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Review: AVG Family Safety 2012

30 November 2011, Software Publisher

Anyone with children will know that it can be difficult to police use of the internet. The fact that you have young children means that you are naturally concerned about web content, and many parents would love to be able to use the internet with their offspring to ensure that they don’t stray into unwanted territory. But in reality, this is often impractical as there are few people who have the time spare to be able to monitor their children, however much they may want to do so. AVG Family Safety is a software alternative to a parent’s watchful eye, making it possible to not only monitor but also control what your children use the internet for.

The app comes from the company more readily associated with antivirus software, but it is a company that has ventured into numerous other areas of life online. Tackling the issue of internet access control is a tricky battle, but AVG Family Safety has a number of tools that can be used in combination to meet the needs of you and your family. You can control access to web sites based on URL or content type, and place restrictions on when the internet can be used. If there is an attempt to access blocked content, alerts can be sent out in the form of emails or SMS (in the US).

Obviously there are problems associated with blocking web sites. The first major issue is the fact that in order for a web site to be blocked based on subject matter or content is that web sites have to be checked and categorized – the sheer number of web sites that exist mean that this is somewhat impractical. The program offers the chance to block or permit access to sites in a large number of categories, and settings can be manually configured or you can use the pre-defined age settings to speed things up. Similar age restrictions can be used to control access to online media. Industry standard age rating systems are supported so you can choose the type of music your children can listen to and the type of streaming video they can watch; it is also possible to block access to online games, but again this is dependent on ratings having been assigned to them.

Quickly setup the applications you do not want your kids to access

AVG Family Safety can also be used to filter web searches, so you can choose to block certain key words in a number of popular search engines including Google, Yahoo! and Bing. If there are web sites you are aware of that you would prefer your kids did not access, you can add them to a black list that will be blocked without question. Conversely, it is also possible to set up a white list, and anyone looking to be particularly restrictive with the internet may want to make use of this option. This is a great way to introduce younger children to the internet as it enables you to specify a list of sites that are permitted to be accessed. Providing other settings are correctly configured, it is possible to only allow access to sites that appear in this list, and this means that children can be left to use the internet unattended safe in the knowledge that they will not be able to venture to other sites.

Having a computer connected to the internet means more than having to think about what is going on in a web browser – there are also chat clients and social networking clients to consider. AVG Family Safety includes the option to prevent programs of your choice from running, and this including proxy tools that could be used to bypass any restrictions you may have put in pace.  It is also worth taking a look at the iOS version of the app – AVG Family Safety 10.1.7 enables you to place restrictions on how the internet is used on your iPhone or iPad.

Multiple Profiles

Many households have more than one child, and with this in mind AVG Family Safety includes the option to create multiple profiles each of which can have settings of their own. This is great for home in which there are children of different ages for whom different levels of restriction and control are needed. Another interesting option is the ability to restrict the times at which the internet can be used.  To avoid the risk of your children changing the Windows clock to bypass this, the time restrictions are implemented using an online time server.

In terms of configuration, AVG Family Safety is hard to criticize. All of the settings you could possibly need are easily accessed, but you may find that getting things fine-tuned to your liking may take some time. As well as putting restrictions in place, the software can also be used to monitor how the internet is being used. AVG Family Safety can log not only the web sites that are visited, but also the searches that are performed – so even if you decide to give your children unfettered access to the internet you can still keep an eye on what they’re up to online. You can also log instant messaging conversations and check logs that will reveal which programs have been used and for how long.

A very nice touch is the ability to view all of the program logs and even change application settings online – this means that you are able to monitor and control internet usage even when you are not at home. AVG Family Safety is easy to use, even if satisfactory configuration could take a little while to complete. It is a tool that not only offers peace of mind but also helps to keep children safe without being too intrusive. The annual fee covers up to three computers making this great value for money.

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