Net Nanny 5.6 is a well-known tool that is packed full of useful features that let you not only control what your kids do on the Internet, but monitor their usage as well. The easy-to-use filter settings let you block or allow websites based on pre-defined categories. Access can be restricted to popular Internet messaging tools such as Google Talk, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, and even the less well known QQ instant messaging service. You can also restrict access to newsgroups and peer-to-peer services.
For parents not wanting to bother with configuration and setup, Net Nanny 5.6 comes ready to restrict access out of the box. This means that your kids will not be able to access websites with content in the following categories: pornography, gambling, intimate apparel, adult/mature, drugs/alcohol, hate/violence, and illegal activities. For those parents who want more control over their kids, Net Nanny 5.6 offers a plethora of restriction opportunities as well as additional filter categories.
For households with multiple children, each computer user can be required to sign in before accessing the Internet or instant messaging. Net Nanny 5.6 can then keep track of usage related to each user. This allows parents to set filters specific to each child, which can be good when you have children far apart in age. Parents can elect to receive email notifications whenever users try to access blocked content or override access. They can also view graphics-based reports, which detail usage by each user and allow the parent to drill-down into the report and view the actual website accessed.
Price to Value (4 out of 5)
Net Nanny 5.6 offers several great features such as portable user profiles, web-based drill-down reports, remote user management, and email notifications. All of this is available for the low price of $28.99, which gives Net Nanny 5.6 a good price to value ratio. There is no other tool that offers as many easy-to-use features as this one does.
The WRAAC (refer to https://www.wraac.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free solutions for parents wishing to control their children’s Internet usage. They offer a free to download toolbar named the Parental Control Bar at;(https://www.parentalcontrolbar.org).
Although the tool bar does not offer all the same features as Net Nanny 5.6, it is a comparable alternative. The downside to this tool is that it does not work with all Internet browsers and the features are not as rich as the ones offered with Net Nanny 5.6. But, for those parents unsure of whether they want to control their children’s Internet access, this is a free and easy-to-use alternative.
Installation & Setup (3 out of 5)
The installation for Net Nanny 5.6 was quick and allowed you to select a language to use during installation. Besides English, you can select Spanish or Chinese. The installation wizard walks you through the install and even warns you to close all programs and disable firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware programs. Make sure you do this since failing to do so can cause the installation to fail and thus prevent access to the Internet.
If you have more than one computer, Net Nanny 5.6 allows you to apply the same settings to all the computers in the house. This can save parents from having to recreate user settings on each computer. It is also great if your computer crashes and you need to reinstall Net Nanny 5.6. Rather than having to remember what settings you configured, you simply select Existing User during the installation and Net Nanny 5.6 will import all the settings associated with that account.
The first time I ran the installation I forgot to disable the Windows Firewall and the installation returned a message stating that an error had occurred. After rebooting, I was unable to access the Internet until Net Nanny 5.6 had been uninstalled. I repeated the installation, but this time I disabled the firewall. On the second attempt Net Nanny 5.6 installed successfully and I had no more problems accessing the Internet.
User Interface (4 out of 5)
Net Nanny 5.6’s user interface is clean and simple. The Admin Tools allow you to access settings through intuitive icons. By default, Net Nanny 5.6 runs in default mode. This means that computer users will not have to log in individually. It also means parents cannot track usage by more than one child. Parents that choose to run Net Nanny 5.6 in user mode will see a list of users in the left-hand window. They will also have access to the Profile Settings button, which allows them to configure settings for each user.
Out of the box, Net Nanny 5.6 blocks access to content that is seen as most questionable. Parents can further restrict access by using the Filter Settings dialog. This easy-to-use interface allows parents to select categories and then allow or block access to sites belonging to these categories. Alternatively, parents can choose to just warn children when they encounter a questionable web site. By simply toggling a checkbox, parents can allow or block access to Instant Messaging, newsgroups or peer-to-peer services.
Net Nanny 5.6 also includes a Time Controls dialog which allows you to easily allocate blocks of time that your kids can or cannot use the Internet. The Time Controls dialog uses color coded blocks to specify allowable or blocked time periods. You can simply hold down the mouse button and drag it across a block of time that will be either allowed or blocked. Buttons let you quickly reset all the time periods which are in increments of thirty minutes and span an entire 24 hour day, seven days a week. This is a great feature if your kids have a computer in their room. They cannot stay up all night playing computer games and then drag through the school day. If you decide to use this feature, do not forget to set the time zone using the Admin Tools. Otherwise, the time controls and reports will use the default time zone, which is Eastern Time.
Product Features (5 out of 5)
One of the best features Net Nanny 5.6 has to offer is the easy-to-use drill-down reports. These graphical reports let you track everything from the amount of time users are on the Internet to the specific web sites they visited. Summary reports give parents a big picture view of internet usage and they can drill-down into each report to get specific user detail. The detail report shows parents how many times a particular web page was accessed and when it was last accessed. Parents can then click the link in the report to browse to that particular web page.
Email notifications allow you to monitor your children even when you are away from home. You simply enter an email address through the Admin tool and Net Nanny will alert you whenever a certain condition is true. For example, you can set a condition in which you are notified when a user overrides a blocked web site.
Security & Privacy (3 out of 5)
Access is controlled through an administrative password, thus preventing children from overriding the settings. Time Controls allow you to restrict Internet usage and only allow use at specific times of the day.
Net Nanny 5.6 does not require a strong password, thus allowing parents to get lazy and pick a password that kids can easily figure out. Passwords can be between three and thirteen characters and no other restrictions are imposed. If parents use the family dog as a password, then chances are most kids will figure it out and end up accessing websites parents don’t want them to visit. Parents that do use this program should be careful and use a secure password that contains at least six characters and includes at least one number or symbol. They should also change the password often to ensure that it has not been discovered.
More help during the installation would have been nice. Specifically, a short but sweet tutorial with a wizard style interface would have helped. The tutorial could have walked you through the basics of using Net Nanny 5.6. The software itself only included a single black and white “Get Started” page. It would have been nice to have included a product specification sheet that looked a little more professional.
For parents who want strict control over their children’s Internet usage, Net Nanny 5.6 is a must have. It includes tools to not only restrict access, but monitor usage as well.