When using the Internet unconsciously and carelessly, it is frightening to observe how easy it is to come across unwanted websites, videos or photos. It doesn’t even take a lot of clicks but just the selection of wrong links. Especially children and minors are at risk of stumbling over offensive content and in the worst-case becoming victims of harassment or sexual assault. Considering that in the United States about $3,000 per second is spent on the use of pornography and every 39 minutes a new pornographic film is made, these are frightening numbers!
For this reason, it is especially important to block the access to certain content using Web Filters.
In order to make a more conscious use of web content possible, we have set up a comprehensive meta-study to familiarize you with possible risks and different available Internet Filter programs. The Parental Control Software plays an important role in controlling your child’s Internet use and blocking unwanted content. In the first step, we analysed and evaluated 6 already existing US studies on Internet Filter programs. From this we identified the 7 most important and well-known programs and evaluated them according to various criteria such as installation, filtering, price and app management. In the next step, we compared the test results of the 6 comparative studies with each other and levelled them based on scores in order to achieve an even weighting. The objective of our comprehensive and exclusive meta-study was to identify the objectively best Internet Filter software. And we don’t want to keep that from you.
Feel free to check out our Google spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Yv7XZVoeeGTx7hGGBzg4e1hOqEzoGcuK7fi0gbMCsmY/edit?usp=sharing
Since the 1980s, porn has been available for instant viewing via the Internet. While it wasn’t so sophisticated as to be available in the palm of your hand like today’s mobile users, it seems with every new technological advance, sex and porn have followed.
However, there has never been as much x-rated content available as there is toady, and as such, Internet pornography has been under scrutiny. Recently with the shutdown of x-rated content on Tumblr and the rise of SOPA, many parents are looking at Internet filter programs as a way to protect their computers and families from unwanted content.
Pornography is so prevalent that it’s hard to pinpoint what exact websites are pornography-specific and what networks have not-safe-for-work (NSFW) content from users. For example, Instagram and Twitter have NSFW content available for anyone to view, unless you set a parental control filter. However, as the organization Protect Young Eyes points out, Instagram is not that safe even with controls enabled.. That type of availability is scary to parents of young children growing up with ever-increasing access to the Internet.
In fact, hashtags are incredibly hard to control, as many of them include private, nuance terms that relate to porn but aren’t obvious to Instagram’s control filters or parents. Private accounts also pose an issue, as they can get around parental controls by posting their content privately.
The problem is also not exclusive to computers. Mobile phones have become the fastest and easiest way to access pornography, and it’s not just through search engines or mobile porn websites. Social networking apps like Snapchat have unique problems when it comes to x-rated content. Since 2011, Snapchat has dealt with multiple issues of pornographic abuse, including underage users posting inappropriate videos and pictures. Since this content “disappears,” it feels safer to view and post NSFW content. However, recently the app has been working towards a solution that would keep their community within strict guidelines.
Recent studies have found that there are over 4.2 million pornographic websites online, making up 12% of the Internet’s content. There are also 1.5 billion pornographic downloads per month. In total, 72 million worldwide Internet users visit adult sites every month.
With so many porn sites available, x-rated content can be hard to avoid online, which is why Internet filter and parental control programs have risen in popularity recently. Now, programs like McAfee and Norton antivirus are including Internet search filters and x-rated blocks to prevent porn from being so easily accessed in the workplace and at home.
Don’t think it’s such a big issue? Internet pornography has become more profitable and prevalent in the past few years. Here’s some statistics about pornography today:
Obviously there is a correlation to the increase of Internet use with the popularity of pornography. In every country, pornography use is on the rise as well. In fact, China’s porn industry revenue has risen over $27 billion.
In the US, $13.33 billion was spent on the porn industry in 2006, and those numbers have increased, exceeding the combined revenues of networks ABC, NBC, and CBS.
Pornography on the Internet has been a family safety topic for many years, but it’s also a criticism of society at large online. There are a multitude of studies and statistics that show how profitable pornography has become, as well as how much it has infiltrated younger audiences and families.
