[For non-techie parents who have a computer at home and are worried about their kids safety online.]

A mother recently wrote saying she is very concerned that her young children are spending too much time on websites like Orkut, MySpace and Facebook.

Her worries are not just about children wasting time on the Internet – it’s more about the activities that children are doing on these sites. She is concerned that children could be interacting with complete strangers (or online predators) and even sharing personal information.

And with some news reports saying that criminal activities could have been planned on Orkut, the mother has finally made up her mind to restrict access to Orkut and some other websites on the home computer.

The only problem is that she has absolutely no clue about how to block websites – parental control software like Net Nanny or Norton Internet Security are pretty good but they cost money.

Now before you take this extreme step of blocking website (that is very likely to be opposed by children), try a few things:

  1. Educate your children about the dangers of sharing information online with strangers. Family members should talk in detail about privacy and the web.
  2. Place the computer in the living area of your home from where you can easily see the screen so you’ll have some idea about activities that children are doing on the computer including the websites they are visiting frequently.
  3. Orkut is an open social network – that means you can easily see who’s in the friends’ list of your children and what kind of text notes (or scraps) are they exchanging with each.

Finally, to block websites on your home computer without investing in expensive software, here’s the trick (for Windows PCs):

Step 1: Click the Start button and select Run. Now type the following text in that Run box:

notepad c:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts

Related: Edit Files as Administrator

Step 2: You will see a new notepad window on your screen containing some cryptic information. Don’t panic. Just goto the last line of the file, hit the enter key and type the following:

127.0.0.1 orkut.com
127.0.0.1 facebook.com
127.0.0.1 myspace.com

Save the file and exit. That’s it. None of the above sites will now open on your computer.

You can block as many websites as you like with the above technique. If you want to remove the ban later, open the same file as mentioned in Step 1 and delete the above lines.

Pretty simple but remember, our children are also very smart. And there are some popular ways to unblock websites.