Webuser.co.uk - Net Nanny Receives the Gold

Sep 01, 2009

Entitled Safe From Harm, www.webuser.co.uk tested several parental control tools for protecting children from the worst of the web, including: Net Nanny, Webroot, McAfee, Webwatcher and several other less familiar products.  Here are the highlights:

Net Nanny
Performance: 5/5 Stars
Ease of Use: 5/5 Stars
Value: 5/5 Stars
Features: 4/5 Stars

“Net Nanny is synonymous with parental control software and rightly so — it’s as good as these things get. You’re presented with a clear and structured interface that lets you manage all manner of filtering, from the blocking of websites with inappropriate content to time controls that let you control when the PC can and cannot be used online. Net Nanny dealt well with all our tests, blocking pornographic sites and pages containing race-hate materials and preventing us from using an instant messaging application we’d requested to be stopped. As well as blocking sites, Net Nanny keeps tabs on what the user is up to, so that the administrator (the parent) can view a report later. Kids can request an override on a particular site if they think Net Nanny has wrongly blocked it.

Webroot
Performance:  3/5 Stars
Ease of Use:  3/5 Stars
Value:  5/5 Stars
Features:  4/5 Stars

"Webroot kicks off by creating a password-protected Windows user account for the parent or guardian. The administrator can then set access times and filtering levels for all other Windows user accounts. There are default settings that can be used to keep things quick and simple — set an account to Child and the user will be able to surf for just two hours a day between 9am and 8pm — but there’s flexibility to change every aspect. Webroot is similar to Net Nanny but it’s not quite as simple to use. Indeed, it actually failed one of our tests — the filtering of web search terms associated with adult websites. Moreover, it failed to prevent a search on one of its own suggested ‘banned’ terms."

McAfee
Performance:  2/5 Stars
Ease of Use: 3/5 Stars
Value:  5/5 Stars
Features:  5/5 Stars

"This is more of a security suite than pure parental controls, so you seem to get a lot for your money. However, the parental controls are both limited and, at least so far as our testing went, not very effective. After installation, two of the functions — image filtering and age appropriate searching — remained off by default. Not that activating them made much difference — we were able to visit a variety of well-known pornography websites and execute image searches that resulted in plenty of bare skin. Other aspects of McAfee Family Protection are much better but for parental controls, it’s a letdown."

WebWatcher
Performance: 1/5 Stars
Ease of Use:  1/5 Stars
Value: 1/5 Stars
Features:  4/5 Stars

"Don’t buy this if you’re a novice — the installation is appallingly confusing. We had to call on the company’s online live-chat facility (which, to be fair, helped). Eventually, it installs invisible logging software on the PC that you can view remotely using just a web browser. But it doesn’t work very well. Our tester could still view soft-porn websites and run applications we explicitly blocked."

The author concluded with this note: "There’s a clear divide here between innovation and the old school. The innovators are the likes of PG Key, using a USB dongle to provide access to the PC as a whole but, although we liked the idea, it was confusing and difficult to use. Back to the old school, both McAfee and Webroot do a decent job, with the latter being good value considering the price includes a license for three PCs. However, Net Nanny is simply the best here. It’s easy to set up, good value (the price includes one year’s worth of free updates) and works very well indeed. A worthy winner."