K9 Web Protection Review
K9 Web Protection is a free Internet monitoring software program from Blue Coat that allows parents to log Internet activity, block websites, place time restrictions on Internet use, and make search engines safe for children by forcing “Safe Search”. Because K9 is free, you can use it in conjunction with Windows or Mac parental settings, or simply as another layer of protection to back up another monitoring program.
Blue Coat took a unique approach with K9 Web Protection by making it a web-based program that you can only access from the computer on which it’s installed. What that means is, when you want to launch K9, the program actually opens up in your web browser, but it doesn’t go to a dedicated website address, so you have no way of accessing it from a different computer.
The whole K9 experience was seamless during our testing. Website logs updated almost instantaneously, the user interface was easy to use and setup took less than five minutes. The time restrictions function was also very impressive just based on the fact that you can set different time limits for different days – a tool that can be particularly helpful if your children have varying schedules throughout the week.
When it came to monitoring Internet activity, K9 managed to block all the sites that fell under the “restricted” categories we had set up. It also blocks proxy server access which makes sure that your children won’t try to bypass monitoring systems by hiding their web activity through a third party.
Another feature unique to K9 Web Protection is the ability for you to automatically force Safe Search, instead of having to manually activate it on all the major search engines. Safe Search forces the use of filtered content when using search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask, and makes sure that searches for things like porn, drug use or inappropriate language don’t render any results. Additionally, K9 will also filter search results and inappropriate comments on YouTube, which is useful since, sadly, crude and racist remarks on the video-sharing site are fairly common.
The K9 Web Protection software works really great, but it’s not perfect. We ran into one, albeit minor, concerning problem when viewing visited websites. Because K9 only organizes visited sites by specific “Categories”, it can be difficult when trying to look at all the sites that had been visited on the assigned computer. K9 only offers two viewing options: all the sites visited that day, or all the sites visited during that entire month. We couldn’t organize it by specific times, which left us wading through hundreds of logged sites until we found the one that we were looking for.
At the end of the day, K9 is simple to use and contains all the necessary features one would expect from a monitoring system. And it’s free, so you can’t really beat that deal! However, because it’s free, K9 is a bit more limited than other similar software products on the market. For example, it lacks social media monitoring and the ability to log emails and instant messages, which are invaluable with todays socially connected youth. But as far as free monitoring solutions go, K9 Web Protection is one of the best we’ve seen.
K9 Web Protection Browser
If you need more digital protection in your home, K9 also offers a free mobile browser for iOS, meaning it’s compatible with the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. The application consists of a web browser that restricts users from visiting inappropriate sites, and filters sites that could possible install viruses or spyware on your device. Despite all this extra functionality, K9 still has all the standard features that can be found in the Safari web browser.
The app blocks sites by category which makes set up very quick and easy. It also gives parents the ability to choose which categories of inappropriate websites get blocked, which is really helpful because as children get older and learn more about Internet safety, it gives parents the option to relax the category restrictions and give them more freedom.
Like I do, be sure to talk to your kids and teens about the software you’re using and why you’re using it. You may hear grumbling, initially, like I did. “Mom, why can’t we just use Safari?” So I explained to them that there are no safeguards on the iPad or iPod Touch like there are on the computer, and that these are our family rules. “Okay, mom, I get it.”