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What's a good app to block inappropriate sites from my kids?



We're a Mac family, with an iMac, a Macbook and two iPads. We also have two kids, 12 and 10 that are very Internet savvy. We trust them, and while most of the time they are doing searches with us nearby or with them, sometimes they are allowed to search on their own, certain types of topics or products. This makes me nervous -- I mean, we all know how many millions of porn and sex sites there are out there, and how it's possible to land on images totally inappropriate for a 12-year old with just a couple of quick, erroneous clicks.

But the commercial filter programs out there are really pricey, with monthly costs of around $19 per month. I'm wondering if someone could recommend a good alternative to, say, Net Nanny, that was either free or more reasonable. If so, please write in, whether it's for Mac or for Windows, since Windows users may have the same question. Thanks for any tips.

--Submitted by Jonathan W. of Rhode Island

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Network Wide Protection

I use Norton Connect Safe, a free service provided by the makers of Norton Internet Security. You can find the page explaining it at https://dns.norton.com/. Basically you use a special set of dns settings on your router provided by Norton based on the level of protection you desire. Once setup the portion of the internet that is disallowed virtually disappears from your internal network. I like it because some of my kids are older and will occasionally hack around computer based solutions. Because this solution is on the router and only I know the configuration password, every computer on my network is protected in one fell swoop.

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I second the suggestion from gcoryer and offer another

The response from gcoryer is excellent. I would only caution that a router-based solution is effective if your kids only use their devices in your own home (or in a location where you have control over the wi-fi source). But, as stated by gcoryer, such a solution works for all devices, Mac, PC or anything else that relies on your wi-fi signal.

The downside of using a router-based solution is that it is a one-size-fits-all fix. All children and adults are saddled with the same rules, and these are only effective while in an environment you control. A second possible solution is installation of Parental Filtering software. The one I used for my own children as well as my clients is called K9 (http://www1.k9webprotection.com/getk9/download-software ) which provides FREE solutions for Windows and Macs. K9 software is installed on the actual device and can be customized for each user's age and usage. You can individually control not only the allowable content, but also the times of the day when the device can be used. And because this protection is installed on the actual device, it will work even in cases where the device is used outside your home.

Note: This post was edited by Forum admin to fix broken link

Post was last edited on May 13, 2016 1:46 PM PDT

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Routers do not have to be all or none

Just a quick note - on some routers, you can limit access by filtering per device - usually done by the MAC address of the connecting device. This way - you could limit access to only specific devices. Using this method with the other combinations listed should help. Some routers even have the capability to create an access schedule allowing time slots for access.

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Children don't fear the internet, THEY FEAR YOU.

What a child sees on a screen may confuse them, worry them, maybe scare them, but it is displayed on an inanimate plastic and glass thing.

But is is YOU, the parent, that can strike shear terror on the child!
YOU are in the room, YOU tower over the child, YOU have total power and control.

YOU are the person/object the child fears, not the computer/tablet/TV/radio/newspaper.

Most times simply saying that is not for him to see and direct child somewhere else.
Should child ask then be honest in answer but not detailed. There is plenty of resources to help with topics you rather not talk up, but will have to one day.

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You can cause more trama to child than the internet

Message I am getting at is your reaction to what a child / children see on internet (TV, radio, books, etc) can cause far more trauma and can cause lasting damage to a child's self confidence than anything they may see on internet.

I know it is hard for all of us, but we need to be able to satisfy a child's curiosity, because hiding it from them will only make them more curious to learn why we are hiding it. It is fundamental human nature, and no religion will stop what God created (think about that).

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Disconnect them

OMG you need to just explain to them that there are places they should not go, and if they ever see any sex or violence or anything that makes them uncomfortable, STOP don't click. Come and get a parent to bail them out.

Tell them that if you ever find any trace that they went to any inappropriate place (and they DO know what that means!) and don't come right away and tell you it was an accident that you will take their computer/internet access away, for at least 6 months, and then you better back that up.

I put the fear of MOM in my kids about cable. I gave them a list of things they could NOT WATCH and they obeyed me. I told them it was garbage and they were not allowed to waste their lives on garbage. Hey - it worked! Tell them NO and check up. Trust them until you find you cannot.

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Disconnect them from their homework?

