A computer with an Internet connection is able to expose your children to everything both good and bad that is on the world wide web unless you have some kind of parental control software installed to automatically filter out bad or questionable websites such as pornography, violence, gambling and etc. Most of the time, software that can block porn uses two methods to detect bad websites which is through keywords and a blocklist. Most of the time the keywords don’t really need to be updated other than periodically adding new keywords. As for a blocklist, it requires constant maintenance which is why some of the popular parental control software such as NetNanny and CyberPatrol are subscription based software and not a one time payment for a lifetime license.
These dangerous websites not only pollute the young minds but they are also a common source for malware spreading. Browsing through free porn sites may get you infected by rogueware that tries to trick you into thinking that your computer is infected so you’ll buy their fake antivirus software to remove them or ransomware that locks up your computer and only will unlock upon payment. To automatically block pornography websites, here are 10 free tools.
If you want to try and block porn and other questionable content at a lower level, blocking via DNS is another option.
PicBlock is an innovative porn blocking tool where it uses keywords and image detection algorithm to recognize the availability of nudity on the website or even on hard drive and then blocks it. When your child visits any website, PicBlock will first scan for any sexually explicit keywords on the URL and webpage. The page will be blocked if there are found keywords but if none, it uses a secondary method which is scanning the images on the webpage for possible nudity and then blurring it by pixelating the photo.
PicBlock comes with self defense and invisibility feature. In at Settings, you can find the ability to password protect the program and also to run it in silent mode where only a shortcut key can launch the settings window.
PicBlock clams to be able to detect pornographic images on the hard drive as well but unfortunately it doesn’t work very well in Windows 7. The blocked images doesn’t show up as thumbnail, but can still be opened with an image viewer. Moreover there are periodic crashes on Explorer and Task Manager. The more tech savvy child may be able to bypass PicBlock by simply terminating the process with Task Manager or just uninstall it.
BlockSmart is a simple to use yet powerful software to block inappropriate websites on computer. When you try to access a blocked website, your web browser will show a red stop sign with an optional login to add the site to the allowed list.
This program is tied to your BlockSmart online account where you will be prompted to create one during installation. Even the settings area that you can select the category of website to block is at their website as well. It is possible to add custom websites to the block or allow list.
We used the word powerful because a valid password is required to disable blocking, exit or uninstall. It is also not possible to kill the process because doing that will automatically relaunch the program. However there is a huge drawback where BlockSmart only works on Internet Explorer while other web browsers has no effect. We also experienced some error popups during Windows startup.
3. Blue Coat K9 Web Protection
K9 Web Protection by Blue Coat is one of the most popular free software to block porn and other unwanted contents on the Internet. It is basically a local web filter that runs on port 2572 that scans for every URL that you visit on your web browser and taking necessary actions based on the rules. When you access a website that belongs to a blocked category, an alert page will be loaded instead with the option of allowing this site or category if you know the password.
Although K9 Web Protection installer is only 1.9MB in size, but it is packed with features such as selecting the categories to block, implementing time restrictions, always allow and block list, URL keywords and forcing safe search option in search engines. You can also view what URLs that has been visited so you know what websites your children are visiting.
Because K9 Web Protection runs as a local filter, it will work on any web browsers. It runs without any tray icon at the notification area and it is not possible to terminate the k9filter.exe using Task Manager. Disabling or uninstalling the program will require a valid password. If you forget the password, there is an option at the uninstaller to send a temporary password to your email that is registered with your protection license. The best part is, even if your child somehow knew the password and uninstalled the program from their computer, you will receive an email notification informing you about it.
4. Microsoft Family Safety
Family Safety is a free parental control software that is part of Windows Essentials by Microsoft. It is a very powerful program that is tightly integrated with Windows and offers additional features that are not commonly found on other porn blocking software. Accessing a blocked page will show that “this page is blocked” message together with the option to email you request and ask in person.
To use and configure Windows Live Family Safety, you must first login with a Hotmail/Live/Outlook account and then you get to select the user account in Windows to monitor. In order to use most of the features in Family Safety, you will need to create a standard user account and not use one that belongs to the administrators group. The reason is they will be restricted from uninstalling Family Safety or force terminate the process. At the Family Safety website, you get to customize the web filtering levels, block file downloads, custom allow and block list, activity reporting, time limits, game and app restrictions.
Do take note that if you only want to install the Family Safety, make sure you select “Choose the programs you want to install” option and only tick the checkbox for Family Safety or else all the Windows Essentials program will be installed. Overall, Family Safety is a very nice parental control software that’s free but the initial configuration may not be easy for basic users.
Other than just filtering bad websites, Qustodio parental control software comes with an additional capability of monitoring your children’s social interactions, listing searches, apps usage and web activity.
Qustodio configuration is done on the web and the settings are automatically sync to the computer. By logging in to the family protection portal, you get to view the activity summary and timeline, and configure the rules & settings. You can either select block, allow or monitor on the website categories, adding custom exceptions, blocking unknown websites that cannot be categorized, and also enforcing safe search. You can also enable scheduling to set a limit for your child to use the Internet. It has strong protection against tampering where even advanced users won’t be able to bypass the filtering and limits.
During installation, it will ask to install a safety toolbar and changing your default search provider. You can uncheck both of the options then click Accept and Install button because Qustodio does not need both of that to function. Weirdly, you also have the option to hide Qustodio from computer during installation but we could not find a way to re-enable that option when the program is installed.