Full of intelligent features, and we liked the consensual filtering and IM monitoring, but it needs to pay more attention to UK sites.
Net Nanny’s interface is slick and intuitive.
As well as web filtering, it can monitor instant messaging (IM) chats, and block newsgroup software, chat rooms, peer-to-peer file-sharing programs and games. It can filter secure content (which prevented the use of our favourite proxy software), enforce SafeSearch filters on Google and other search engines, and even monitor Facebook use.
You create an admin account and accounts for each user you want to monitor. Net Nanny will block by default, so users can’t bypass it by logging into a different Windows account. For each account, you can set different levels of monitoring and blocking, and Net Nanny has pre-defined rules for different age groups.
Web filtering is done by category, with 31 available in all. Although you can’t fine-tune the sites covered by each category, you can turn on an option to let users request access to a specific site to create a whitelist. However, in our tests we detected a definite US bias, with some UK porn sites slipping through the filters, whereas the NHS sex education site and the Ask Frank drug information site for teenagers were blocked. Net Nanny was still better than other software at blocking self-harm sites.
IM monitoring is sophisticated, with the ability to monitor for certain phrases by category, such as Hurtful Language, Direct Contact and Personal Information. These are designed to warn you if your child gets into a conversation in which the other participant is bullying or trying to initiate real-world contact. The game filters allow you to set filters based on ESRB ratings, or choose individual games from a comprehensive list. You can also set up an alert if your child accesses their Facebook profile, email alerts can be set up for any monitored action, and you can manage all settings remotely using a web interface.
Net Nanny is one of the most sophisticated parental control packages we’ve seen, although its filtering is US-biased and it’s more expensive than others. K9’s web filtering is better, but if you need to block programs, monitor chats and manage time online it’s the best choice, and wins our Best Buy award.