The rise of Internet porn has reached an all-time high that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, but what does that mean for the next generation? There are a few alarming statistics about x-rated content and children that are causing parents to look for stricter parental control filter programs.
Since pornography can be introduced through several sources, many filter programs also provide summary reports on chat activity, websites visited, emails sent and received, as well as social media activity reports.
Aslo, studies have found that teenagers with frequent exposure to pornographic content have a greater likelihood of becoming pregnant as a teenager. In fact, studies found that pregnancy was twice as high, relative to the amount of x-rated content exposure.
According to National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, 47 percent of families reported that pornography was a problem at home. These numbers are only projected to increase as more mobile content continues to be uploaded to pornographic sites as well.
So how does all of this pornography affect people? There have been other studies focused on porn addiction and unwanted exposure to pornography, particularly in emails, spam, malware links, and advertising.
The magnitude of how much pornography can be found online is only one part of the problem. Employers have to work extremely hard to keep their networks safe and compliant with workplace laws as well. Cyber security in the workplace to prevent porn has serious costs. In fact, studies show that the financial cost in terms of business productivity costs about $16.9 billion each year.
In 2010, another study found that 28% of work computers had visited sexually explicit websites. On average, work computers visited these sites for about 13 minutes. In one month, it was found that the average worker spent one hour and 38 minutes on pornography-related sites.
For those who want to use Internet filters and blocks to control pornography use, there are a variety of software programs out there ready to help and prevent unwanted access.
Our meta test focuses on apps and programs that set up filters and limits for any device that you want. These programs work for family computers and parents who want to prevent children from seeing inappropriate content, as well as content for workplace computers. If you have compliance and workplace restrictions, these apps will help you set up filters and blocks to prevent matura and violent content from getting into your employees’ computers.
Some of the most important aspects of our test focus on the software’s accuracy, usability, installation, and setup. You should be able to install and configure any of the programs on this list in a few minutes, but we also wanted to make sure that you can understand each of the alerts and use all programs as intended by the software developer.
App management and Internet filtering are extremely important to these apps. The number of filters with each app is unique, but we found that pornography, violence, narcotics, racism, cyber-bullying, and other mature content filters were all present in the programs selected in our meta study.
With app management, you should be able to control most of the time spent on the Internet and smartphones by the users you control. If you want to schedule specific times where apps and games can be accessed, you can do so with programs like Qustodio and Norton Family. However, you can get even more detailed than that, setting up scheduled time and blocking certain types of apps that you find inappropriate for your user.
Texting management is another feature that we looked for, as it’s very important to monitor both SMS and chats on your child’s devices. With text management, you can typically get reports, alerts, and recordings of chats sent to your email and phone. Most kids are texting these days, so it’s important to monitor these messages and see who they are talking to.
You can also use location tracking with most of these apps. These features are incredibly valuable and give you insight into the places that your older children may be going on their own. With location tracking, you can prevent very dangerous situations for your kids.
Since most of the tests involved computers and mobile phones, we wanted our test to have a mixture of the top Internet filtering programs for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. While not all of the programs on our list are able to have cross-platform functionality, and it may not always be needed by parents for younger kids, we included more tests that looked at mobile device apps for parental controls as well.
Finally, price is a huge factor in how we look at some of these programs. You should be able to match the features to the value of the program. For example, Net Nanny is one of the top programs on our list, but for the price, you don’t get updates and up-to-date features. However, Net Nanny still has most of the basic features and some advanced functionality that make it a top choice, even if it is outdated. In general, you shouldn’t have to spend more than $20 to get really great controls unless you want more advanced features, that you’ll find in Kaspersky or Norton.
We know that there are an abundant amount of free parental controls, but our test looked at premium versions due to the need for advanced controls on a number of devices. We want users to feel as if they can control activity and get notifications whether their child is on the family computer, on a laptop, or just using their mobile phone.
