trust Issues And Privacy

Normally my cyber safety approach with kids NOT at risk is, education, supervision and open conversation. But parents with children who are actively self harming are often dealing with a life and death situation. Their child is often already being treated for depression, body image issues, and self harm. Privacy and trust need to be earned, and when a life is at risk, unfortunately privacy and trust have to wait until there has been some healing and your child is safe and out of danger.

This Method Isn’t Totally Teen Proof!

The suggestions below may not block all images and sites of self harm, as soon as you think you’ve blocked self harm associated keywords, new ones will be invented to get around blocking. You will still have be quite diligent in keeping an eye on things and adding new keywords to the blocking list as you or your child discovers them. But as far as making it more difficult for your child to access these images and sites, this method should certainly restrict your child’s access to pro self harm material quite a bit.

Note: With all these things, what your child gets up to on another non filtered computer can’t be controlled.

Why Is It So Complicated?

Unfortunately there is no one filter that works, or one magic button. This is primarily because self harm sites are not included in the categories that are built into most parental control settings on computers or in Internet safety software that you can install on your computer or modem. I have some questions of software developers about this issue, I’m still on the trail, why isn’t self harm an included category? This would make it easier in someways to use other Internet parental control software.

There may be other ways to do this, but this is the model I used to help a client block as much self harm content as possible. It wasn’t easy.

Tools You Will Need:

1. www.OpenDNS.com DNS Internet filtering Free Version:

To filter the Internet through your modem across your Wi Fi at home. Useful if your child is using mobile devices connected to the Internet at home

2. www.protectachild.com.au 50c per day. A monitoring software for Social Media.

If you want to monitor your child’s Facebook profile or other social media. This doesn’t block anything but just sends you alerts and a report on your child’s behaviour on these listed social networks. You can put in keywords to send alerts, “Pro Ana” “Diet” etc.

3. www.google.com Google Safe Search: Free: Extra Safety on Google Search

To filter Adult terms. It won’t block self harm sites

4. Parental Controls:

A parental controlled Account either Windows or Mac to block new software being downloaded.

5. McAfee Family Protection. $49.95 for 3 computers:

Filtering Security Software with Keyword Blocking.

6. Adblock for Safari or Google Chrome.

To prevent the preview pane being accessed in search.

STEP BY STEP SET UP TO BLOCK SELF HARM CONTENT ONLINE

Step 1.

Parental-Controlled-Accounts-on-Apple-Mac-150x150Parental Controls:

Set up a parental controlled account on Windows or Mac. This is the account your child will use for now on. It has to have Google Chrome or Safari installed, and other software for her use. Microsoft office, iWork etc.

Enable all programs, to start with.

See my Step By Step Video for Mac Here:

For Windows go to Control Panel – User Accounts And Family Safety – Set Up Parental Controlled Account

My Cyber Safety Manual Has Step By Step guides for Windows and Mac parental controls:

 

OpenDNSOpenDNS : Cloud Based

Set this up through your adult admin account, or your own computer:

If your child has mobile devices connected to your Wi Fi, you need to have a filter on your modem, so that all wireless devices are filtered. OpenDNS will do the job. Sign up for a free account and then follow the instructions to change the DNS settings on your modem so that all traffic that goes through your modem is sent to the OpenDNS servers for filtering. You can set the filter as high or low as you want and black list or white list particular domains. You will want to block www.tumblr.com which has the largest collection of Pro Anorexia and Cutting and Bulimic blogs. You can also block any other websites you don’t want your child to have access to.

Open DNS doesn’t have any keyword filtering however, so it won’t block search terms and keywords that would prevent your child seeing or accessing other “Pro Ana” type websites.

Step 2.

Facebook.

Install ProtectaChildProtectachild : Cloud Based:

A Monitoring Software App For some Social Media Platforms:

Set this up through your adult admin account, or your own computer.

Facebook does have some Anorexia promoting pages and self harm pages, but they are a little harder to find, Facebook are stricter than Tumblr with their filters. However Facebook walls off any filtering software. You either allow Facebook or Block it. There is no filtering within Facebook at all.

You can monitor your child’s Facebook account by adding an app to their account with their permission. One I have trialled is Protectachild. Because of Facebook’s terms of service this app is only supposed to be connected to your child’s account with the child’s permission. This app will send you daily reports on new friends, and reports for particular keywords and search terms used. So you can monitor your child’s behaviour on Facebook.

Note: The child can disable this app at anytime, either by disallowing it to send information to Protectachild or deleting it from their App’s list. There is no adult password protection that prevents this. Your child will have to agree and comply with this monitoring.

Note: Kids might give you access to a “white” Facebook account, but have another hidden account that you are not aware of, perhaps under a “fake” name.

Step 3.

Install McAfee Family ProtectionMcAfee Family Protection: Hardware and cloud based.

Download and set this up through your adult admin account on the same computer as your child will use. Add a new user under your child’s name which will be your child’s settings. Then on your child’s computer login when you first to go to open the browser it will ask you for your child’s user log in details. Make all changes to your child’s McAfee filters on your child’s McAfee user account. You can do this in any browser from the Dashboard. See instructions below

This filtering parental control software is one of the only ones I’ve found with custom Keyword blocking. Most other parental control software as far as I’m aware, only have categories you can block, such as “Drug use”, “Illegal Weapons”, “Porn” ect…and Self Harm fits into none of those categories. On the McAfee Family Protection software you can put in as many search terms/Keywords as you can think of, I’ve included a list of them below.

