Overview and Features
Reading through the features and taking the quick tour of the ParentalControl Bar on their website (wraac.org) gives you the impression the WRAAC is trying hard to help you protect your children.
The toolbar uses the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) – labels embedded into website headers – to determine if a website contains adult related materials. In addition to PICS, WRAAC also provides a website blacklist.
The filter runs in two modes – Child and Parent. When in Child mode, the filter is active and will block inappropriate sites. Switching to Parent mode requires a password to disable the filter. When in Parent mode, you can browse any site and can also review the sites visited while in Child mode. You can also choose to block any sites based on the Child mode web history.
Installation and Usage
The features sound pretty good don’t they? Here’s the bad news – the tool doesn’t work.
The site lists the system requirements as the following:
- Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
- Internet Explorer 5.5+
- Firefox 1.5+
- New! - Safari 10.4+
Considering Safari is only on version 4 as of this writing, I’m assuming WRAAC’s reference to “Safari 10.4” refers to Mac OS X 10.4. Seeing as the WRAAC considers their support of a four year old OS X release”New” I should have realized the fun that was to come.
My test system is running Windows XP with Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3.05. I started my testing using IE8.
Installing the toolbar worked fine – you’re presented with a wizard to help set up the parental access password. So far so good.
I started out in Parent mode – I was able to browse sites, add items to a site block list and change my password. The interface is easy to move through and pretty intuitive. The troubles start when switching over to Child mode. The filter ended up blocking nearly every site. Of the following sites I tested, only two were not blocked - Yahoo and Google.
Sites Blocked in Child Mode:
I thought maybe this was a fluke as IE8 has it’s own share of problems, so I decided to fire up FireFox. Unfortunately the browser wouldn’t even bring up my home page. It froze while loading. I did a few reboots and had the same issues in both browsers. I thought this time maybe it was my PC. I tested on another PC and had the same issues. After doing some searching, I found several people who have the same issues.
Overall Score (1 out of 5)
After locking up one of my browsers and making my browsing experience nearly unusable in IE, I decided to contact WRAAC support. I told them of the issues I was experiencing along with the browsers I was using. I received a prompt reply stating that they didn’t support IE8 nor Firefox 3.05. The good news is that they’re working on a new version of the toolbar. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t provide me with an estimated release date….
I really wanted to like the Parental Control Bar, but in its current state it’s just not functional. I can’t recommend using this tool under any circumstances. Hopefully the new version will be released soon and it will fix the serious issues present in the current version.
In the time it took me to research version 4 and write the review, version five was released. I installed version 5 and had similar issues – Internet Explorer would either not start or the Parental Control Bar was missing. Attempting to uninstall the application resulted in failure as it wouldn’t recognize the password to uninstall the tool. Stay clear!