Net Nanny Review
Net Nanny is probably the best-known parental control software product we reviewed. It gives parents a lot of tools to use to monitor their children's online activity, while not blocking everything online and, in turn, frustrating its child and teen users. Its customer support team is super responsive, which made it easy to give the software a 5-star rating.
An annual license with Net Nanny costs $39.99/year (or $29.99/year with NextAdvisor's discount) with the option to add additional computers or devices for $19.99/device. Net Nanny also offers bundles with better rates for multiple devices, which it calls the Family Protection Pass. There are three different plans with the Family Protection Pass depending on how many devices you'd like to cover with the software. Five computers or devices costs $59.99/year, 10 computers or devices costs $89.99/year and 15 computers or devices costs $119.99/year. This is the better option to go with if you need to cover more than one to two devices, as it gives you a much better deal, opposed to paying an additional $19.99/year for each additional device. Additionally, it does offer a 14-day free trial to test the software out.
Also, with the Family Protection Pass, you get a free, one-year license with Net Nanny's social networking tool called Net Nanny Social; this is a more extensive social networks monitoring tool that normally costs $19.99/year (without the Family Protection Pass). It's a web-based platform, so no additional software is required. Unlike the social monitoring feature on Net Nanny, Net Nanny Social monitors more than just your child's Facebook. This add-on feature monitors a child's friends, pictures and posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and LinkedIn. It also monitors these networks on a variety of Internet access points, including 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, home network and hot spot connections.
Net Nanny's interface is well organized, and can be accessed from the program's control panel (which is displayed on your desktop toolbar after installation) or a remote login via a web browser, so you'll want to make sure you choose a really strong password. You can choose from 31 categories to block, warn or allow, including Hate/Violence, Adult/Mature, Gambling, Intimate Apparel and Pornography. Unfortunately, it's not possible to remove words from Net Nanny's basic word list, but you can add words to this list. The word list is automatically updated on Net Nanny's servers based on what it deems as the "most harmful" content online. You can't set maturity levels, which is unfortunate, but you can make exceptions to keywords, sites or categories blocked. You can also create separate lists for each family member. For example, you can block a site such as YouTube when your 5-year-old is using the computer, but allow it to be accessed when your 16-year-old is online. We especially liked having the option to block an entire website or just block certain pages within that website.
The filtering works pretty well, both from an adult and a teen user perspective. When testing this software we take both perspectives into account. As an adult, you want harmful content screened out. As a teen or child, you may want to see all kinds of things you "shouldn't" but at the very least you should be able to get around seeing the things you "should" see with minimal annoyances. Net Nanny did a good job at blocking most porn-related queries and sites. It showed very few false positives, correctly seeing "breast cancer," "chicken breasts" and "sex linked differences" as clean. It did allow us to join an adult group on Yahoo! (where we lied about our age), even though the actual adult group area was blocked by Net Nanny. Its "Hate" filter was more problematic, completely blocking Google searches for "KKK" but allowing searches for "Nazi." That being said, "Hate" is a difficult categorization for an algorithm, but we found blocking Wikipedia's entry on "Nazi" to be a little silly.
Net Nanny scored nearly perfect in our circumvention test. It was either able to identify and block proxy sites from loading, or block the illicit content we were trying to access with a proxy site. We did find that it occasionally would show Google caches of sites that Net Nanny blocked, but only if Net Nanny blocked the site based on the URL. It also filters content in ads that are displayed in banners on websites, which sometimes contain inappropriate content, such as advertisements for lingerie, pornography or gambling websites. We were really pleased with this feature, as most parental control software services do not take these banner ads into account.
Net Nanny does not monitor any chat applications, instant messengers or email, but it did the best out of all of our test group at blocking images in web-based email. We tested it on Yahoo! mail and it kept us from receiving or downloading images that had "adult" file names. But this is also one area where Net Nanny showed some false positives as we initially received erroneous pornography blocks for looking at a picture of an eagle, though we could eventually see it. A lingerie photo was visible as well when we gave it a non-offensive name. Although it tried to block part of that email, it was unsuccessful.
As mentioned before, Net Nanny has a social monitoring feature for both Windows and Mac that monitors your child's activity on Facebook. You can block or turn warnings on for other social network websites, but if you want full monitoring on other websites, you'll need Net Nanny Social. This add-on tool will help you keep track of what your child is sharing, posting or chatting about on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and LinkedIn. It's important to note, however, that this tool costs an additional $19.99/year, but it does work across all of your child's devices, including smartphones and tablets.
You can receive notifications of "warning" behavior when Net Nanny detects different behaviors (such as use of profanity or acronyms such as MIRL or Meet In Real Life), but you cannot get your full reports emailed to you. The full reports are only viewable when you log in to your account, but you do have the option to enable alerts via text message or email. These alerts will warn you if your child exchanges certain types of information such as location and age, as well as sexual content. The full reports are recorded in the log for later viewing and you have the option to select whether you'd like to receive reports daily or weekly. Net Nanny makes it very easy to understand these reports, with a fully searchable reporting mechanism that includes both searches and URLs tried and whether they were successful and not.
Net Nanny is available on Windows and Mac desktops and laptops as well as iOS, Android and Kindle Fire devices. The newest versions of its software for Windows, either Net Nanny 6.5 or 7, are now supported on Windows 10, but can still be used with Windows 8, 7, Vista and XP. Mac computers must be running OS X 10.7 or higher to use Net Nanny 2 or 3. All Kindle Fire models support Net Nanny, but if you're using Android, it must be 2.3.3 and higher, and if you're using an iOS device, it must be version 5.0 or later.
Net Nanny has a multitude of help tools available in its Support section. There are FAQs broken down into specific categories (such as Net Nanny for Mac or Net Nanny for Android), free web seminar videos and a searchable knowledge base. If you can't find the answer to your question with any of these tools, you can contact its customer support team a number of ways. You can open a ticket online, submit an email or contact a representative via phone or live chat. Its phone line is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT and its live chat is available Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT. We didn't experience any wait time with live chat, though the representative we spoke with wasn't able to fully answer all of our questions. As promised, our email was answered within one business day, and this time, our questions were answered in full.
Before we tested the 7 version of Net Nanny, we were hard pressed to recommend any parent control software. The changes in 7, particularly to circumvention prevention, make it a no-brainer. While no parental control software will ever block 100% of the inappropriate content out there, Net Nanny does a pretty good job. Overall, it's a product that parents can feel comfortable with, and that kids probably won't hate too much. It'll give you 14 days to try it out free, so you can see whether or not that's true.
|Cost:||$39.99/yr or $29.99/yr |
14-day free trial
|Programs Monitored:||Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari|
|Special Features:||Profanity masking; ratings-controlled gaming; picture, forum, blog controls|
|Social Network Monitoring:||Profile reporting: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, LinkedIn; option to block unsupported sites|
|Reports/Alerts:||Searchable web history reports; customizable real time cell phone/email alerts|
|Kid-Proof Rating:||Excellent: succesfully blocks proxies and filters URLs|
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