In each of these tests, we looked for the criteria mentioned above, as well as the overall scores and ratings from the reviewer. We paid attention to the features that mattered most to users, such as limits, scheduling, app usage, monitors, text message monitoring, and location tracking.
While some of these tests included the products on our list, many of them went into other programs that were more robust for IT applications and businesses. We focused on some of these programs, but we identified that most of the users of these programs were for parental controls. As such, parents should be able to use any of these tests to see how well software today will work for their computers and devices.
TopTenReviews conducted a thorough test, spending 120 hours reviewing Internet filter programs. They wanted to see how each of these programs worked on mobile devices and computers. The test looked at seven different filter and parental control programs.
These were categorized by their top choice, as well as best overall, best value, best for mobile, and best for Mac. With each test, TopTenReview did a fully detailed review with pros and cons for each program.
TopTenReviews show a greater depth of detail, testing every feature of some programs and rating the accuracy from 1 to 10. In the end, you can see how each program performed in the test in an individual review, while also looking at a comparison table for quick glance comparisons.
Compared to the meta study, TopTenReviews agreed with our findings that Qustodio was the best overall, citing that they had the most filter categories, anti-cyberbullying tools, chat recording functionality, and scheduling controls for when kids are most active on the Internet.
We didn’t see TopTenReviews reviewing some of our other top choices found in our study, such as ESET Internet Security and Kaspersky Lab.
TopTenReviews looked at versatility between smartphones and computer programs that could actually block x-rated and violent content from several sources.
The full list of criteria included:
We really liked the amount of detail that went into the reviews for websites visited, alerts, and recording. You can truly see how some programs will work better for the price and provide you with the most control over your computer and devices. Some of these features were found to work well, and TopTenReviews displays a comparison chart where you can directly compare each of the seven tested programs.
AV Test is well known for testing all types of Internet software, such as antiviruses and filter programs. In a recent study, the website goes into detail about Internet use and how it affects younger users, including statistics that show their in-depth understanding of the market and concerns of parents. However, many of the programs on their list are mostly for overall business cyber security and prevent many other threats than just pornography.
Their tests on variable parental control software included 13 different programs.
The programs apart of this test work mostly on computers but not really mobile phones. In addition to blocking pornographic content, the tests looked at illegal data, chat rooms, gambling, drugs, weapons, racism, and other violence filters.
Overall, AV Test does a thorough job of testing traditional filter programs with desktop and Mac computers. However, they don’t pay any attention to some programs specifically made for mobile phones, such as Surfie. They also didn’t test our meta study’s number one choice, Qustodio.
AV Test found that Symantec Norton Family Premier was the top software for protecting against multiple threats, scoring it highest for pornography and gambling filters. In our test, we rated Norton as sixth overall.
AV Test performed multiple tests with each software program. The tests looked to block all types of content and rated how well each program did based on 1 to 100.
Here are the tests performed by AV Test:
However, many of the programs on the list didn’t have filters for most of these categories. Of the ones tested, only Kaspersky’s Safe Kids, Symantec’s Norton Family Premier, Microsoft Family Safety, and Apple Mac Parental Controls were able to test all categories.
PC Mag has a lot of reviews about software and Internet programs. Their reviews on Internet filter and parental control programs show a thorough understanding of the consumer’s need from a parent, family, and workplace perspective.
In each review, PC Mag provides pros and cons, looking at the features and filters that are strongest, as well as what some programs do better than others. All of this information is summed up in a detailed comparison chart listening out each of the categories tested.
PC Mag tested over 10 programs and listed their top choices as follows:
The programs on PC Mag’s list range from specific parental controls to workplace security. For example, Clean Router, SafeDNS, and OpenDNS are more prevalent in business and IT workplaces, as their features are a little bit more complicated and less versatile for today’s smartphones. You won’t be able to use SafeDNS or OpenDNS with mobile apps. We liked that each review detailed the number of features and what would work for child’s safety, as well as cyber security for employee computers.
