Digital Parenting: Kid Safe Browsers for iPod Touch and iPad
First it was parental controls on the television cable channels, then came the computer– and now we have the iPod, iTouch, iPad and many, many other gadgets that our kids play with on a daily basis. How do you keep the wrong kind of media away from their prying eyes? Here’s how:
One of the many restrictions available on an iPod touch is to remove the YouTube app. Many parents, especially those with younger kids, do this to prevent their kids from viewing YouTube videos. But guess what? Kids can still get to YouTube in the Safari browser. So to really block YouTube, you must restrict both the YouTube app and the Safari browser. This leaves kids without any web access. In some cases, this might be fine. But what can you do if you want to block YouTube (or inappropriate sites) but allow access to other websites?
Try one of these kid-safe browsers.
Luckily for parents there are several kid-safe browsers to choose from. And many of them are free. Pay a little more and you get more features. So if you want to allow your child to access, say, her school website but not the rest of the world wild web, install one of these alternate browsers on her iPod or iPad. Here’s a quick run-down.
AVG Family Safety
AVG Family Safety is a free app for iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. It will automatically block websites categorized as pornography or malware. But you can also add websites to a block list. So if you want to block YouTube, just add it to the block list. Be sure to add both the full YouTube web address and the mobile version (m.youtube.com). There is also a tie-in with their AVG Family Safety service for your family computer. If you already use that service, then the app can connect and you’ll get more advanced filtering features.
Pros: No registration needed, easy to use, can choose the default search engine
Cons: a few bugs, and need to specifically add most sites to block especially for younger kids
K9 Web Protection browser
K9 Web Web Protection is a free app for iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. It is also available for Android devices. It will block adult and potentially offensive or malicious sites. You can view the browsing history to see which sites were blocked (but note that your child could also view and then clear this history). The browser uses its own Safe Search capabilities. If you want to quickly block YouTube, this will do the trick.
Pros: Easiest to use with no registration or passwords needed
Cons: No customization available.
McGruff Safe Guard Mobile Browser
McGruff Safe Guard is a free app for iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. It restricts websites by age range – either Child (1-12) or Teen (13-17). With a $1 upgrade you’ll get more features such as the ability to pick categories and sites to allow or deny. If your main goal is to block YouTube, you don’t need the upgrade as it is blocked for both the child and teen age ranges. I did find though that my child’s school website was blocked in the 1-12 range which was surprising. If I were to set this up on her device I’d definitely splurge and pay $1 for the full version.
Pros: Easy to set up; daily e-mail report (can unsubscribe if desired), parent can lock safe search
Cons: Would be useful if the parent e-mail contained the URL of the sites that were blocked (need the full version for that).
MobSafety Ranger Browser
Ranger Browser is a free app for iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. It is also available for Android devices. This app is a bit different from the others. You register on their website and set up an account with your child’s name. Then choose the level of content filtering per child – high, medium or low. You can, in theory, choose to block everything, and then just allow certain websites if you want to really limit things. However when I tried this, it did not work. If they could fix a few issues this app could be a good choice, but as-is I was able to view sites from search that should have been blocked.
Pros: Time limit settings; ability to customize and add websites to always block or allow; web page for parents to view history.
Cons: Could not find documentation in the app or their website; some of the settings did not seem to work – I blocked all sites except allowed one on the “whitelist” and I could still get to other sites using Search.
Other Options for Mobile Content Filtering
There are other kid safe browsers which I did not test during this go-round.
Mobicip is available for iDevices, Android, and soon will be available on the Kindle Fire. The initial cost is $4.95 which gives you content filtering for elementary, middle, and high school levels. You can add-on an annual subscription which will give you activity reports, custom deny/allow lists, category blocking, and YouTube filtering.
Make Sure to Disable Safari
Once you’ve installed a kid-safe browser on your child’s device, be sure to restrict the default browser. For iDevices, this is the Safari browser. Also be sure to restrict adding/deleting apps, otherwise your dear children can remove the kid-safe app and add Safari back in. I’ve got step-by-step instructions for restricting Safari and YouTube here.
Do you know of a browser not listed here? Let us know about it in the comments!
About the author: Greenland resident Jean Dumais is a webmaster, technology educator and founder of Be Web Smart. She offers articles, tips, guidance and reviews for parents who want to keep their families safe and productive online. Visit her website at www.bewebsmart.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bewebsmart.