(Originally posted May 2012; Updated December 2013)
Restricting web use on iPods, iPads and iPhones is easier now with iOS7. Apple introduced website content filtering with its latest release. Parents can now block adult content in the Safari browser (and as a plus, the content block works within other apps on the device). Before iOS7, the only way to restrict or filter web use was by installing a kid safe web browser and completely restricting the Safari browser and YouTube. There may be less of a need now for installing a separate app for safe web browsing, but for some there may still be a need. Here are some reasons you may want to use one of the Kid Safe browsers:
- Older model iPod touch, iPod or iPhone that cannot upgrade to iOS7
- Receive e-mail report of all the web sites visited using the app
- Customize the level of filtering by age range
- Customize the content filtering by categories
- Time limits for web use
- Take advantage of a product you are already using on the home computer for parental controls
Not all the apps below include all these features, so read each description to see if any of these kid safe browsers with parental controls are a good fit for your family.
AVG Family Safety
AVG Family Safety is a free app for iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. It will automatically block websites categorized as pornography or malware. But you can also add websites to a block list. So if you want to block YouTube, just add it to the block list. Be sure to add both the full YouTube web address and the mobile version (m.youtube.com). There is also a tie-in with their AVG Family Safety service for your family computer. If you already use that service, then the app can connect and you’ll get more advanced filtering features, like customizing the list of allowed or blocked sites.
AVG has also added “Do Not Track” to this app, which helps you see which websites are collecting data from you when you visit a site.
Pros: No registration needed, easy to use, can choose the default search engine
Cons: a few bugs (some buttons not working at all after their latest update), and need to specifically add most sites to block especially for younger kids.
K9 Web Protection browser
K9 Web Protection is a free app for iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. It is also available for Android devices. It will block adult and potentially offensive or malicious sites. You can view the browsing history to see which sites were blocked (but note that your child could also view and then clear this history). The browser uses its own Safe Search capabilities which are locked into place.
Pros: Easiest to use with no registration or passwords needed
Cons: No customization available.
McGruff Safe Guard Mobile Browser
McGruff Safe Guard is a free app for iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. It restricts websites by age range – either Child (1-12), Teen (13-17), or Adult (no restrictions). With a $1.99 upgrade to “Silver” level you’ll get more features such as the ability to pick categories and sites to allow or deny, a YouTube safe mode (not perfect, but it’s something), and ability to see the full browsing history. You can also upgrade to the “Gold” level which gives you detailed history sent to e-mail, and the ability to manage multiple users on one device. *I have only tested the free and Silver levels so can’t speak to the Gold level features*.
Pros: Easy to set up; customizable; daily e-mail report (can unsubscribe if desired); Comprehensive if you go for the silver or gold levels. (Silver is less than a cup of fancy coffee, and gold is less than fancy coffee for a week, so may be worth it!)
Cons: Would be useful if the parent e-mail contained the URL of the sites that were blocked (need the full version for that).
MobSafety Ranger Browser
Ranger Browser is a free app for iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. It is also available for Android devices and Windows phone. This app is a bit different from the others. You register on their website and set up an account with your child’s name. Choose the level of content filtering per child – high, medium or low, with customization ability also. Then from the app, log in using your account and child’s name to apply the settings.
Pros: Time limit settings; ability to customize and add websites to always block or allow; web page for parents to view history.
Cons: Could not find documentation in the app or their website last time I reviewed but they do have a FAQ page now. That’s about it – bugs I encountered during my last review have been fixed!
Mobicip is available for iDevices, Android, and Windows phones. When I first reviewed, the cost was $4.95 but this is now a free download. You can choose content filtering for elementary, middle, and high school levels. You can add-on a premium annual subscription for $9.99 per device per year, which will give you browser-based parental controls, activity reports, custom deny/allow lists, category blocking, and YouTube filtering. (I haven’t tested the premium level.) Note that the premium features are also included for your mobile device if you purchase Mobicip for your desktop PC for parental controls on a home computer.
Pros: Free, easy to set up, can configure from a website as well as from the app. Comprehensive website and Help/FAQ’s
Cons: Can’t customize without the premium level.
How to disable Safari to ensure use of the kid-safe browser
Once you’ve installed a kid-safe browser on your child’s device, you may want to restrict the default browser. For iDevices, this is the Safari browser. Also be sure to restrict adding/deleting apps, otherwise your dear children can remove the kid-safe app and add Safari back in. I’ve got step-by-step instructions for restricting Safari and YouTube here.
Do you know of a browser not listed here? Let me know about it in the comments!