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Internet Filters are more important now than ever. One of the very first things to make its way to the Internet was pornography and other offensive content. Because pornography companies are privately held, nobody knows for sure how much revenue the porn industry generates. However, estimates range from $5 billion to as much as $97 billion per year, with a social cost much higher than that.
It might be surprising to know that websites displaying porn get more traffic than Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter combined. Every week there are thousands of new porn sites created, with a nearly uncountable number of porn sites today. The best internet filters can block these sites, because this is a problem that is not going away anytime soon.
Tuesday, January 19th
NetNanny, owned by ContentWatch, has a long history of blocking unwanted content on the Internet. Debuting in the 2001, NetNanny filtering software has kept pornography at bay on family computers for over a decade. Over a million customers worldwide trust NetNanny to protect innocent eyes from violent, profane, and pornographic content. CyberPatrol, another once-popular filtering software, was bought by ContentWatch and made part of NetNanny.
If you have only one device to protect, NetNanny charges $39.99 per year which only includes Mac and PC and not Android or iOS devices. You can save money on yearly Family Pass plans if you protect up to 5, 10, or 15 devices, each of which supports iOS and Android mobile devices. For 5 devices it costs just $59.99 per year instead of the full price of $199.95 if bought individually. For 10 devices, you pay $89.99 per year. And for 15 devices you pay just $119.95 per year.
NetNanny's "No Hassle" billing setting automatically renews your subscription. If you don't want automatic renewal, simply turn that feature off and you'll get a reminder to renew your subscription. If you need a refund of an auto-renewal, you have 90 days within which to request it.
System requirements are at least Windows Vista, Mac OS X, Android 2.3, or iOS 8. 64-bit Mac 10.13 "High Sierra" is not yet supported.
The software includes a simple web-based console to administer user settings and see reports about all your protected devices. The software includes parental controls, internet filtering, time management, profanity masking, alerts and reporting about a child's online activity, remote administrator controls, and individual user profiles. You can customize user profile settings for each family member and there are unlimited user profiles on each computer.
Internet filtering with NetNanny keeps up with changes on the web using state-of-the-art technology that previews the content of any website in real time. In contexts that are ambiguous, such as when studying for an anatomy exam at school, NetNanny's filter can figure out when a bodily term is used in a scientific or medical context and allow the user to view the content.
If unwanted content in website advertisements is a problem, the software can detect and block that content on-the-fly. Profanity shown on a web page will be masked while the remaining words can still be shown. And if anything safe is miscategorized and blocked as unsafe, the administrator has the ability to make an exception in the settings as well as report the false-positive to NetNanny support.
Social media is one category of filtering that is not mentioned on the NetNanny site. A bit of research revealed that the social media filtering feature has been taken offline while it is fine tuned for re-release at a future date.
Parents who want to manage their children's time on the Internet can use NetNanny's time management feature to limit how long their kids are online on each day down to the half hour. There are reports of the total number of web pages blocked and warned for the week, top blocked domains, a list of web site categories blocked, and alerts for your license and subscription status.
NetNanny also provides an accountability feature. If a family member struggles with a content addiction, their accountability partner can see a report of what they browse and intervene when a problem arises.
NetNanny's remote management feature gives you the ability to change profile settings, check usage reports, and block content wherever you or the controlled devices happen to be.
Support is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Mountain Daylight Time via phone or email. They promise to complete responses by the end of the next business day. If you want to try self-help options, there are plenty, with separate FAQ sections on the website for every operating system, passwords, downloads, business solutions, and returns. Their helpful knowledge base is a good tool to use when researching problems. There is also a newsletter if you want to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings with the software and filtering in general.
ContentWatch, the company that publishes NetNanny software, is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau, but they do have an A+ rating. A review of the complaints and ContentWatch's responses shows that they are responsive and are handling the complaints in an acceptable manner, including refunds, when the software doesn't meet the needs of a user.
