Of the various perils that face the intrepid contemporary web explorer, one of the greatest is the one faced by parents: what are their children looking at and who are they communicating with online?

There are several standalone parental-control products available, as well as the settings built into internet security suites such as Norton and McAfee. Over the following pages, however, we'll be looking at a new initiative that provides free monitoring and blocking software.

K9 Web Protection is aimed at "the first generation of internet parenting". Some of its site-blocking and time-controlled features are available in Vista, but K9 is particularly impressive because of the way it integrates with your browser.

At its most basic, K9 will prevent particular types of sites, such as those containing adult content, from loading. The administrator can overrule these permanently or for a set time period if necessary.

More importantly, K9 is able to restrict the times of day at which the web can be accessed, all through an easy-to-use web interface.

A great deal of control is available for customising options such as restricted keywords. Filtering takes place by matching entries against one of 60 categories. The database is stored on the Blue Coat servers and operates very quickly, without you having to download any data to your own PC.

But K9 has potential beyond the protection of children online. Perhaps better referred to as web-filtering software, this package can also regulate how the web is used (or rather, misused) in the workplace. In this instance, K9 is a valuable tool for enhancing productivity.

A family-friendly web

1. K9 Web Protection is free to use, but you'll need to get a licence key from the website. Click the ‘Get K9 Now' link, then enter your name and a valid email address. Your key will be sent to this email address, enabling you to continue setup.

K9 Web Protection: A family-friendly web - Step 1

2. Different versions are available for Windows 2000, XP and Vista, so be sure to choose the correct download link. During installation you'll be asked for an administrator password: this is essential for you to monitor and make changes to settings. Once it's installed, restart your PC to begin automatic protection.

K9 Web Protection: A family-friendly web - Step 2