As mobile browsing become more and more prevalent, access to questionable sites by younger audiences is inevitable. To parents, this presents yet another challenge in keeping your children safe online as well as preventing them from viewing not only pornography related sites but also sites with violent, cheating, and gambling content.
Safe Eyes Mobile is mobile parental control software available for the iPhone and is to download for $19.99 (July 2009). I was anxious to get my hands on a copy because my daughter, even though she’s only 3, can already navigate to YouTube and surf for her favorite Disney Princess videos. As her father, I want to stay acquainted with as much technology as I can in order to stay one step ahead. Since mobile content is right at her fingertips and changing everyday, I can only imagine what she’ll have access to at any given point in time once she gets a little older.
Once I got the software downloaded (Thanks to the SafeEyes folks for being patient with me) I promptly set up an account and an administrator password so I could do some testing. In order to get the software running, I had to set up a SafeEyes account as well as an administrative username and password.
The SafeEyes administrative account allows you to set up different users, control what type of sites are blocked, create time limits, manage email accounts, prevent certain programs from running, and track if any personal information is shared online. You can also opt-in to have instant alerts sent directly to your email so you can keep track of what activity is taking place without having to log onto SafeEyes.
Navigating to and around the administrative functions was easy to do and very intuitive. And, of course, you do have to enter the administrative password if you want to change any of the security settings. Once the settings have been made the software does a great job of blocking access to sites that meet any of the above criteria.
To fully utilize the SafeEyes software, they recommend disabling the Safari browser that comes on all iPhones. SafeEyes is its own full featured browser and none of the settings placed by the administrator apply to Safari. So, to fully lock down your iPhone, make sure Safari is disabled, which is easy to do through the admin panel.
Although the software worked as promised by blocking questionable sites, I found multiple bugs which caused the program to close without warning. It was fairly frustrating to say the least and it made me happy that I didn’t have to pay full-price for the product. For the the $20 price tag, this program should run with little to no bugs.
For starters, the SafeEyes browser isn’t as responsive or as functional as Safari. The performance wasn’t very fluid, and a few safe websites that I pulled up were sluggish and didn’t load nearly as fast as they would in Safari. As with any type of firewall/filtering software, you’re going to notice a performance difference since the site has to be checked against certain criteria before it can be rendered on the screen.
The sluggish performance could be tolerated if that was the worst of the bugs. However, when I would navigate to different sites, SafeEyes would randomly crash and close immediately. Safe Eyes would also crash and close whenever I tried to open multiple browser windows – a great function in Safari but poorly executed in SafeEyes. And, just for the record, I was only trying to open a second window when it crashed… not the 7th or 8th window.
On the up side, Safe Eyes Mobile was easily able to render some complicated sites like MSNBC, CNN, and The New York Times. I was also able to easily watch featured videos on these sites and navigate to other pages fairly easily. The Safe Eyes mobile browser also supports horizontal browsing like Safari, as well as full bookmarking capability, easy-to-navigate history, one touch search, and page refresh buttons.
All in all, I think SafeEyes Mobile has serious potential to be a great product for restricting access and monitoring web browsing activities. I do think that the developers, especially for $20, need to get back to the drawing board and fix the issues at hand. It seems as though the back-end side of the software (the filters and settings) are solid, almost a little overkill for some, but the browser needs some serious work if Safe Eyes Mobile wants to be the leader in parental control software.
Images: Tyler Wainright