Blocking and Tackling

Below you'll find reports on four leading Internet screening products. All are easy for non-technical users to install, and all permit easy disabling via password for unscreened surfing. Each filters most types of Internet material -- World Wide Web sites, FTP archives, Internet Relay Chat, etc. All offer a free downloadable demo (SurfWatch's is quasi-hidden), so try before you buy.

Company, Contact Information
Compatibility | Purchase Price | Monthly Update Fee
Total Cost, Two Years of Ownership | How It Works
Screening Effectiveness | Multiple User Profiles?
Ease of Use | Minor Annoyances, Major Shortcomings | Other Noteworthy Details

SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
Company, contact information Spyglass
http://www. surfwatch.com

888/677-9452

Microsystems Software
http://www. cyberpatrol.com

800/828-2608

Solid Oak Software
http://www. solidoak.com

800/388-2761

Net Nanny Software
http://www. netnanny.com

800/340-7177

SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
Compatibility Win 3.1, Win 95, Mac. See note below about online services. Win 3.1, Win 95, Mac. Works with all online services. Win 3.1, Win 95. Works with CompuServe, but not AOL or certain dialup Internet connection programs. Win 3.1, Win 95. Works with all online services.
SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
Purchase Price $50 retail, including one year of updates. $30, including three months of updates. $40 $40
SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
Monthly Update Fee $30/year of online updates $30/year of online updates Free, unlimited updates via the Net Free site list downloads, updated 2x/mo.
SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
Total Cost, Two Years of Ownership $80 $83 $40 $40
SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
How It Works A team of 12 surfers finds sites containing four types of objectionable material: sexually explicit stuff; violence and hate; drugs and alcohol; gambling. Currently blocks 25,000 sites. Users can e-mail suggestions of sites to block. Software embeds two lists maintained and updated by staff, parents, teachers and committees: CyberYes (40,000 good-for-kids sites) and CyberNot (15,000 unapproved sites). Uses database of blocked sites plus "context sensitive phrase filtering." Staff of three patrollers surfs for sites to ban. Maintains database of GoodRats (700 sites) and BadRats (10,000 now; 50,000 by May). Also screens incoming/outgoing text for words in customizable list.
SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
Screening effectiveness Least consistent screening of programs we tested. Because it uses no keyword filtering, it only blocks sites that have been pre-identified as inappropriate. Spotty results, but most customizable. Parents can activate or deactivate categories like nudity, partial nudity, sexual acts, intolerance, militant extremism, drugs. Phrase filtering can be surprisingly effective at sifting out unacceptable sites. Very strict overall, maybe too much -- blocks National Organization for Women's site. Most effective blocking we tested; use of SafeSurf's database of site ratings, touted as the Internet's most comprehensive, should improve screening further.
SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
Multiple User Profiles? No. Up to 10 different profiles. Just one profile, but users pick "adult" or "mature" level. Up to 12 different profiles.
SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
Ease of Use Simple installation; when machine is rebooted, SurfWatch is enabled automatically. New SurfWatch Manager feature lets users add or delete sites from blocking list. Easy to install. The number of options, especially for multiple users, can be daunting, but setting these configurations up is relatively easy for non-technical users. Day-to-day operation is simple. Super-easy to install and use, nearly invisible in operation. But won't work on a PC with multiple Internet configurations, or with certain versions of Trumpet or Shiva Internet dialer software. Puzzled? Avoid this product. Setup not as easy as others. The program's "scorched earth" default setting will shut down Net connection when a forbidden site is accessed. (Milder options -- to warn, log, mask or block -- are advisable).
SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
Minor Annoyances, Major Shortcomings Windows version not downloadable yet (it's expected in June; Mac version available now). SurfWatch doesn't prevent kids from sending their address, phone number or other personal data in chat rooms. If you download a trial version but decide not to buy it once the trial period runs out, your Internet access is blocked until you manually uninstall the entire program. Compatibility problems are annoying and perhaps disqualifying. Unless the software is disabled, Cybersitter can prevent a parent from sending out name, address, phone, etc. When site is blocked, finding control panel to continue is baffling. The software formerly required significant manual input of screening terms, but the integration with SafeSurf ratings improves it tremendously.
SURFWATCH CYBER PATROL CYBERSITTER NET NANNY
Other Noteworthy Details Current version not compatible with online services; version 2.0 (Mac due in April, Windows in June) will be. Those seeking time and program blocking can buy Time's Up!, $20, which bundles SurfWatch. "ChatGard" feature can prevent users from giving out name, age, phone, etc. in chat areas. Parents can set total time or time-slot limits, restrict use of certain games or programs. Can be set to block or simply report (in excruciating detail) attempted access to verboten sites. Offers ability to personalize blocking messages (i.e., "Don't You Dare!"). Can prevent transmission of selected personal data. Can control access to non-Internet applications located on the computer. Can be used to prevent transmission of names, phone numbers, etc.

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