Computers (and the internet in particular) are a huge part of children's lives, and parents are increasingly concerned about them accessing unsuitable or dangerous material.
These fears aren't completely without basis. In an arresting study by BitDefender, out of 1,570 parents questioned, 95 per cent reported that their children had accessed pornography online. The same study also found that children are becoming more tech savvy – 12 per cent of teenagers were able to uninstall or otherwise get around parental control tools.
Trend Micro has been in the internet security business for a long time, but Online Guardian is its first product aimed at concerned parents.
The software includes social network monitoring and internet filtering, and like a lot of parental control software products, it attempts to tread the fine line between keeping kids safe online without betraying their trust or curbing their freedom too much.
Thankfully, Online Guardian offers a lot of scope for controlling what it monitors and blocks, so you can tweak it until you feel more comfortable. This is worth doing, because the settings err on the conservative side, and may block sites that you don't mind your kids seeing.
You can also use sliders to set times when children can use the internet, and how long for.
There's no software to install during the initial setup process – everything is done through the web browser. Once you've finished, you download a small program that then applies the settings to whichever computer you run it on.
The software's web filtering tool caught most sites belonging to banned categories, but some did slip through. While straightforward adult sites are easily banned, Online Guardian sometimes missed more complex and vague sites that feature a mix of content – some which could be deemed unsuitable.
User reports are easy to read and understand, but there is a noticeable impact on internet speeds when using this service.
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