October is Cyber-Security Awareness Month – Week 3
Here at Fortis, we believe cyber-security is of the utmost importance, and we have made cyber-awareness a top priority for our Clients, Colleagues and Friends. October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Fortis is promoting cyber security by sharing weekly tips and information during the month of October
Parenting in the Digital Age & the Best Software to Help in 2018
Modern kids have never known a time when they couldn’t connect to the entire world via the internet. In fact, they probably spend more time online than anyone else—certainly more than their parents. If you are a parent, this presents a problem, as there are explicit, disturbing, and illegal sites on the web that you don’t want your kids to encounter. Furthermore, with the ever-increasing number of devices that kids use to connect, you simply can’t supervise every moment they’re online on your own. That’s where parental control services can help. This software gives you the ability to block unwanted web content, limit screen time, restrict the use of risky applications, and more. Basically, these services are a way to help keep your kids safer on their computers and mobile devices.
That said, parental control software is no substitute for good communication. If you don’t want your kids to visit unsafe, unsavory, or inappropriate sites, talk to them about your concerns. We recommend that you also take the time to convince your older kids that you’ll respect their privacy while still monitoring their online actions, a promise you should strive to uphold. We prefer software that embraces this kind of collaborative approach, rather than apps that covertly spy on kids. If your kids see you as big brother, it’s a safe bet that they’ll find ways to outsmart you and evade even the most sophisticated systems. As tech addiction increasingly becomes a problem, it’s important to instill the value of good device habits on to your children as well.
Monitor Your Child’s Devices
Long gone are the days when a single parental control utility on the family PC was sufficient for keeping your kids safe and productive. Modern kids use all kinds of internet-connected devices, and modern parental control systems must keep up.
Before settling on a particular parental control utility, you need to make sure that it supports all the device types in your household. While all the products in the chart below support Windows and Android, compatibility with macOS and iOS varies. That said, Apple has recently announced the new Screen Time feature for the upcoming iOS 12, a set of tools for monitoring and controlling app and device usage. Taken alongside iOS’ existing Restrictions settings, when iOS 12 releases Apple will offer a free set of parental controls tools comparable to these paid alternatives, with the added benefit of first-party support.
Check, too, that any limits on the number of child profiles or devices won’t be a problem. Large families, for example, will appreciate that Norton Family works on an unlimited number of devices. Most parental control software operates as a subscription service, so pricing tiers tend to align with device limits, though some offer free versions for basic protection on a limited number of devices. If your kids are strictly smartphone users, take a look at our roundup of mobile parental control apps.
If getting parental control coverage installed on each of your family’s devices starts to seem too difficult, consider a whole-network solution, such as Circle With Disney or Open DNS. These systems perform content filtering at the router level, so your settings affect every device on the network. Naturally, you don’t get the same fine level of control and detailed monitoring that you get with a local agent on each device, but this is a much broader solution.
Web Filters, Time Limits, and Apps
At the very least, a good parental control tool features content filtering—the ability to block access to websites matching categories such as hate, violence, and porn. This type of filtering only really works if it’s browser-independent and works with secure (HTTPS) sites. With no HTTPS filtering, a smart teen could bypass the system using a secure anonymizing proxy website or even a different web browser in some cases. Most also have the option to permanently enable SafeSearch. Of course, the most capable solutions also keep a detailed log of your child’s web activity.
Access scheduling is another very common feature. Some applications let parents set a weekly schedule for device usage, some control internet use in general, and others offer a combination of the two. A daily or weekly cap on internet usage can also be handy, especially if it applies to all your kids’ devices.
The best services apply these two ideas to individual desktop and mobile applications as well. Qustodio, for example, can block apps entirely and set time usage limits. This is particularly useful for children who have a habit of playing games or using social media apps when they should be doing homework.
PC Magazine’s Picks: Best Parental Control Software Featured in This Roundup
Pros: Cross-platform support. Browser-independent content filter handles HTTPS traffic. Time scheduler for internet, device, and application usage. Location tracking.
Cons: Expensive. Social monitoring only tracks Facebook. Dated web portal. Some iOS limitations.
Bottom Line: Parental control app Qustodio is a highly configurable, easy-to-manage tool for keeping track of your child’s activity on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.
2. Net Nanny
Pros: Supports Windows, Mac, Android. Web-based configuration and reporting. Powerful filtering. Cross-platform internet time allowance. App control for Android.
Cons: No new updates. Expensive. No location tracking. Lacks advanced time management control. Limited iOS features.
Bottom Line: Net Nanny’s web-centric and multi-platform approach to parental control makes it a useful option for the modern world, but it hasn’t been updated substantially in years.
3. Symantec Norton Family Premier
Pros: Affordable. Excellent web dashboard. Settings apply across all devices. No limit on number of PC, phones, tablets, or children protected. Tracks child’s location.
Cons: Does not work on Macs. No Free version anymore. Does not block HTTPS sites on unsupported browsers. Web extension is easily disabled. Platform-dependent features. Lackluster social media tracking.
Bottom Line: Norton Family’s top-notch web interface and wealth of features make it easy for parents to track and manage their children’s activity across their many devices, though it doesn’t work on Macs.
4. Circle with Disney
Pros: Easy setup. Manages every device on your home network. Category-based content filtering. Can cut off Internet access at bedtime. Pause button for the Internet.
Cons: Circle Go subscription surprisingly expensive. Matching names to devices can be difficult. Can cause alarming error messages in the browser. Minimal reporting.
Bottom Line: The Circle with Disney security appliance, controlled by a simple mobile app, provides parental content filtering and time limits for every device in your home network.
5. Clean Router
Pros: Parental control and monitoring for every device on your network. Enforces Safe Search. Device-specific Internet time scheduling. Reports all sites visited and blocked. Optional daily activity email.
Cons: Reports can’t identify activity by specific users. Content filter missed some porn sites and secure anonymizing proxies. Performance as a router lags behind competing 802.11ac devices.
Bottom Line: Have kids on the Web? Clean Router replaces your home router to apply parental control and monitoring to every device on your network.