Protecting kids online: Gnome Nanny on Ubuntu

By   |  June 10, 2010

Anyone who has children will know that it doesn’t take them long to get the hang of using a computer and, as soon as they can read, they’re ready to hit the Internet with a vengeance. But while the Internet is an awesome place for kids to learn and play it is also full of undesirable content and unsavoury characters.

Which makes it difficult to not worry about what they are getting up to and what they are looking at online. At the same time it is hard to always be around when they are on the computer and watch their every online move. Particularly if they jump onto the computer the moment your back is turned.

Which is where Gnome Nanny come in. Gnome Nanny is an Ubuntu/Debian application that makes it pretty straightforward to create rules for each of the users on your machine to limit the time they can use the Internet or the sites that they can view. You can install Gnome Nanny on Ubuntu by adding this PPA to your repository: https://launchpad.net/~guadalinex-members/+archive/ppa

To do this use the following in an open terminal window:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:guadalinex-members/ppa
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install nanny

Users of other distributions could download the source code from the Gnome Nanny and give that a try.

Installing Gnome Nanny adds a “Parental Control” option to the Administration menu. Opening that gives the screen below which lists all the users on the system and the various controls that can be added to them. I have user accounts for my children on my Ubuntu machines and I ensure that the screen locks when I am away so they have to use their own account to log on.

In the Gnome Nanny control panel the administrator can set a number of parameters. Among these is which hours of the day they can use the Internet or which sites they are or are not able to view. You can also add a list of blacklisted sites (http://projects.gnome.org/nanny/data/nbl/nanny.nbl) to automatically filter sites for a range of criteria.

Gnome Nanny’s not going to solve absolutely every online threat facing your children but it does make it a little easier to control a good portion of them.

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