Parental control software reviews
McAfee Family Protection
This standalone McAfee suite allows controls to be tailored to each child in the family, but takes considerable time to set up.
The blocking tools offer impressive flexibility. You can ban access to all YouTube videos or only those with “inappropriate content”, for example.
Email can be approved by client or contact, webmail can be blocked, and information sent via social-networking sites tracked. On top of this, there are time-limit restrictions available by time of day or total duration allowed.
Our teenage tester was thwarted from accessing porn via Google Images, nor could he perform searches for sexually-explicit material. Diverting via his list of favoured proxy browsing sites was no help either – impressively, they were all blocked.
Five stars out of six
Having been disappointed by the “family pack” add-on for Norton Internet Security 10, OnlineFamily.Norton proved a surprise hit. It gives parents remote access to reports and configuration from any net-connected device, and works by installing a monitoring app on each PC your child uses.
Filtering categories are impressively granular: rather than having a catch-all “adult” category there was one for lingerie, sex education and pornography.
We also liked the ability to monitor web access without blocking, or to give warnings, but grant access (with the child fully aware parents would be informed of the visit). Best of all, it totally defeated our teen testers. No porn via Google Images, explicit search words or proxy servers made it through, while the white-power sites were all blocked.
Six stars out of six
Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2010
Like most full-blown security suites, Trend Micro Internet Security Pro 2010 comes with parental controls switched off. Once enabled, there are options to block by age-related categories, which makes setup fast unless you want to further customise the settings for a particular child – which you probably will.
The high setting, for example, blocks all sites unsuitable for children under the age of 13, and rather harshly includes “games” as a category by default.
It didn’t take long for our teen testers to bypass the controls. The “teen” profile claims to block access to adult content, but our tester found hard-core porn via Google Images. He also managed to access the “Extreme Violent Racism” of a white-power website, even though the settings said “hate/racism” content was blocked.
Two stars out of six
Windows Family Safety
The Windows Family Safety controls are built into Vista – all you need to do is activate them, which is where the problems begin. The choice of web restriction levels is sparse: the default of medium blocks “unratable content” (whatever that might be) along with mature, pornography, drugs, hate speech and weapons categories.
Parents we spoke to were concerned that it stated “not all content in these areas can be blocked”.
The high setting blocks all content apart from that specifically approved for children, without mentioning age, and there’s a huge difference between acceptable content for a five-year-old and a teen.
Our teenage tester was unable to search for sexually-explicit content via Google. Unfortunately, it didn’t prevent him from using proxy servers nor accessing Google Images through them.
Three out of six