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The Learning Bubble - child learning software review

Simon Handby
17 Oct 2010
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
20
inc VAT

The Learning Bubble is good for encouraging younger children's learning on a PC, but its apparent fallibility concerns us.

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The Learning Bubble (TLB) is aimed at younger children, and it takes a slightly different approach to most parental control packages. Its focus is on the PC as an educational tool and, as such, its scheduling divides a child's time between blocked time, free time and learning time. Moreover, while other packages install web filtering that works behind the scenes of the browsers already installed on the PC, TLB installs its own custom browser.

During the installation, TLB sets the currently logged-in account as the parent account, and suggests that you create separate user accounts for your children. It's easy to configure, presenting a list of the computer's accounts and letting you quickly choose how to classify each. In TLB each child has unique settings based on a template, but most parents will want to refine these at this stage – the defaults are rather draconian. There's a final warning if any Windows accounts with administrator privileges have no password; the configuration program won't close until you've added one for security.

Before TLB becomes fully active you must log on as each child, allow a short automatic configuration to finish, then log off again. After this, TLB effectively locks down the Windows environment for each protected user, blocking access to almost all programs. The software's 'Safe Web Browser' displays a list of pre-approved sites by default; you can type an address in the address bar, but it will be blocked if not approved.

That's the theory. However, TLB's blocking was unimpressive, allowing through a smattering of unsuitable sites across multiple categories and being the only service to allow access to one obvious pornographic site. Worse, during our testing, two sites were supposedly blocked, only to be visible in the browser behind the message telling us so.

Last time we reviewed The Learning Bubble, we praised its collection of educational sites, and there's no doubt that it’s a good platform for learning on the PC. Distractions are removed during learning time by replacing the Windows Start Menu with a custom restricted version, and there's a comprehensive whitelist of educational sites. However, TLB can be bypassed by proxy software on a USB drive, and the partial visibility of sites that should be blocked concerns us. Instead, we recommend Net Nanny, which costs only a little more per year.

Details

Price£20
Detailswww.thelearningbubble.co.uk
Rating**

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