What exactly is a "family safe Internet" or "parental control" solution?
Raising our families next to a raw Internet is not a good idea. Objectionable content is so rampant it's nearly impossible to avoid even when conducting the most benign searches.
This is an obvious problem faced by families around the world and many Parental Control (PC) products have been rushed into the market over the last few years to try and capitalize on it.
Unfortunately it's a very difficult, time consuming and fairly subjective problem to solve, and so very few have gotten it right. Which is why very few of these products last more than five years, and if you test the top five PC products you’ll get five very different Internet experiences!
So which PC solution is good for your family? How do you know what to look for?
Before we begin, try and push aside all the marketing jargon you've seen up to this point and ask yourself - 'what exactly do I want in a PC solution?'
After close to eight years of supporting Kibosh, which I use to protect my family too, I believe I have a good handle on the answer for most - what you (and I) want is a "flip a switch" type solution that will:
- Seamlessly removes the bad stuff from the Internet without any additional hassle.
- Something that actually works (i.e., it removes ALL not SOME).
- Something that doesn't force me to change how I use the Internet.
- Something that doesn't annoy my family.
- Something that works everywhere I go.
- Something that is affordable.
A trap many fall into when they first start shopping for a PC solution is choosing the one that has the most "features". I think we feel like we're getting our money's worth: more features = value. Unfortunately when it comes to technology, especially security related technology, the exact opposite is true.
For example, one request we get a lot is "do I get alerts when someone tries to search for something bad?" The answer is no because there is no bad on a Kibosh protected internet. This is hard for many to grasp at first because it sounds Kibosh is lacking this feature. When in fact we've grown past that feature which we did in fact offer when we first started. We spent much time and money developing and providing this 'feature', however over time we've learned a few things: 1) it's annoying, 2) people say they want it, but once they quickly turn it off, 3) it costs $ to deliver and support such a feature. Therefor today Kibosh gives you an internet that has no bad stuff - so there's nothing to be alerted about. Simple, the Internet as it should be.
A legitimately family safe Internet / PC solution will comprise at least the following features:
Feature one: SafeSearch enforcement (critical)
The Internet is mostly comprised of three categories of content: Websites / ALL, Images, Videos.
When you search for content using Google or Bing (the only two US based search engines left – DuckDuckGo is a search proxy that uses Google / Bing to produce results) you will be presented with those three categories of results (which is where pornography would be shown).
⇒ A legitimate family safe internet solution will protect all three categories of Internet content. If it does not then you do NOT have a family safe Internet.
Example of a fail: I search for “boobs” and of the three categories returned only the websites / all category is filtered, but Images and Videos are unfiltered and full of hardcore Pornography. How family safe is your internet? Not very. This type of protection is all you get with DNS filters like OpenDNS, SafeDNS, etc.
The only way to technically ensure these three categories of Internet content will never contain any pornography is through SafeSearch enforcement.
Google, Bing, Yandex, DuckDuckGo all offer a SafeSearch option that, when enabled, said search engine will never return anything pornographic for a search term. In fact it will not even allow you to search for clear pornography:
The trick though, is enforcing SafeSearch on every device without installing software, and enforcing it (so it cannot be turned off)..
Kibosh enforces SafeSearch across all devices even in incognito mode. It cannot be turned off, it cannot by bypassed and thus ensures that no pornography will be seen in Image or Video results, on your Internet, ever.
Feature two (critical): bad websites blocked
SafeSearch will ensure that bad search terms will not be allowed, and Image / Video search results will never contain pornography.
But what about if a user tries to go directly to a bad website (eg: www.boobs.com) either by typing the address or through an email link?
This is where Domain Blocking comes into play. Domain Blocking is an add-on for any DNS server and it allows the blocking of websites contained in a 'block list'.
DNS will not allow access to specific websites contained in this block list. This block list of bad websites is not something you can buy and must be built from scratch, and updated daily.
This block list is probably one of the hardest parts of any PC solution, and thus usually it's weakest link (because it takes time + persistent effort to build and maintain an accurate block list).
Kibosh has developed our own proprietary web scraping technology that produces very accurate block lists.
Feature three (optional): parental controls
Parental Controls are separate from, and in addition to a family safe internet. Two very different technologies.
Parental Controls are the features that give us control over devices on our LAN (local area network, i.e. everything using your router). These always include the following:
- Ability to block / allow access to websites & apps
- Ability to schedule Internet access times per device
- Ability to see what each device is doing online
These features are pretty standard across all PC products. The main differences are in how they are delivered through the User Interface. For example, Circle requires you to setup profiles, and users and device tagging, etc. With Kibosh you log in, choose the device, schedule the time and your done. The rest of the stuff is useless overhead.
Parental Controls and Internet Content Filtering are technically separate and require very different skills to built and maintain. When a Parental Control has been programmed no more effort is usually required to support said feature. Producing a family safe internet on the other hand is a daily, persistent job that never ends - assuming it's being done correctly.
In theory, if the PC solution you choose only blocks the bad stuff on the Internet then no-one will want to bypass it.
However, let's say you have some users that have developed some bad habits that need to be broken - enforcement of the family safe Internet comes into play.
The number one way to bypass every family safe internet filter in the world is to change the local DNS servers on your PC device. This is not too hard and instructions are all over the web.
The latest bypass method comes from big-tech via DNS over HTTPS built into the browser - turned on without your approval and does nothing to protect you (but it does give them control over your DNS).
Kibosh blocks DNS Bypass, along with DNS over HTTPS, DHS Hijacking and more. Only a VPN can bypass the Kibosh filter and that's as it should be, by design nothing stops a VPN.
When you have all four of the above then you have a legitimate Family Safe Internet as good as it can technically be, which thankfully is pretty good.