Set up McAfee Filtering with your own requirements, and add as many of these keywords as you can. I found these through Google Keyword search and through the Hashtag search terms associated with some Anorexia and Self Harm blogs on Tumblr.

#eating disorder · #victorias secret · # vs models · #pro mia · #thigh gap · #mia · #ana · #fitspo #thinspiration #lose weight #thinspo #fitspiration #eating disorder #self harm #suicide #depression #weight loss #ed #depressed #suicidal #anorexic #pro mia #bulimia. bulimic #anorexia #ednos #pro ana #diet #razors #Suicide #suicidal #self harm #Self mutilation #cutter

There’s more…but these terms are enough to get started with. Because some of these words might be included in legitimate websites that your daughter needs to access, you may get a few false positives.

See these guides to help with the McAfee Family Protection set up.

Video Guide: ignore the first 30 secs

PDF Manual from BT Starts Page 10

Other Keyword Filtering Apps: On the Internet browser Google Chrome there is a good keyword blocking extension you can use called Blocksi, but I found it too slow. The entire page has to load before it blocks the page, (it might have been my Internet speed however) your child will then be exposed to the page whilst its loading.

Step 4.

Google Chrome:

Download Google Chrome if you are on Windows. You can use Safari on Apple Mac.

Step 5.

Google Safe Search

Follow the Safe Search Setup I’ve outlined Here: It should help with filtering. This blocks most adult content. It’s a good back up. Works on both Apple and Windows.

Step 6.

Disable Google’s Preview Pane In Search

Google search has a “preview” pane. Although the filters you have set up may prevent the filtered sites from loading, unfortunately when you click the preview pane arrow next to the search result it will bring up the first page of the website you are trying to block! So even though the sites are blocked through McAffee and Open DNS, your child can still see the first page of the website through the preview pane, and even read some of the content. So in order to prevent this preview you need to disable Google’s preview window, in Google Chrome or in Safari. An example of the preview pane, in a search for “Pro Ana”, is shown below.

Google Searches Preview Window
Disable Google Searches Preview Window

Both Safari on Apple Mac and Google Chrome for Windows can have an Extension or Add on called “AdBlock” to block Advertising. This extension will block the preview Window that is visible in Google search on both browsers when installed.

To Install On Google Chrome For Windows: Go to Google Chrome’s “Tools” menu (see picture below) and then “Extensions” and search for AdBlock. Install it as an extension on the Google Chrome browser on your child’s computer Parental controlled log in. Click here for direct link to Adblock.

Enable AdBlock as an extension for Google Chrome
Enable AdBlock as an extension for Google Chrome

Then on your child’s Google Chrome Browser Google a search term and make sure that you cannot access the preview window by clicking the side arrow next to one of the search results. If you can see a preview window, right click on the top right cross of the preview and click “AdBlock”. Then “Block Ad” drag the slider to the right until that preview window is gone.

Block Advertising with AdBlock on Google Chrome Extension
Block Advertising with AdBlock on Google Chrome Extension

Then right click on the Adblock button (as below pic shows) on the top right of the browser and hide it from the browser bar. You can’t lock this button on, but it might be hard for your child to find that you have enabled it…if they don’t know to go into extensions.

Hide AdBlock Icon From Menu Bar
Hide AdBlock Icon From Menu Bar

To Install AdBlock On Apple Mac Safari:

Open Safari Browser – Click on Safari Menu – Safari Extensions . This will open an extensions website. search for AdBlock and install. Once done you can relaunch Safari and follow the instructions as above for Google Chrome. Or go straight here

 

Step 7.

Enable parental controls for programs.

Go into your parental control panel for your child’s computer account either on Windows or Mac, and allow all the programs you want her to use, except Internet Explorer. This is done by selecting enable all, then scrolling down and unticking internet explorer. Once you have saved this. Your child should not be able to download any other browser or program without your permission and admin password.

Step 8.

Clean Up:

Be sure you delete all history from the web browser if you have used their browser to do anything. If you remove cookies from the browser it will turn off McAfee, and you will have to enable it again next time your child opens Google Chrome. Again be sure they log in with their McAfee profile NOT yours.

Mobile Devices:

Use the built in parental controls in Mobile devices. OpenDNS will block various websites and Tumbler. Restrict the apps they download. You can also set up Google Safety settings up through the Safari browser. Instagram is another app where there are a lot of pictures of self harm watch out for that one also.

 

My Cyber Safety Manual has some of these settings and more including Facebook Privacy settings and parental controls.

 

I know some of you reading this will just want to lock up the computer…its just too hard to filter, and I agree! It seems ridiculous to me that in this day and age, that you have to go through all of this just to protect your child from seeing horrible content on a computer. I’d like to see far better filters and parental controls that anyone can use, not just a Cyber Safety Lady.

Contact me if you need help. I did all this via a remote screen sharing software with my last client.

If you have any suggestions for blocking please let me know in comments. Do you know any software solutions?

 

 

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  • You make some excellent points, Leonie. I am normally as trusting as I can force myself to be, but I agree that when your child is at risk for self-harm, it’s a different situation that calls for a different approach. I don’t even see it as taking away privacy or trust – I think we are all entitled to these things – but rather as safety trumping privacy. When your child’s life is at risk, you prioritize.

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