capsule review

ParentalControl Bar

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder ParentalControl Bar

The program automatically blocks nudity and explicit sexual material. Parents can choose whether to block violence, strong language, chat rooms and message boards, and "potentially harmful activities" (that term is not defined). ParentalControl Bar also tracks user activity while in Child Mode, allowing parents to keep tabs on their children's online activities.

By default the toolbar blocks unlabeled content, meaning that it will not display any Web site that isn't labeled using the ICRA's system. A quick test revealed that many legitimate sites are not so labeled. Parents will need to disable that setting or manually approve educational Web sites like local news outlets and museums.

Access to the program's settings is password protected. Unfortunately, parents are required to enter a hint that is displayed in the password box. It may be challenging to come up with a password and hint combination that older children and teens can't figure out.

More troubling is the fact that in my limited tests with the ParentalControl Bar, it allowed me to search on "porn" and even to access a few of the explicit sites in my search results.

This free toolbar may be useful to parents of younger children; it can easily be used to restrict usage to a list of approved Web sites. My tests revealed weaknesses that may limit its usefulness for teenagers, however.

--Kim Saccio-Kent

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder ParentalControl Bar

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