NetNanny continues to top the heap of internet filtering products available today. The price is both affordable and competitive and it has good support and robust features. The NetNanny product name has longevity and brand recognition that shows it has made critical improvements over time.
You may recognize the name McAfee from the familiar anti-virus software installed on most new computers. You may have even purchased and configured the Safe Eyes software McAfee publishes to help you filter and monitor your kids' activities online.
Safe Eyes is available for Windows, iOS and Android devices. Mac OS devices seem to have been left out of their offering at this time, which is unfortunate since Mac is becoming a more popular platform than Windows for family computing.
You can get the mobile app for $9.99 per month, billed monthly. Or you can buy the Windows-only $8.33 per month plan, billed annually. We found the name and pricing a little confusing because another McAfee website advertised McAfee "Safe Eyes" and the cost at $49.95 per year for up to 3 computers, but with no Android or iOS available. The alternative was $69.95 per year bundled with McAfee Antivirus for up to 3 computers, this time with Android and iOS included. The difference in name and price and which platforms were available at each price was a little baffling.
There is a 30-day money-back trial available if you want to see whether it will work for your family.
Safe Eyes lets you see each device's activity, including websites and applications accessed as well as the device's current location and places where the child used its check-in feature. So, for example, if your child is away from home going to the movies with friends, you'll get an alert when they arrive.
If you have a need to set rules and timeframes for access on a device, website, or app, you can use pre-defined age-based rules and customize them based on each child's needs. If there is any kind of exception needed for a particular rule, you can allow your child to request extra app time or access blocked apps or websites.
Don't be surprised if you're confused as you try to figure out what Safe Eyes offers. When we reviewed the website, we found a three-column list of features which said the ones common to all platforms include:
However, we found that some of the iOS-only features it lists are "checked" on the three-column list. A link on the page specifically for iOS devices noted that the experience on Windows and Android devices differs from iOS because iOS is more advanced. For example, on iOS you can use "geofencing" to define "places" to send automatic notifications when your child arrives at or departs from the geofence. But those features are also listed for Android and Windows. On iOS you can be alerted in an activity feed when a child tries to uninstall Safe Eyes or disable features, but Windows and Android also show a list of installed apps for each device. The truly iOS-only features seemed to be reports of time usage limit violations on texting, phone or other apps that aren't blocked by Safe Eyes and seeing the last known location of your family member's device.
Support is available only via a McAfee general support portal website for all its products and not just for Safe Eyes. That site presents a lot of self-help and community-based options up front, but buries the contact Support button below the scroll line. On the direct contact page there is yet another list of categorized support options, now including social media, but, again, the "submit a case online" link is buried below the scroll line. That link only leads to a simple contact form where you submit your description and then wait for the page to refresh showing you a button to initiate chat. The page claims support is available 24/7. We were able to connect with chat in about 2 minutes. But an inquiry into the confusion of features on different platforms took about 20 minutes to complete, with the representative having to check with a higher-level team twice to get the correct answer.
McAfee has three listings with the Better Business Bureau, two of which are the same, but only one customer review, no accreditation and no rating. The one customer review was a complaint about not having authorized automatic billing. There was no response or resolution from McAfee. On iTunes, the iOS app enjoys a 4.5/5 star review with lesser-starred reviews complaining of kids being able to hack the app and turn everything off, too much difficulty in configuring it, and lack of comparable features on iOS as on Android. Another major review site gave it lower marks for being expensive, not available on Macs, and no web-based interface
Due to the confusing nature of the features list, a long support chat with an unknowledgeable support person, and problems with kids being able to hack the app and turn it off, our rating is lower than the overall iTunes Store rating. But the software might still be of good use for most users who already have McAfee products and want the convenience of adding Safe Eyes to that subscription set.