The only problem with a total internet disconnect is that they are expected to have a connection for their school work. Our school system is pretty digital, assignments are done and turned in via their school accounts and the software system running on their school network. Removing their internet access is the essentially the same as telling them they will have no homework for the next six months. Anyone have a good solution for only allowing access to the the school and a couple of internet services they take advantage of?

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Firefox-only browser option

If you didn't have any other Internet browsers, Firefox has an extension available (ProConLatte) which can be configured to use a whitelist only, which is extremely restricted, but at the same time customizable. I've used that before with my brother, actually, who requested it as he had had difficulty with self-control in the past and had squandered tons of time on sites he felt were useless. It only works as long as there isn't access to another browser, though, so it might not work for Windows or Mac users; he was using Linux Mint, which comes with Firefox only by default. He had me give the password to his roommate at college so that if necessary, the roommate could add a new site to the whitelist (which can be done when attempting to access the site, as well as separately in the extension settings). It only works for browser-based things, so instant messaging and other such services would be untouched.

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For what it's worth...

You might want to check your security package for options. I use Kaspersky Pure (now renamed Total Security) and it has a parental control feature that works at a user level. Other packages may have similar facilities.

How easy or tedious it is to set up, I don't know, I no longer have kids at home.

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OpenDns Family Shield

Use OpenDns Family Shield. Just input OpenDns Family Shield nameservers in your router.

Automatically blocks adult content, etc.

It's Free!

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Just a link to OpenDns, for those interested.
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OpenDNS -- but set up the individual machines plus router

Totally agree with OpenDNS -- however, it is better to use the OpenDNS server settings in the Network settings on your computer, not just the router. With mobile computers, when they leave your premises (sleep over, …), they are now using a different DNS for routing. Keep the machine locked to OpenDNS and no worries. Do the home router so that visiting systems are similarly locked down.

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Block at router

I bought an asus router specifically because it can block inappropriate content at a client level.

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Some Free Apps To control and block websites from kids
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just use a parental monitoring app

it's not possible to block innapropriate websites unless you define what those websites are. if you block a sex, video game or whatever site you don't want them to visit they have a million alternatives to choose from. netnanny used to be good one but it's gotten over-complicated, better to use some parental monitoring app. the apps they have now will report all websites they visit so you'll know which ones to block, monitor chats, set times to be off-limits, and make sure no one is contacting them innapropriately. not just pervs, but bullying and other stuff, even on xbox live. they have a lot of reviews for parental monitoring apps at http://remotekeyloggers.net - i used net nanny but would no longer recommend it, i couldn't even teach my wife.

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Depends on the Age of your kids

The first step is to talk to you kids and explain to them your house rules of appropriate Internet activity. For many kids that will be all you need. Next you have the issue of kids inadvertently getting to site that shows them more than they should see or the issue of kids that want to see what they shouldn't ( forbidden fruit ). That's where the software can be useful. Parental Control software is easy to find. The Windows OS has Parental Controls, the Mac OS has Parental Controls. Every maker of virus software has Parental Controls built in or as an additional add on. I've tried most of them and they all are effective for the limited use case. By that I mean a child under 11 that wants to ( or inadvertently) surfs to somewhere they shouldn't be. I must say that this software ( and I don't care who makes it) is about 85% at best. Things will slip by and you will pull your hair out trying to figure out why. Or they will start crashing the computer for no reason. I eventually switched to OpenDNS and I found that to be more like 95% effective and since it is on the router it never impacts the normal operation of any device ( other than block sites). I said under 11 because after that if they want to get around your blocks they will. The internet will have youtube videos on how to get around the internet blocks. Computer saavy kids at school will tell them how to get around blocks. I thought I had the answer with OpenDNS because the configuration was on the router. But guess what there exist an otherwise useful piece of software called VPN software that is great for protecting computers when connected to public Wi-Fi but this same piece of software will make a computer's activity invisible even to a home router. Don't count on your teenager being unable to load software because they don't have local admin privileges. There is software all over the net to get around that also. So what do you do. Talk to you children, explain the rules and consequences, use Parental controls if you like. Realize that after a certain age if they want to comply they will, if they don't, they won't and you can't stop it.

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no way to stop all

the reality is, there is absolutely no way to stop inappropriate sites from kids. No matter how much software you have, no matter how much you spend, if the kids want to go to inappropriate sites, they will find a way. One of the biggest problems with parental software is they will not work on all sites AND they will prevent kids from doing their homework by blocking some sites they need. It is a catch-22.

