Do you know what your kids get up on the internet? How do you keep them safe from online content you don’t want them to see? The good news is that modern antivirus software provides the solution.

The dangers our children face are no longer confined to the physical world, where we can insure that they are properly supervised. It also involves life online.

Children grow up with the internet, almost ‘on’ the internet, and needless to say the web plays a very important part in their lives. Fact is, that the internet, much like regular social life, is full of dangers. Or at the very least, full of things that you don’t necessarily want your kids to be exposed to at a young age. Violence, sexually explicit material, cruelty against people or animals, racism, and bullying, to name a few examples.

Yes, your children need to be made aware, at some point, that (some of) these aspects of life exist, but in the meantime it makes sense to use the tools at your disposal to give them some measure of protection.

Antivirus Software to the Rescue

It is impossible to keep an eye on your kids 24/7. You need every little bit of help you can get to get the best possible view on what your kids do on a day-to-day basis. That help is abundantly available when it comes to their online behavior. Many security software providers offer extensive toolboxes to effectively execute ‘parental control’.

So, what exactly is possible?

Bitdefender Parental Controls: Clear & Comprehensive

In short, Parental Controls offer you the ability to control and monitor your children’s online access and activity. In general, Parental Controls options don’t seem to differ that much from one provider to the next.

Bitdefender offers an extensive set of parental controls, with core elements being the following:

  • Social Networks Tracking
  • Mobile Phone Tracking
  • Websites & Apps Blocking and Monitoring
  • SMS & Calls Application Blocking & Monitoring
  • Instant Messaging Blocking & Monitoring

Obviously, it is not just internet that plays a role here – the mobile phone is just as crucial. The Bitdefender Parental Controls suite offers the obvious website blocking (basically the first thing that comes to mind when you think about parental controls), but also social networks monitoring and SMS, calls and instant messaging blocking options (the latter as a countermeasure against bullying).

The whole system can be set up in four easy steps: Installing the software on all devices you want to monitor (1), setting up profiles per child (2), adding the devices to the profiles (3), and finally monitoring the activity on the devices (4).

A nifty extra feature, bound to set parents’ minds more at ease, is the location tracker that tells you where your kid is at any given time. You keep track of everything by means of reports that you can generate according to your specifications.

McAfee Parental Controls: Not Abundant, But Sufficient

Where Bitdefender offers a very clear and simple set of tools, it take a little bit more time and insight to get a good idea of what McAfee offers in their Parental Controls toolbox.

First of all, before you can control the options, you have to create a password-protected administrator account. The administrator is responsible for choosing protection settings for each child in the household, and for creating a password. Sensible, definitely.

The parental controls options McAfee offers allow you to make sure that your children participate in only age-appropriate online activities, and allow you to schedule when your children can go online, and when not.

You can activate the ‘safe searching’ mode that automatically activates safety filters in the popular search engines, to exclude unwanted, inappropriate results.

You can also add a filter list that blocks or allows sites or IP addresses of sites that will be blocked.

All in all, the options are not as extensive as those in Bitdefender, but still offer plenty of ways to exercise some level of control. McAfee also offers reports so you can keep tabs on the parental controls measures taken by the system.

Net Nanny (ZoneAlarm): Extensive and Intuitive

Net Nanny is the parental controls module of the ZoneAlarm antivirus software product.

As we have seen often, ZoneAlarm is capable of maintaining a high quality product because it is using the best available software around to include in its products.

Net Nanny 7.0 is the latest version of this very extensive parental control tool set, and is very easy to customize to meet your specific requirements. Blocking and filtering websites and online games is an option, just as is age-appropriate customization for the masking of profanity.

Net Nanny’s keyword detection tool allows you to monitor for evidence of bullying or any other type of unsafe interaction. The time management options to limit and schedule time spent on browsing is another functionality, one that we’ve also seen in the other toolboxes under review in this article.

The Net Nanny report functionality comes with email notifications to give you instant feedback on the surfing behavior of your children. For each child, you can set up a unique profile to fit their age and development phase.

Net Nanny works particularly well when it comes to setting up the software. You don’t need to be a genius to set things up, because of the high level of intuitiveness, excellent help features and crystal clear instructions that help you set up the different profiles you need in no time.

Profiles are easily adjustable as your family grows. The online dashboard where you manage the profiles, synchronizes all changes directly with all the affected devices, so you really only have to manage things in one place after completing the initial installation.

Net Nanny’s keyword detection tool is definitely a feature that deserves a special mention. In these times, where cyber-bullying is a common part of growing up for many kids, this is a very important feature. Definitely a big plus in any parental control software.

Net Nanny does more though. It keeps track of all sites and searches, it masks or blocks sites for inappropriate content, offers the option to add safe lists and block lists to each unique profile, and integrates with safe search settings of the most popular browsers to prevent (accidental) exposure to pornographic material while performing image-only searches.

It also monitors a wide range of social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and LinkedIn), although an additional license (Net Nanny Social) is required to do this. In general, the social media monitoring Net Nanny does is checking for unsafe activity, inappropriate images, off-limits friends and dangerous posts.

Just as with the other toolboxes, you can set specific schedules for browsing. The hours that your kids spend on the internet on a daily basis can be limited or configured in a specific way. You can make these changes as the administrator of the software, but it is advisable, if only for the sake of familial harmony, to discuss the limits and schedules with your kids.

Conclusion: exercise good parenting with parental controls software

Being a parent is hard enough as it is, so the fact that many security software providers offer a set of parental control tools, is very convenient. The option discussed in this article are definitely worthy of your consideration, as they all offer the necessary features, and in the case of ZoneAlarm and Bitdefender a nice set of additional nice-to-have features.

Take this helping hand and make your parental life a little less stressful! Check out all of the parental control options from the leading antivirus software providers in our antivirus reviews section.

Laurie Dunn
Laurie can be called a highly creative person, successfully juggling her work and family time. As a career-mother busily analyzing data and her children’s grades, Laurie’s best achievement is managing a team of specialists. Laurie is our “It” girl when it comes to computer safe keeping.
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