I hope the summer is going well, and that you have been able to spend lots of time with those you love:). I have been wanting to post about the available Internet filtering and accountability software for awhile, and have been spurned on by my recent blogging for www.thinkyouthministry.com. So, here goes:)…
We will be looking at Internet filtering and accountability software for computer and mobile applications, including Mac, iPhone/iPad/iPod, PC, Android, and Blackberry devices.
There is much to consider once you have decided to take the step to secure your Internet capable devices, including filtering strength; parental control options; accountability options; and cost. This is just barely breaching the surface…
Let’s begin with some definitions. Internet filtering software is designed to limit access to content available online, including pornography, violence, language, and other material deemed questionable.
Internet accountability software is designed to keep you accountable for your online activity by sending email alerts to people of your choosing should you access material you have previously deemed questionable. They are then able to follow up with you if required.
So, without further adieu, here are the Top 5 from my perspective:
1. Covenant Eyes (www.covenanteyes.com) – Computer and Mobile applications for Mac, PC, Android, iPhone/iPad/iPod. NO BLACKBERRY SOLUTION.
Cost: Computer – accountability & filtering ($10.49/month = $125.88/year) – any computer. Mobile – free with subscription to computer software.
2. X3watch (www.x3watch.com) – Computer and Mobile applications for Mac, PC, Android, iPhone/iPad/iPod. NO BLACKBERRY SOLUTION.
Cost: Computer – accountability and filtering software lite = FREE; Pro ($7/month = $84/year) – up to 10 computers. Mobile – $6.99 app purchase
3. K9 Web Protection (www1.k9webprotection.com) – Computer and Mobile applications for Mac, PC, Android, iPhone/iPad/iPod. NO BLACKBERRY SOLUTION.
Cost: Filtering software. FREE to all applications.
4. NetNanny (www.netnanny.com) – Computer and Mobile applications for Mac, PC, and Android. NO iPhone/iPad/iPad SOLUTION. Used to provide Blackberry solution – BLACKBERRY SOLUTION DISCONTINUED.
Cost: Computer – filtering software $39.99/year/computer; Family Pack (3 computers) = $59.98/year. Mobile (Android only) – $19.99/year/device; $29.98/year (3 devices)
5. Mcafee Safe Eyes 6 (www.internetsafety.com/safeeyes) – Computer and Mobile applications for Mac, PC, and iPhone/iPad/iPod. NO SOLUTION FOR ANDROID OR BLACKBERRY.
Cost: Computer – filtering software $49.95/year (up to 3 computers, Mac or PC). Mobile – iPhone/iPad/iPod – $14.99 app purchase
You may have noticed the theme of NO SOLUTION FOR BLACKBERRY. It may be hard to believe, but there are currently no dependable solutions to filter/monitor/provide accountability for browsing on a Blackberry mobile device. As a result, I would never recommend providing a Blackberry mobile device to your children, nor would I suggest anyone struggling with pornography purchase/use a Blackberry. This is unfortunate, as those loyal to Blackberrys do not seem to be interested in any other product.
Depending on the platform (mobile device, computer), operating system, Mac/PC/Android/Blackberry, there are different checks and balances to ensure the software does what it is designed to do. This may get a little on the “techy” side of things, unfortunately. It cannot get too far, though, as I am not that techy myself…
1. Type of User – before we get too carried away, we need to consider the user of the device being protected. If the user struggles with an addiction to pornography, the filtering software/accountability options must be firmer and more difficult to bypass. For a 10-year-old child who we wish to protect from accidently accessing questionable material, the approach will be different. This will depend on the 10-year-old, unfortunately. The point here is to provide filter/accountability software that is appropriate for the user…
2. Embedded Web Browser Removal – All Internet ready devices, computer or mobile, come equipped with a search engine allowing you to navigate the Internet. Some of these products allow for these search engines to be uninstalled (computers – Mac and PC; iPhone/iPad/iPod), while others do not allow for this (Android and Blackberry).
Computers (PC/Mac); iPhone/iPad/iPod – you are able to install software that filters Internet content and sends accountability reports. This covers all bases, making it very difficult for the user to access restricted material. If they do happen to access restricted material, accountability reports will be sent out as a result.
Android – software can be installed that filters Internet content, but you must use the search engine that comes with the software and NOT the imbedded search engine that cannot be uninstalled from the device (Google). If you use Google and not the search engine provided by the software, nothing will be filtered. Accountability reports will be sent out regardless of the search engine used on the device. X3watch (www.xxxchurch.com) offers site blocking, but only for computers, not for mobile devices. Covenant Eyes and Net Nanny only offer accountability. This is great, but does have limitations. Those caught in the throws of pornography addiction will use whatever means they have to access the pornography, and deal with the consequences later. This sounds extreme, but this is my experience working with those struggling with a porn addiction. The men I have worked with over the past number of years who struggle with this do so for considerably longer, even when in treatment, if they still have access to pornography – accountability software or not. Full blocking of access to material provides the best results when embarking on a journey toward freedom from pornography addiction.
Blackberry – no accountability or filtering software is currently available. I suspect software developers are hesitant to pour resources in to the development of applications specific to Blackberry, as it appears the company is on a steep decline.
3. Restrictions – in order to ensure the user of a computer/mobile device does not simply bypass all filtering/accountability software by simply uninstalling the software, then reinstalling it after viewing questionable material, all devices must be password protected. Some accountability software will provide notification if a program is uninstalled, but by the time you receive this notification the material you are trying to limit has likely been accessed. If you are unfamiliar with how to password protect the devices you are installing filtering and accountability software on, consult a techy friend or search for a tutorial online.
4. Apps – To make things even more difficult, many apps have embedded web browsers (facebook, twitter, etc.). This feature allows users to access the Internet through the app, thus bypassing ALL filtering and accountability software. As a result, consider restricting the ability to add apps to mobile devices.
5. Know the limitations… – unfortunately there are no perfect solutions as far as filtering/accountability software goes. The point of having it installed on devices your kids may use is to protect them until they are able to make their own good decisions about what they access online. The most important thing you can do is work as hard as you can to keep open communication with your kids. Be approachable – your kids will speak about what’s going on in their lives if you give them the space to do so, as long as they feel safe and secure. You know, just like the Internet devices you provide them with:).
Andy Lundy is a psychotherapist working in private practice (www.junipertree.ca) in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send him your questions:)…
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