Best thing to do is to monitor their usage. If your router has the ability to keep logs, turn them on. Watch the computers internet history. If they delete it, see if your antivirus or antimalware software has the ability to keep logs of what was blocked.

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Not only if they search, even when NOT searching kids see

Even on the most mundane item I do a search for, there is images parents would freak over.

Understand that images and videos have a name, and that name could be anything. Sometimes I am looking for a part number, and images completely different from what I want show up.
Then there are the Meme's that take once "safe" images and turn them into a very unwanted image.
(Not to mention how many Disney films have very violent scenes, nearly every Disney movie shows death).

In short, stop thinking its only hate sites (ISIS) and porn, it is far, far, FAR more than just that.

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Take care

I'm in the UK where, due to a "voluntary" agreement between the government and the major ISPs, you have to "opt out" of internet blocking for questionable sites. The problem with this is that it leads to overblocking: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship_in_the_United_Kingdom#Overblocking
One thing not mentioned there, but which the British media picked up on, is that advice and support for LGBT young people was often blocked.
This is not to say that you should not attempt to protect your children, but that you should be very careful about any broad brush approach.

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K9 by Blue Coat

K9 by Blue Coat will do the trick. Works great!
and - free for personal use.

I used it for years when my kids were growing up. No problems whatsoever and it is very effective.

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Circle by Disney

We use the Circle by Disney. It easily allows us to set time limits on internet usage, block per app usage, turn off the internet completely for everyone (game/family night), and set filters per age block. The app to control the device is iOS only right now...but later this year they are supposed to integrate a way of monitoring/blocking CELLULAR data as well. The device is $99 with no monthly fees at all. We love it. The link to Circle is below (full disclosure, it is linked to my referral account...if you'd rather just check it out...you can Google it).

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Family Accountability and Filtering software

I have used Covenant Eyes for several years now for my family. We have a number of desktops, laptops, iPads, iPhones, and Android phones that this program allows us to provide accountability and with all but the android devices filtering. There are 4 levels of filtering, and with the family plan, you can even include Grandparents devices that are not in your home if your children spend a considerable amount of time there (after school or vacations). You are also able to block the individual sign on at specific times of the day or night that the child might be home alone (or should be asleep!) The number of devices for your household is unlimited, and the accountability information can be sent to one or multiple persons The current pricing is $14.99 per month. Their website is http://www.covenanteyes.com/services/pricing/. We have been very pleased with this program and appreciate the accountability it has provided for our family with 4 teenage boys.

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Be wary of DNS (Router) based solutions

All good answers. Just a heads up to be wary of using DNS based solutions like Opendns Family Shield. Some ISPs give access to unmetered content. For example, Netflix is unmetered with some Australian ISPs. Once you use a different DNS server you will not get this free content. If you are not ware of this you could see your internet quota used up very quickly, or a big internet bill, deepening on how your internet is charged.

Also with many kids having smartphones - the DNS (router based) solution will not work if they use cellular data instead. So if they want to see something you don't want them too, they just switch to cellular.

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Qustodio is what we use

We use Qustodio for our son's computer and it not only blocks the web sites but you can lock the computer when you don't want the child on the computer. You can also put time limits on when they can use the computer. There is a free version and a paid version. Qustodio<br>

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Here's a hardware solution worth considering

Check out the "Circle" appliance.

I think their website is: http://www.meetcircle.com

I just bought it for $99 from Amazon but that's the only cost and so far I'm liking how well it works. (Spend time on their website to learn all about it.)

It's not perfect but it should get better over time.

Another thing to look at is "opendns" (google it) it's free but filters your whole network.

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Net Nanny & Covent eyes

Net Nanny comes to mind and also Covent eyes John W is very wise to think about these things. My young ladies are much older now when chats & emails 1st came out I give them both their own email accounts with the understanding the old man rules must be obeyed. Few months later my oldest started getting very vulgar emails & when she showed me the contents and we had to changed it. Now that I am a grandpa & my 4 old grandson has his own Mimi IPad & he is more interested in playing games & watching Jake than looking at adult web sites it is never to early to keep watch over them.

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Net Nanny

Hi,

Net Nanny works and has some good features, however I had to uninstall it for various reasons which I will get to in a minute.

Pros:
Works well for keeping unwanted content off of specific computer.
Has ability to place time restrictions on computer use - either total time or times of day. We used this to avoid the "10 more minutes" issues around the time to shut off all electronics ... this part is amazing!
Has lots of options that can be configured for things like games and you tube.