Qustodio software is for families, schools, and businesses. It provides internet filtering protection, time limits, and reporting on user activities. There is a 30-day trial
The administrator can set time limits on every device for how much time on the internet is allowed every day. Location tracking capabilities ensure you can see a map of where your child's Android or iOS device is (iOS only). If a phone call comes through that is on a filtered list, it will be blocked, and you can track who your child calls most often (Android only).
The extended reporting module shows you a full usage history over the past 30 days of activity. Facebook monitoring is available to see which photos are being uploaded, what status updates say, and who their friends are. If apps and games are a problem, you can decide which ones will not be allowed and which can be used and when.
If a child experiences any sort of trouble while away from you, they can tap an "SOS" button on an Android phone that sends a location-based alert. To see who a child texts the most you can see their Android phone contacts list, read the SMS messages they send, and create a list of blocked contacts.
To get support, just click the "Help" link on the website to search by keyword or access categories of typical help topics. To contact the support team about a problem you need to log in and provide the issue information.
To run Qustodio, you'll need 1MB of RAM, 1.6GB of free disk space and a moderately fast CPU. It runs on Windows XP (Service Pack 3) or later and Mac OS X Mavericks (10.9) or later. Qustodio works on all major browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Edge), iOS 9 or later, Android OS 4 or later, and Kindle OS 4.0.3 or later. It does not work on Chromebooks or Windows phones.
One user who reviewed the software after using it stated that the iOS premium version doesn't offer any further functionality than the free version does and that it does not limit how much time a child spends playing non-internet games. On the positive side, another user stated that it is great for moms, especially if they're single or divorced, just for the peace of mind that comes with child tracking capabilities alone. The developer has responded to only a few concerns people have expressed.
Qustodio currently has an unaccredited profile and an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau because of failure to respond to 3 complaints users have filed against them.
We can only rate Qustodio with three stars at this time. Even though the screenshots and reports seem very intuitive and the software looks to be easy to use, the low rating of the iOS app and unanswered complaints at the Better Business Bureau and in iTunes App Store reviews caused us to rate them lower than we otherwise would have.
Verity Parental Control software, available for Windows PCs only, is able to block programs or websites that you designate as potentially or actually harmful. You can track usage of all websites visited and applications used and take screenshots at various intervals to see what is going on with your child's usage.
Verity also includes monitoring online chatting (via screenshots), setting daily time limits for the whole computer, an application, or a website, and customizing restrictions for each user based on their login.
You can access usage reports via a password-protected online portal or through automated emails. The trouble with the Verity setup is that it's not a named website, but an IP address of the machine, with Verity installed, that is being monitored. You have to enter its IP address and port number in a browser to access that computer's monitoring. It's not very intuitive for the average user to figure out the first time, but the URL can be bookmarked for later.
Managing the screenshots and log data is also not intuitive as you need to log into the monitored machine and traverse its Windows folders to deal with individual files.
Verity has the ability to count keystrokes and mouse clicks per application, though it's not made clear on the vendor's website the purpose of counting keystrokes and mouse clicks.
Verity is only available on Windows, but is supported on XP up to Windows 10.
NCH Software, the maker of Verity, has an accreditation with the Better Business Bureau and an A+ rating. But, even though NCH appears to be addressing its customer complaints, its customer reviews could be better at only 3.5 stars.
Our opinion of this software is that the way it is built is out-of-step with modern applications, requiring the user to know how to use Windows directories and remember where files are stored, as well as using obscure, difficult-to-remember IP addresses and port numbers to access the monitoring interface. The software could use a good modernization before it will qualify for a higher rating.
PC Tattletale markets itself as computer monitoring software that is simple to install, records everything a user does, and lets you view their activity in detail, even remotely.
PC Tattletale seems to cater to two types of purchasers: employers and families. For employers, the draw would be to watch every detail of every activity the employee does on the computer, without the employee being informed of the monitoring. This way, an employer can see whether the employee is looking for another job, stealing, following instructions, taking longer breaks than usual, browsing unapproved websites, playing games, or watching videos when they ought to be working.
