Playing it safe
Many parents are worried about the unsavoury elements of the internet finding their way to their children's devices and frustrated about getting their kids off their devices and to sleep at night.
At one time, an internet filter on the home computer could do the job. Now with the widespread use of mobile devices, and with many young children using them, there's a lot more to manage.
Enter Family Zone, a box that plugs into your home gateway or router and acts as a cyber gatekeeper for all your digital devices – including phones, tablets and games consoles – along with an associated web portal and app.
If you want to have an overview of all the devices in your family, and the ability to manage and control internet access by these devices and the home Wi-Fi network, Family Zone may be an appealing solution.
Plugging in and connecting to the dashboard through a browser is simple and registration only takes a few steps.
Set-up is not for the faint-hearted, however, as each feature – and there are many – requires some customisation. The dashboard is clean and easy to navigate, but there are a lot of settings to go through, first to understand what is being controlled and then how to manage access to content for each user.
Family Zone works locally on devices, as opposed to computer-based filter or router controls for a home network that manage when devices can connect, along with some site blocking. When the Family Zone app is installed on a device, it reviews and reports on all of the currently loaded apps.
Filters for each family member
All users need to be registered with an age profile. The profile then determines how Family Zone manages access to websites and which content is permitted or blocked. In the dashboard, parents can review and adjust what's permitted in various categories such as advertising, criminal or violent content, alcohol-related content and 'alternative' content that includes sexual, 'non-traditional' and graphic material. Access to social networks can be controlled, along with specific site blocking, and you can restrict device functions such as camera, access to iTunes and the installation of apps.
The dashboard also offers the ability to program in daily times for school, study, play and sleep and controls to turn on or off the filtering for each of these time zones for each user and their registered devices. You can view reports on internet usage from registered devices, check blocked sites and see any red flags for sites or apps that may be problematic.
Family Zone provides a restricted home Wi-Fi network, which is dual band, and has a separate guest network for those worried about their kids' friends hooking devices that could have viruses or malware into their network.
If you don't feel confident in your ability to navigate all the settings, or you just don't have the time, there's an option to hire a 'cyber expert' to install and do the work for you, starting at $29 a year.
If you've got a tech-savvy kid on your hands who's likely to try and fiddle with the app, you can choose to receive a notification or even send automatic consequences to disable apps or put the device to sleep.
If you want to be master of your family's digital domain, at home and away, then Family Zone may appeal. It's going to require a fair bit of time to set it all up and manage the access on an ongoing basis so that devices are safe but still enjoyable to use.
Family Zone Cyber Safety
$89 Home Zone Box; subscription $5.95/month