Whilst web browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox have made it simple to eliminate access to certain websites it's still easy to circumvent parental controls when a dedicated piece of software isn't used.
Parental control software gives elders that extra bit of control over the family PC to make sure children aren't able to access adult content or get inside software that is only to be used by other members of the family.
Many of the options available for Windows PC users are completely free of charge and we've picked out our five favourite free parental control software programs of 2015.
K9 Web Protection
A very small application that packs quite a punch, K9 Web Protection provides a layer of safety for your kids online and runs from right inside your browser.
On the first startup you have to set up a new license to use it and from then on its simply a case of setting up the filters to the exact specification required. Blocking is primarily done by category with various levels of blocking open to the user ranging from monitor (allows all categories and just logs traffic) to high (protects all default categories as well as social interaction and unrated sites).
Beyond the main category restrictions you can also set up time restrictions to place blocks on when web access is allowed with a custom option allowing you to impose an online curfew for anyone using the internet on the family PC.
The customary web site exception setting permits you to always block or allow specific sites and there is even the chance to block various URL keywords that will automatically bar access to a site should it contain certain words. It goes even deeper than even that with safe search redirecting to K9's own Safe Search and, even though it may concern some that this is turned on as default, it's very easy to turn it off straight from the setup page.
K9 Web Protection performed well in our testing where we were blocked from accessing various adult sites and gambling services, even when clicking on links from other sites to arrive at them. There was very little we could find wrong with K9 Web Protection and knowing that all of this is completely free meant it gains top marks.
Spyrix Free Keylogger
Plenty of different methods exist to keep an eye on a child's browsing habits and Spyrix Free Keylogger brings the art of keylogging to the table, but some will find the limited number of features infuriating.
What Spyrix Free Keylogger does offer is perhaps the highest level of keylogging of any application around right now. Monitoring is categorised by each user on the computer and sorted according to the data collected that includes keyboard entries, screenshots, webcam snapshots, sound recording, webcam video, clipboard value, webpages visited, and search queries.
Hiding the program is limited to closing it down and then having a password to get back in and other ways, including being able to hide it completely, are only accessibly by upgrading to a paid option.
You will notice that site blocking and social network activity are also among the options available. Unfortunately both these are also behind the paywall and not being able to block sites means that most parents will want to combine this with another program, upgrade to the paid version or just abandon it altogether.
Windows Live Family Safety
Being that this a guide to the best way to protect your kids whilst using a Windows PC, Microsoft has an entry in the top five in the shape of the Windows Live Family Safety tool that is part of the remainder of the Windows Live interactivity suite.
To kick things off, anyone that wants to use Windows Live Family Safety must have a Windows Live account and once signed in you can set up your account as a "parent" one that can then be used to monitor other members of the family using the PC.
Windows Live Family Safety requires that every family member has a different user account on the PC and if that isn't already the case the setup process becomes a lot longer than some of the other alternatives on offer.
All monitoring is handled through the family safety section of Microsoft's website with various options including the ability to place restrictions on Windows Store or games usage plus the usual web filtering, time restrictions and app limits also available.
Although blocking sites worked flawlessly with Windows Live Family Safety, it did show the page for a split second before the tab was closed and the monitoring feature didn't seem to pick up any of the websites we looked at inside Mozilla Firefox even though it blocked sites with ease.
For parents that want a blocker and not a monitor, Windows Live Family Safety is a good choice yet there are certain flaws that would advise you to look elsewhere on this list.
Another of the monitoring fraternity, Kidlogger is there to keep an eye on what is happening on your PC and then report back the findings with trademark accuracy.
Keylogger is a simple to use program that allows you to monitor everything from keystrokes and clipboard content to Skype chats, USB media insertions and website URLs, and everything can be password protected.
Its monitoring capabilities don't end there with the chance to capture video calls, screenshots at periodic intervals and even sound from around the PC itself just so long as a mic is present. This is all collected in log files that are stored locally and can only be accessed by the password holder.
One big drawback, like other keylogging programs, is that there is no facility to block access to certain websites and any parents that want to do that will need another application to supplement it. As a keylogger it does the job it sets out to do and in that sense Kidlogger will not disappoint.
Web blockers are the holy grail for many parents and Naomi delivers on that promise with an extremely simple yet effective filtering service.
Naomi runs in the system tray and filters out adult content automatically with a built-in list that cannot be edited thus leaving you at the mercy of what Naomi deems inappropriate. Luckily her list is an extensive one and we weren't able access a range of different sites when Naomi was turned on.
The fact you can't choose to block certain sites is the only real thing that holds Naomi back from being higher up in the parental control chart.