PC Mag found that Qustodio was a top-notch Internet filter program, just like in our meta study. They cited Qustodio’s ability to filter out content on multiple devices to be a prime feature that other software was not able to compete with. In addition, Qustodio was able to filter out more content, and users were able to set up monitoring for social networks, scheduling, and remote management settings.
PC Mag went through a number of different features in each program, testing for its ability to block content on multiple browsers and setting up schedules to see how well it would block content when parents were not around.
Here are the categories that PC Mag found to be most important for criteria:
Tom’s Guide writes about their entire process to reviewing Internet filter apps, including all of their evaluation criteria and what they didn’t include in the test. Their tests focused specifically on mobile phone apps that included parental control and NSFW content filters, as well as other monitoring software.
With their thorough findings, you can see that they looked at the austerity of the code, in addition to how many features and filters were available with each program.
In all, Tom’s Guide reviewed 10 different mobile parental control apps, including:
If apps had more than one operating system to test, Tom’s Guide thoroughly reviewed each, focusing on different features, pros, and cons of each, as well as what type of app it was. For example, was it an activity monitor app or a limited app manager?
In comparison to our meta study, Tom’s Guide studied a few different apps that were included in our top programs, including Qustodio and Symantec’s Norton parental control programs. However, we liked that Tom’s Guide focused on other apps that were available and how well each of them performed for different features, such as monitoring activity and reporting back to the parent on what content was accessed.
Tom’s Guide lists their evaluation criteria as follows:
The filtering was reviewed extensively in each program. You can see how many filters each program has compared to the other, but every review is highly detailed. In addition, Tom’s Guide picks out specific features that are unique to the software, such as detailed chat reports and chat monitoring that can be sent to your email or as a text alert to your phone.
As its own parental control and activity monitor app, Spyzie includes its own software in the review. Overall, we found that the reviews on Spyzie don’t go into too much detail, but they still selected more mobile apps that were available for today’s tech-savvy kids.
Spyzie focuses solely on parental control programs and mobile apps that are free in their reviews of the top 10 best “free” parental control software for 2018. Their main concern is with the value of the program and providing the most “free” filters, not necessarily what is best for your mobile phone or computer.
There are 10 programs included in the review:
For free mobile apps that provide parental controls, Spyzie does a great job in reviewing different features. They featured a few similar programs, but our study mainly focused on premium, paid-for programs. Still, Spyzie found that Qustodio and Windows Family Safety were two great free apps and programs that parents could use to monitor their child’s activities. However, there were multiple features missing in the free version.
Comparitech does an in-depth buying guide, as well as installation guide, to help users understand how to set up these programs, in addition to the reviews. The installation guide for free parental controls on Windows and Mac computers is very helpful.
For the reviews, Comparitech chose a top five and thoroughly went into each description, comparing features such as device compatibility, text message monitoring, scheduling, pornography filters, and other functionalities.
Here are the top five from Comparitech:
We found these reviews to be very insightful and knowledgeable, and we appreciated that Comparitech labeled each program for its value to the read, such as Mobiclip named as “Best for Non-Tech Savvy Parents.”
Qustodio was again named the top parental control software according to Comparitech, which is what our meta study found as well. The program and app has a ton of features for all operating systems and devices, as well as filters and reports that can help parents monitor and control every aspect their kids’ phones.
The other programs on Comparitech were similarly rated to our meta study including Norton Family and Kaspersky Safe Kids.
Each review thoroughly describes all the features and filters of the program, as well as how well it worked with each device. Comparitech valued the accuracy rating on what the program thought was pornographic or otherwise unsafe content.
Here is a breakdown of the criteria used by Comparitech in their Internet filtering program reviews:
Internet filtering and parental control apps allow both parents and employers to treat their computers and devices as safe spaces. While many of the programs listed in our meta study are specifically for families, many of these apps and programs also work to prevent illegal activity on work computers.
