Previously released as part of its Internet Security Suite, McAfee’s Parental Controls is now available as a stand-alone product in updated form. It offers protection for kids when they’re surfing, using chatrooms or sending instant messages.
The software provides a list of restricted words and sites, but an administrator (in other words, a parent) can add other taboo sites, regardless of content, and enter additional keywords for filtering. The latter can be slightly tricky, as well-intentioned and useful sites can be inadvertently banned, but it’s an important feature because database-only controls can quickly become outdated.
You can import other ratings such as those supported by RSAC (the Recreational Software Advisory Council) and ICRA (the Internet Content Rating Association), and the program’s three presets (administrator, adult and restricted) make it fairly easy to use (see here for a screenshot).
In terms of blocking inappropriate Web sites, it appears to offer little over the competition. However, the tools for controlling access to certain programs, protecting private data and enabling an administrator to specify times when restricted users can go online are well worth the money.
The main problem is that it can all too easily block useful sites, although this is also true of its main rivals, Cybersitter and Net Nanny.
Of less concern, but also worth bearing in mind, is that the program has been designed to work with Internet Explorer; it can work with some versions of Netscape Navigator, but it isn’t as well integrated.
In brief: McAfee Parental Controls 1.0
Working best with Internet Explorer, Parental Controls can monitor Web browsing, chatrooms and instant messaging applications using a list of restricted passwords and off-limit locations.
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