Got kids? Got internet? Got Mac or PC? Then you might have some browsing problems. The internet is full of information and entertainment, but not every web page is deserving of a click.
Here are three ways your children can use a Mac to browse the world wide web in relative peace and security. The weakest, least secure browser solution for kids is free. After that, it’s a price tag. Is it worth it?
Browse The Easy Way—Apple’s Way
Here’s the deal. The internet can be a friendly, inviting place—for all the wrong reasons, especially when it comes to children who venture into point and click at an early age.
Children just don’t know the problems they could stumble upon.
Apple knows that and gives us specific controls in Mac OS X and in Safari, the Mac user’s browser of choice. For free, you get a few ways to lock down your Mac, your Mac’s apps, and still give your kids room to browse the internet.
Click System Preferences, open Parental Controls, and go crazy with the prison lockdown controls.
With Apple’s parental controls, the price is right, but the details are lacking.
For example, Website Restrictions are nominal. It’s either access or not, with some access customization. Parental Controls also gives you additional controls over Mail and iChat, specific time limits and times.
What’s missing is granular detail for children from pre-school, elementary school, middle school, even high school. For that, let’s go to a commercial solution.
The Browser For Real Kids
Giddy Up is the Mac browser for kids. Real kids. Kids as in children, not middle or high school age kids.
This very secure, quite sophomoric browser is based upon Safari’s WebKit engine, so it’s fast and stable. Unlike Safari or BumperCar, Giddy Up’s interface was designed specifically for kids, including a list of web sites for kids.
On the outside it looks like a Fisher Price toy browser. On the inside, it’s full of detailed, granular controls that will make you feel safe and secure.
Control settings determine almost every facet of the child’s browsing experience. From safe URLs to which buttons show up on the browser tool bar. You set the Favorites. You control Security, including options for the Mac’s Menubar (Print, Help, Quit, etc.), and the Dock.
URL Control gives you highly detailed options to ban sites with keywords in the title, domain, or content using a rules-based system. You even have options to enable the virtual keyboard.
Giddy Up is simple for kids, with more complex controls for parents.
The Why Bother BumperCar Browser
At the bottom of my list for kid safe browsers is BumperCar from Freeverse. The idea behind BumperCar is the same as GiddyUp. Protection and ease of use.
BumperCar’s safety settings can be set up for all accounts on the Mac, segregating children by age.
The default user window is aimed at older kids and is game like in design. BumperCar comes with a large collection of kid-friendly sites, including specific categories tuned to kids tastes.
Configurations include options for Home, School, or Pre-School settings. You have control over whitelist sites (specific sites you allow your children to view) and blacklist sites (banned sites).
BumperCar has a nice search function which forces search engines to use their built-in safe search features.
Profanity is blocked automatically, and personalized data can be prevented from being used.
The problem with BumperCar is the same as with most Freeverse apps. It hasn’t been updated in 18 months, which shows either a lot of confidence in the product, or an unacceptable level of neglect.
Regardless, children have a need to be protected from the more nefarious, notorious, infamous, scurrilous, and outright dangerous territories on the internet. Education helps, of course, but so does a fence.