Cons:
The biggest con is that it blocks games that are not "mature" that my son plays on a daily basis - think Minecraft - as a mature game inappropriate for children. Ummm huge miss here. Even when the game is configured to be allowed, it still blocked it. Dealbreaker #1.
Also issues with Chrome - Netnanny was blocking Chrome when we had it - this is another dealbreaker for us. I don't know if they have fixed this yet.
My son was old enough to play some first person shooter games ... even when these were allowed and I even turned on all mature games (so he could play Minecraft) - it still wouldn't let him play the games I would let him play. Dealbreaker #3
Even with everything turned on except sexual content ... it wouldn't let him play Minecraft on his favorite server at the time - Jupiter Craft which is a family based no profanity allowed server. Dealbreaker #4
It's a bit sad when you get to the point where you configure it to let everything in other than sexual content just to get it so it will let your child play Minecraft. But online games are still blocked even though I allowed the website, allowed mature games, etc ...

What do we do now?
We have always had the safe browsing turned on in Chrome.
You Tube has a similar selection that you can turn on.
I occasionally check my son's browsing history on all of his devices, sometimes he is aware of me doing this, other times not. Not scheduled.
He knows that if he deletes his browsing history, he will lose his computer (or other device) completely and for a very, very, long time.
His bedroom is straight across from my living room ... with his door open I can be in the living room on the couch and see everything he has on his screen.
So far so good.

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Things to consider from a veteran parent

My kids are now in their 20's so my advice is less about products than things to consider (although I can second the comments on Net Nanny - I had to completely uninstall it with tech support help)

Sometimes children can come across inappropriate content inadvertently (hint: be very very careful when searching for info on how to tie knots or anything about Barbie dolls) and there used to be search sites that did some of that filtering up front based on an age range (when mine were young, it was Yahooligans).

Computers should be in an open space like the living room, kitchen, great room - not their bedrooms - where you as the parent can keep an eye on things. Don't stand behind them, just keep an eye on things. A logging tool is very useful, and checking browser history. If they have other devices like cell phones, the chargers need to be in a central location (not in the bedrooms).

We had an issue with cyber-bullying at one point, and another time when someone with questionable motives was chatting with one child. As a parent, you need to encourage your child to talk to you about what they're reading and seeing on the internet. The cyber-bullying was the hardest one to cope with - the schools don't do a good job of addressing it, the other parents deny that their child could be behind it, and you have no real evidence of anything.

Is it hard? Yes - when they had homework to do on the computer, I turned the TV off so I could keep an eye on things and talk to them. They'll complain about not having the computer or cell phone in their room and you'll be the bad guy who enforces the rule (which also applies to you, mom and dad).

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THE BEST way to handel this, TEACH them! The ULTIMATE protec
DON'T HIDE, TEACH!

Its not only whats on the internet, LOOK AROUND.

TV, MAGAZINES, BOOKS, RADIO, MUSIC, it is EVERYWHERE you look. It is a fools errand to prevent children from seeing what you do not want them to see. Instead you must prepare them them to handle what they see; HOWEVER not for them to run away in terror, they need to realize it is not for them, should not be scared, but go do something else.
Children who are taught to fear certain images might also be scared to tell their parents what they saw, and that is worse for child and family than what they saw.

Europe has many age appropriate books to teach children about things you rather they not see.
Don't get into detail, give them general information, but most of all, DON'T be afraid to discuss it. Children are very perceptive and your attitude to topics could be far more traumatic to them than the image or video they saw.

It is like a child getting a minor injury.
If you over react they will be scared to death!
If you give them a hug, say its OK, put band-aid and quickly move to another activity they will quickly forget and be laughing and happy.

(PS, parents teach all kinds of things to children, so its just one more thing to teach, so that part is the same. Just learn how to discuss it, its on the web)
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Best reply on this post

Bravo! Finally a good reply. That's what we do with our 12 year old daughter. Teach her, Make her savvy. You can't keep a child in a bubble! That will never work. We approached our daughter and asked her "do you know how babies are made?" Before she even asked. And she knows the problems with early pregnancies and drugs and stuff. Make them smart!! Don't dumb them down! Oh. and keep them busy! Soccer, dance, football, whatever. Keep them busy - it's the best defense.

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