Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Internet Filtering Software

A customer recently asked us if we could recommend a suitable software package to ensure that his young children could use the internet without the risk of being exposed to unsuitable sites. This was something that we hadn't looked at in detail so we decided to round up a number of packages, load them up and compare how good a job they did. The packages we reviewed were:


These packages were rated the top four internet filtering options by TopTenReviews, so we reckoned they were all worth looking at.

ContentProtect came out the #1 choice of TopTenReviews, but we ran into problems with the product refusing to save the setup configurations we chose. Because of this we couldn't give it our recommendation.

CyberSitter is a good package if the children are the only ones to use the computer. Since this program doesn't allow individual user accounts to be set up, e.g. different internet access levels for Mum/Dad, a teenage child and a pre-teen child, we can't recommend it where the PC is used by the whole household.

NetNanny is a program that you may have heard about as it was one of the first internet filtering packages available for the PC. The current version is pretty easy to set up and allows access to be configured for different types of user, a feature missing in CyberSitter. Our main gripe with this product was that it made searching the internet extremely slow - unacceptably so in our opinion.

Then there was CyberPatrol. This program ticked all the right boxes for us. It allowed each user of the PC have their own account, so that Mum/Dad can look at content that may not be appropriate for 10-year old Johnny, it did not slow down internet searches or browsing, and it was intelligent in what it filtered. For example, in a user account that was set up for a pre-teen, if the user tried to Google the word sex then Cyber Patrol would return a screen saying that the search was not allowed. However, if the same user account Googled the words sex education, then the search results would be displayed.

One point to note is that whatever package you use, none of them are infallible. Some will block what you might consider appropriate material and some will let through what you might consider inappropriate material. They are not a substitute for keeping a close eye on what your younger children are trying to see on the Internet.

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