Our Complete Guide to Web Filtering and Browsers

The root of the problem when it comes to ‘Parenting Technology’ begins with what content comes into your home.  There are typically two paths:

  • What comes via the Internet and through cable.  With industry consolidation, cable and Wifi signals are usually bundled together through Internet/Cable service providers
  • What comes via cellular which powers all mobile devices when not on Wifi.

Parents need solutions to address both.  Here we focus on controlling the Wifi Signal, both in terms of content filtering and shutting the Wifi off.   

Content Filtering

Whenever it comes to parental controls, our philosophy is to keep it as simple as possible. We find the best solutions are those that are pragmatic, readily available, easy to setup, and convenient to use. In rare circumstances, if we recommend a paid service, it’s because the functionality is so good, it’s worth paying for.  

We tested a number of the leading web filtering solutions, and here’s what we’ve boiled it down to. For practical considerations and for most use cases, we believe that combining the following is fairly effective:

For Younger Kids:

  • Safari’s parental controls 
  • KidzSearch Browser 

For Older Kids:

  • Safari’s parental controls
  • YouTube’s Restricted Mode

Safari Parental Controls

What Parents Should know about Safari Restrictions:

  • You can lock website restrictions with a passcode or a lock
  • Setting Restrictions automatically disables the Private Browsing Mode
  • Even when your child leaves the house with his computer or his phone, Restrictions are enabled when accessing cellular data and any Wifi network
  • Restrictions are available on iOS devices as well as Mac Computers
  • If parent computers sit out in the open, you can take the basic step of filtering out adult content via Safaric
  • Mac parental controls can only be enabled on a user account, not an Administrator account (this may mean that you need to create another user profile for yourself and migrate files) PROVIDE Instructions
  • Safari Restrictions can be applied to some web-sites, but not all, including youtube.com.

For iPhone/ iPad -iOS 11

  • Go to Settings > General >Restrictions Hover: For instructions to set up Restrictions, LINK TO iOS 11 Guide – Set up Restrictions section.
  • Enter Restrictions Passcode
  • Scroll down to Websites and click on it
  • Select Limit Adult Websites
    • Choose if there are any websites you want to Always Allow or Never Allow (for example, youtube.com or amazon.com)

OR

  • Specific Websites Only (for younger kids) This setting is useful if you want to limit your child to a specific set of websites. HOVER:  For example, you may want to install a kid safe browser, such as Google’s KidzSearch (www.kidzsearch.com), PBS kids, and other learning sites as directed by school.

Note: When you select Limit Adult Websites or Allowed Websites Only, you subsequently also block your child from using the Private Browsing mode.

  • Tap Done when you are finished.

For iPhone/ iPad -iOS 12

  • Go to Settings
  • Screen Time (For instructions to set up Screen Time, LINK)
  • Click on Content and Privacy Restrictions
  • Enter your Screen Time passcode
  • Toggle Content & Privacy Restrictions to the ON position
  • Tap on Content Restrictions
  • Tap on Web Content; under the Web Content section, and select either:
    • Limit Adult Websites
      • Choose if there are any websites you want to Always Allow or Never Allow (for example, youtube.com or amazon.com)
    • Allowed Websites Only (for younger kids)
      • This setting is useful if you want to limit your child to a specific set of websites. HOVER:  For example, you may want to install a kid safe browser, such a Google’s KidzSearch (www.kidzsearch.com), PBS kids, and other learning sites as directed by school

 

Note: When you select Limit Adult Websites or Allowed Websites Only, you subsequently also block your child from using the Private Browsing mode.

