PROS / Profanity settings include the option to mask offensive language instead of blocking all content.
CONS / Social media monitoring is no longer supported and requires the purchase of Net Nanny Social.
VERDICT / Overall, Net Nanny offers the most comprehensive and effective set of internet safety tools in a package that's easy to use and unobtrusive.
Net Nanny is the premier internet filter software program available today, bringing together effective pornography filters with anti-cyberbullying capabilities that can help you keep your children safe from harm. We chose Net Nanny as the winner of our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for its ability to provide parents with the strongest and most diverse line of defense for their kids. It accomplishes this through simplicity of use, powerful filtering and reporting features, and outstanding support options.
Reporting & Notification
How you receive notification of the online actions of your children – in addition to the actions of those they may be in communication with – is everything. Without that, no internet safety program in the world can keep your children out of harm's way. Net Nanny's reporting and notifications features are excellent, ranking in the top percentile of all online monitoring software programs available.
As the account administrator, you have several options open to you for reviewing data. Since the admin console is cloud based, you can log in from any computer at any location and pull up activity records. You can set the program to email you summary reports at different intervals. With Net Nanny Social, you can also elect to receive instant text messages to alert you to situations that might demand your immediate intervention.
Establishing boundaries for your child's online activities and putting in place measures to keep them protected is only the beginning. Next, you have to use software that can record your child's online activity so that you can review it later. This fail-safe method accomplishes a number of things, not the least of which is ensuring your child isn't circumventing your efforts and attempting to access sites they shouldn't be accessing or communicating with people they shouldn't be communicating with.
Net Nanny's activity recording features are good, but they could be better. For instance, the program keeps a record of all websites visited and all online searches performed. It can even take screenshots of activity on a periodic basis and monitor chat and social network activity – although these latter two functions are performed specifically by the aforementioned Net Nanny Social and do not come with the standard internet filter software. Like almost all of the internet filter programs on our top 10 list, it also lacks the ability to record keystrokes, which could come in handy if you come across the urgent need to access your child's email account.
Filtering & Blocking
The features that allow you to filter and block certain content from appearing on your child's computer screen are key to achieving effective internet safety. Net Nanny is a proficient website blocker that you can program to bar access to specific websites, automatically detect content based on a site's URL so that it can be blocked, or both. The software also gives you the power to whitelist certain websites that your children are allowed to visit. This is the opposite of blacklisting and can be used to manage exactly where your children go when they get online.
If you have children in different age groups or share your computer with your family, you can establish individual password protected profiles that enable you to set appropriate permissions by the user's age and maturity level. You can also control how much time your family spends online through a time management tool. With this tool, you can enforce internet usage only during certain times of day. You can even impose maximum daily or weekly time limits to control cumulative online usage.
One feature that's entirely unique to Net Nanny is the ability to mask or block profanity. When engaged, it identifies the presence of foul language on a website. Per your desire, it can either mask the offending words by overlaying symbols onto them or bar access to the page entirely. This can be especially useful if your child is accessing a website that's not necessarily risky for content but where unfiltered public comments are visible to all visitors.
Issues of website filtering and blocking aside, the greatest dangers children today face online are those imposed upon them by other individuals. The actions of cyberbullies and sexual predators can frequently get past internet filter programs because they're more difficult to detect. Net Nanny Social, which is an extension you can purchase with Net Nanny or as a standalone program, includes a language detection tool that monitors messages posted to your child's social network profiles and identifies potential threats so that you can do something about it.
Detection seeks out key words and phrases that could be signs your child is being cyberbullied or stalked by a sexual predator. It then sends you notification via email, which you can program to arrive at varying levels of frequency. This flexibility keeps you in the loop and allows you to intervene in the development of potentially dangerous situations.
Ease of Use
When ranking ease of use, we took into consideration a handful of features that together create a highly functional software program requiring little to no training to master. Net Nanny's installation wizard walks you through the initial steps necessary to load the software onto your computer. Once that's complete, the setup and configuration wizard takes you the rest of the way, guiding you through the otherwise complex steps involved in establishing different user IDs for family members and assigning restrictions and permissions.
Since your ability to find help when it's needed is critical, we also took a look at the ready availability of help and support shortcuts. Using Net Nanny, you are never more than two clicks away from contacting technical support or accessing the knowledgebase of useful how-to articles. Net Nanny also scores bonus points for including one feature that's shockingly lacking in many of the top 10 best internet filter software programs: a keyword searchable knowledgebase.
Help & Support
Net Nanny's network of help and support channels is extensive. Where many programs like it offer little to no human support and rely mostly on online documentation to help users out, Net Nanny comes with telephone, live chat and email support options. Phone support hours are weekdays during business hours. Additionally, there is an extensive knowledgebase of how-to articles and an in-depth FAQs page that together round out the program's high level of usability.
Net Nanny is functional across numerous platforms. The desktop software is available for Windows and Mac operating systems, and mobile versions of the program are available for Android and iOS mobile devices. The software's recent update to version 7.0 excludes users running Windows XP, but continues to support Windows Vista in addition to Windows 7 and 8.
Net Nanny boasts excellent ease of use, with quickly accessible documentation and the ability to search support topics by keyword. Its anti-cyberbullying capabilities, combined with social network monitoring, chat monitoring and time management, give you the greatest number of tools to control your child's online activities. Activity recording features are far reaching, and reporting and notification features give you an orderly way of reviewing all information gathered. Help and support channels are plentiful and offer the greatest level of coverage available.