For family users, PC Tattletale lets parents monitor their kids to see if they're being cyberbullied, playing too many video games, watching violent or pornographic YouTube videos, starting secret profiles and sharing inappropriate photos, as well as seeing who they're chatting with and sending email to.
The approach PC Tattletale takes is reactive. It has nothing to do with filtering (to prevent inappropriate activities before they occur) and only focuses on catching someone in the act and addressing the problem after the fact. While this may be the preferred approach of some families and employers, the approach is rather fear-based. There are a lot of good reasons to choose internet filtering and monitoring software that is not based on fear alone.
In researching this software, we wanted to know more from a pre-sales perspective about how the software actually functions, which options are available, and troubleshooting steps should something go wrong. Most software vendors have a support or help section that explains these things to anonymous visitors. PC Tattletale has this content available only to users having accounts and not people casually browsing their website to educate themselves before buying.
After signing up for a free account, which includes 7 free days of monitoring, we were able to find a little more support and help information as well as set up a device for free. Devices supported include Windows, Android or Kindle, and iPhone or iPad. Mac OS computers were not supported. For the free trial, some features are disabled until you upgrade.
The account overview screen shows the plan selected, days available of recording time under the trial, account identity information, and a button to close the account. A dashboard screen shows which devices have the software installed.
Once the software is installed, the user will not see the name "PC Tattletale" anywhere on their computer. The most they'll see is a reference to "Security Services", which seems fairly routine and innocuous to most users. For the administrator to be able to remove the software, they must run a removal tool which exposes the true location and name of the software for uninstallation.
Viewing activity remotely is just a matter of signing into the PC Tattletale members area online. You will see a screen split into two sections: a video and a bar graph showing click activity throughout the day. It also records keystrokes and displays them in a video overlay as they occur. This is potentially a privacy and legal concern for employees who have, whether for personal reasons or as a matter of their job duties, entered sensitive health information into their computers during the workday as they set doctor appointments or deal with health insurance information.
It appears that installing the software does leave certain traces in the user's Microsoft Edge browser such as cookies, browsing history, and cached data and files, and the setup file that must be deleted manually when uninstalling the software.
Once you have a paid account, you'll be able to take advantage of live monitoring and GPS tracking features.
Other questions we had, like whether the software works with multiple browsers or only with the decreasingly popular Microsoft Edge browser, remain unanswered by the support materials.
We have several concerns with this approach to monitoring, especially in absence of any filtering capabilities. Because PC Tattletale is reactive rather than proactive and has no options for filtering based on keywords or URLs, we suggest you look to other vendors if you want to build relationships of trust with your computer users or prevent unwanted behaviors proactively. However, it may be that there are situations that call for reactive exposure of a user's behaviors. Corporations may want to think twice about using this software for legal reasons and may even want to block it for security and intellectual property reasons so as to prevent non-authorized users from installing it on other employees' computers and spying on them.
The iProtectYou Pro Web Filter product landing page appears quite dated by modern website design standards and the site as a whole has a few spelling and grammatical errors, so it is hard to discern at first glance whether the software has been abandoned or is still a functional and useful tool.
Digging deeper into the software changes list, we found that the latest 8.8 version changes were dated September 21, 2011. It is hard to imagine that any Internet filtering software can go so long without some type of bug fix or content filtering criteria update.
Nevertheless, the site offers a 14-day trial and 30-day money back guarantee with free technical support. If, in spite of the apparent lack of updates, you want to try it to see if it works for you, be sure to contact support first and ensure that they are still in business and are available to help you.
Due to the outdated changes list and the old design of the site, this software is not recommended. Look to another, higher rated vendor.
Fortunately, internet filter programs exist to keep objectionable content away from innocent children. These programs each have a unique way of dealing with this difficult challenge.
There are a number of factors to consider when shopping for an internet filter. Some of these include:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best internet filters available today. We hope this information helps you protect you and your family right away!
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