For the Mac

  • Navigate to the Apple icon (top left of screen) and select System Preferences
  • Click Parental Controls
  • Click the lock icon to unlock it, then enter your administrator name and password                                            
  • Select the user you‘d like to activate Safari filtering for and click Enable Parental Controls
  • Under the ‘Web’ tab, select either:
    • Try to limit access to Adult Websites
        • Choose Customize
        • In the pop up, you can choose if there are any websites you want to Always Allow or Never Allow (for example, youtube.com or amazon.com)
    • Allowed Access to only these Websites (for younger kids)
      • This setting is useful if you want to limit your child to a specific set of websites. HOVER:  For example, you may want to install a kid safe browser, such a Google’s KidzSearch (www.kidzsearch.com), PBS kids, and other learning sites as directed by school.
      • Because Safari Restrictions are not foolproof, we recommend targeting the other areas where kids are the most likely to stumble upon questionable content. Given the reality that YouTube is the most popular platform among teens and 81% of parents with kids under 11 permit their children to watch, we have detailed below YouTube’s fairly limited parental controls.

Youtube Restricted Mode

YouTube presents parents with quite a conundrum. With over 5 billion videos and thousands of new videos being posted everyday, policing it with 10,000 moderators and complex algorithms is still not enough to guarantee explicit content won’t slip through. Still, YouTube is widely used in schools to supplement learning, and there is a treasure trove of veritable, educational videos. Thus, changing settings to Restricted Mode is a must for children who access YouTube, but unfortunately, there’s way to effectively lock this setting.   

What Parents Should know about YouTube’s Restricted Mode:

  • Safari filtering does not apply to YouTube, either in the app or the browser version
  • Restricted Mode does help to to filter out explicit content, but should not be considered 100% safe
  • Restricted Mode can easily be turned off, but a child would have to actively change the setting 

 HIFAF Recommendation: Use our Family Agreement to set expectations

How to activate the Restricted Mode on Youtube?

Note: On the phone, you must activate Restricted Mode for the app and the browser version.

 HIFAF Recommendation:

If your kids are going to watch YouTube, we recommend restricting them to watching on the browser. The reasons are:

1) One less place to have to manage Restrictions

2) When you set content restrictions in either iOS 11 or 12, to allow YouTube, you’ll have to set the age limit to 17+. This means that your 12-year-old will be able to view any app in the App Store unless you turn Installing Apps off.  

For the computer :

  • Go to the account icon 
  • Click Restricted Mode
  • Toggle on Activate Restricted Mode

        

For the iphone/ipad (the browser version ):

  • Go to youtube.com and click on the to the top right
  • Click on Settings within the pop up that appears
  • Tap on Restricted Mode  to activate it

      

For the iphone/ipad (the app):

  • In the top right, tap your account icon
  • Tap Settings 
  • Toggle on Restricted Mode 

      

Parents can Monitor what their kids are watching on YouTube:

  • In iOS 12 Screen Time, parents can:
    • Review web-site history from the convenience of their phone
    • Set one time limit for YouTube that applies to both the browser and the app
  • Parents can also log into their child’s account to review Watch History 

Safari screenshot with search term -‘porn’

Safari screenshot -YouTube No filtering

Safari screenshot -YouTube With filtering

   

Setting up Kidzsearch Browser

  • Go to Settings
  • Screen Time (For instructions to set up Screen Time, LINK)
  • Click on Content and Privacy Restrictions
    • Enter your Screen Time passcode
    • Toggle Content & Privacy Restrictions to the ON position
  • Tap on Content Restrictions
  • Under the Web Content section, and select:
    • Allowed Websites Only
      • This setting is useful if you want to limit your child to a specific set of websites. HOVER:  For example, you may want to install a kid safe browser, such a Google’s KidzSearch (www.kidzsearch.com), PBS kids, and other learning sites as directed by school.

Chrome Parental Controls

Because we find that less is more when ‘Parenting Technology,’ we advise restricting kids to just one web-browser, and think that Safari Restrictions do a fairly good job, particularly as they deactivate Private Browsing. At this point in time, we do not recommend that children use Chrome, as its parental controls (Family Lik) are complicated to set up. Also, Family Link cannot be used in conjunction with any other parental control solutions (e.g. Apple Screen Time, Circle, or Bark). Furthermore, it does not work with school issued G-suite accounts, and if you want to set up parental controls for your teen, your teen must have an Android device.  

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