Here is a brief look at all of the programs in our meta study.
For the ultimate protection against pornography, violence, gambling, and other issues facing young Internet browsers, Qustodio is the top choice. The software takes its job very seriously and has one of the longest list of filters available in the market right now.
For the price, Qustodio is also noted for its best overall value. You’ll get the most parental controls and the ability to monitor all activity on your kids devices. It’s also available on every operating system, and it has text messaging and call monitoring with remote control. There’s also a free version of Qustodio that you can use to test out the software.
We liked that Qustodio was easy to set up on any device, and as soon as it’s set up, you are able to see an activity breakdown that details the activity into a pie chart. You can also filter everything on the web, including gambling, weapons, loopholes, profanity, pornography, maturity control, drugs, tobacco, and more.
Kaspersky Lab was another top choice for parental controls and Internet filtering. The software is extremely low-cost and provides a number of features that you need for the software to work accurately and conveniently for everyone. For example, you can create an endless number of profiles on an infinite number of devices. It works on iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac. There are also flexible controls for each device, allowing you to control app usage, web filters, geofencing, and alerts.
While Kaspersky is full-featured, there are some things missing on its iOS platform, and content filtering is limited to certain browsers. We liked that Kaspersky had controls and monitoring for all devices, however, and it doesn’t impose limits on how many you can have with the premium version.
We really like that you can control all notifications with the Kaspersky Safe Kids app. It has a number of alerts that you can set up, breaking down into licenses, kids, devices, and support. There are robust time limits that you can set for each user. The app restrictions will work great for any child that is constantly on their phones. You can currently block apps based on adult content, jobs, anonymizers, internet communication, gambling, lotteries, games, violence, profanity, pornography, and more.
ESET is well known for its antivirus software, but included with that software, there are also parental controls and Internet filters. We found that ESET had a decent number of filters that work with Windows, but it’s not going to work for mobile phones. You won’t be able to prevent your child from using different apps, but it’s still a great program for protection on your Windows computer.
In addition, you can set up a number of different users and specify settings for each one separately. You can block most attempts to view x-rated content, and it’s a good program for family and workplace computers.
There are a number of alerts you can set up with ESET, including a main window that shows you all online security notifications. You can limited unwanted applications based on any kind of keyword you want to set, and there are also scan choices and Internet time schedulers for each user.
If you are a tech-savvy parent, then you’ll probably appreciate Net Nanny’s ability to monitor most of your child’s activities. One of the more expensive programs and apps on our list, Net Nanny supports Windows, Mac, and Android. You won’t find any help for iPhones. It includes web-based configuration and reporting, as well as powerful filtering for most of the things that you want to block. It’s extremely accurate for blocking pornographic content. In addition, you can use it cross-platform for monitoring apps and Internet time.
However, one thing that bothers us about this program is that there hasn’t been any new updates. While it’s web-centric approach makes it incredibly robust for most computer users, it hasn’t been updated in a number of years for it to be more useful for mobile users.
The ContentWatch Net Nanny is a great tool that can track and protect your kids content across Windows, Mac, Android, and with limited availability, iPad and iPhone. It does this through an alert system that you can simply check through notifications. While it’s filtering and Internet time scheduling functionalities are great, it’s missing some significant features available in more affordable software.
McAfee has been one of the top antivirus programs for many years. Their parental controls have grown more robust with time. The best thing about the latest version of this software is that it’s available for multiple devices and operating systems. You can now use their app monitoring, reports, limits, filters, and app usage monitors on iPhone and Android.
However, Total Protection is a little bit more expensive than Qustodio, which makes it a little bit lower on our list. With standard parental control tools and lots of monitoring on unlimited devices, you’ll be able to protect your computer with nearly 100% accuracy. In addition, the app and program are updated frequently with new definitions and features so you always have the latest ways to protect your family.
The main window of McAfee Total Protection allows you to control all users and see all settings. It’s easy to set up and allows you to get all the alerts in one place. You can set up privacy controls, content filters, time schedulers, and location trackers. The app works well for anyone who wants to prevent their kids from seeing content that is mature, pornographic, violent, or otherwise inappropriate.
Norton Family Premier is another parental control program that was featured in the top 10 in many of our tests. While it is more expensive than Qustodio, there are a lot of other features that are included with this software. It’s available for PC, phones, and tablets. In addition, the web dashboard is just fun to use, but it can be complicated to set up if you are not familiar with tech.
You can track your child’s location, see app usage, set filters, and change settings depending on the device. However, it’s not available yet for Mac and it does not block HTTPS sites on a few browsers, which allows work-arounds for the software. While it’s a top-notch software with a lot of features, it may be too complex for some users who just want to set up parental controls on their child’s cell phones.
The best value overall for Windows users is the Microsoft Family Safety program. While it doesn’t work with any other devices, it provides a variety of controls and reports for parents. It’s free for all Windows and Windows phones, and you can configure it to handle almost all threats online. You can also set it to limit games and other content based on your child’s age, and it can locate your child’s location based on their phone.
While it’s not as robust as some of the other programs, such as Qustodio, the price is hard to beat, and it helps prevent children from accessing most pornographic and violent content. However, the biggest drawback is that it doesn’t support anything other than Windows devices.
Most of the programs on our list are available for under $50, and while most of the programs have free versions, we focused on premium versions due to the extra functionality and features.
The best overall value in our study was with Qustodio, which provided every feature we felt was important to Internet filtering, on every single device. It only costs $14.99.
However, the most expensive was by Symantec. The software costs almost $50 and definitely has a ton of features. However, Qustodio had more compatibility and accuracy, as well as a lower price.
Out of all the programs in our study, Microsoft Family Safety was the most free version that had the best features. However, this software is simply included with the latest Windows 10 software.
In terms of functionality, we checked each program on our list for a variety of features and compatibility. We wanted to find Internet filtering programs that would be able to work on every platform, while also allowing parents to have basic and advanced controls over the content being viewed on any device.
Out of all of the programs featured, Qustodio and Symantec had the most parental control features. We liked Qustodio’s simplicity and versatility for each platform, but Norton has a great dashboard that makes it easy to see threats and alerts at a glance.
For mobile phone compatibility, Qustodio is also the best. You’ll be able to monitor your child’s activities on every single device you own, whether it’s Android or iOS.
Net Nanny was probably the worst program on our list for functionality because of its older software and lack of updates. The price also makes it one of the worst purchases if you want a program that has support and up-to-date mobile phone controls.
While Windows Family Safety is limited, the functionality for the price is exactly what most parents will be satisfied with for the home computer. You probably won’t use this for a Windows phone, if you have one.
While most of the programs on this list are specifically marketed to families, they have incredible features for a number of different users. The top choice on our list is Qustodio due to its device compatibility and feature-rich platform, which can be used to limit any user to content you specifically want them to view.
For families, it all depends on the features that will make you feel like your kids can safely use the Internet on all devices. If your kid has a mobile phone, as well as a laptop, then Qustodio is a great, affordable option. You will be able to monitor your child’s activities on every single device while also getting alerts, location tracking, and activity reports.
However, if you don’t want to spend any money and just need the basic controls on the family computer, you can use Windows Family Safety or even Mac’s built-in parental controls. These are free and allow you to block most content within the browser.
For quick alerts and activity monitoring at a glance, as well as robust and advanced reporting, Kaspersky Lab and Norton Family are among the top. You’ll be able to use the dashboard to see everything, including a history of usage. You can also use tracking alerts so you can prevent any activity from getting through your security fence. These are great options for those who have multiple kids, multiple devices, or need a robust option for the workplace.
Your parental control budget will also play a role in the software that’s best for your family or workspace. Overall, you’ll find that the controls and features in Qustodio outweight many of the other programs on this list, and it has the lowest price for what you get.