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Kids on the ComputerI’ve always been very proud of the fact that I started using the computer at nine years old. I remember the days that my brother and I would spend countless late nights on the old Franklin 64, playing text-based adventure games off a floppy disk, as the computer itself had no hard drive.

Fast forward just over two decades, and I now find myself worrying about the online activities of my two young girls, now aged 6 and 8, both of whom started using the computer when they were just three years old.

The Importance of Child Safety Online

While I’m the last person on earth who would advocate limiting the Internet in any way, when you have very intelligent and inquisitive kids who enjoy searching the Internet for random information – you’ve got a recipe for trouble.  All it takes is a single search for seemingly innocent information in order for a list of dangerous websites to appear before those two little eyes.  These are the thoughts that keep parents like me up at night.

While Google and Yahoo SafeSearch settings go a long way towards easing those concerns, there are always harmful websites that make it through the filters. Setting up a filter on your own Internet firewall is another option, but again – as long as your kids are connected directly to the Internet, nasty things like dangerous websites or child predators can always make it through somehow.

This is where a free web browser created specifically for children, like KidZui, can completely remove that parental worry.

KidZui Basics

KidZui offers a free basic membership that does everything any worried parent requires.

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  • An “alternative” internet for kids, with over a million reviewed websites.
  • Additional features that make the browser fun for kids.
  • A safe social network where kids can communicate with other “parent-approved” friends.
  • Kids can create their own “Zui” character.
  • A parental account that reports the last 30 days of your childrens’ activities.
  • Activity reports automatically emailed to parents.
  • The ability for parents to customize their child’s access by adding or removing approved sites.

Using KidZui to Protect Your Computer From Your Kids

One of the last things I ever want to do is make my two girls feel as though they are being “locked down” and prevented from enjoying the internet.  That’s why I like KidZui, because there are so many additional features for kids, that they actually feel like this browser is a vast improvement over the drab old Internet browser that dad uses.  The front page is filled with unlimited possibilities for kids to explore web pages, multimedia, play games, and connect with friends.

keep kids safe on internet

The “explore” menu on the left and the “community” menu on the right both collapse so that the center browser space can view and scroll in full screen mode like a regular browser.  The explore bar gives kids fast point-and-quick access to video, games, cool websites, and other content for kids. The community menu lets kids network with any of their friends who also use KidZui. Also, the application takes over the entire screen, replacing the regular windows application bar at the bottom.

KidZui Menu

You can also configure the browser so that it can’t exit or close without a password.  This is a very cool feature for parents of kids who like to poke around in the start menu or go into file explorer and start deleting entire directories of files (yes…that’s a true story.)

Being a programmer myself, and writing applications like this at work, I know how easy it can be to circumvent such features. So to test it I enabled password protection and went through the basic checklist:

  • Clicked the windows button. Ding…not allowed.
  • Pressed Control-alt-delete. The Lock computer, change password and task manager buttons all came up disabled.
  • Alt-Tab. Ding…not allowed.

Most kids, with the exception of a computer hacking prodigy, will likely never find a way to get out of this application and succeed at destroying your computer.

KidZui Browsing Security and Filtering

The next step was to see how well KidZui blocks websites that could be dangerous for small kids.  I typed “www.youtube.com” into the browser url field and received the KidZui warning screen.

NetZui Explicit Content Warning

Direct access to any URL not listed in the KidZui approved database isn’t allowed.  That’s good – but everyone knows that there’s more than one way to access Internet pages without typing in the URL.  What about seemingly “OK” pages that link to outside Internet sites?

As a test, I found an approved kids’ game site that required a flash plugin install.  I linked to the Flash site, then clicked on “sitemap.”  After fishing around I found a link to a news website that featured an indirect route that I was sure I could use to access websites intended purely for adults.  But within a few seconds, the following warning appeared.

KidZui Unreviewed Warning

Any attempt to access websites not yet reviewed and added to the KidZui approved database is blocked and added to the review list for future approval.  While this is an excellent feature and is sure to provide excellent protection for kids – my only other concern is that it may be too restrictive.  There’s no way that KidZui staff could possibly cover the entire Internet, and include every new website that’s appropriate for kids.  However, this is where the parental access feature comes in.

KidZui Parental Controls

As a parent, you can open up your child’s KitZui access to any URL you like, if you feel that the existing controls are a bit too tight for your tastes.

KidZui Parental Controls

Since my only real purpose for using KidZui is to keep my kids from inadvertently accessing dangerous websites, any additional features are just icing on the cake.  The free version of KidZui provides a few parental features that I find pretty useful.

When you log onto the Parent’s page on the KidZui website, you can access the log files of your child’s activities.  This includes graphs that display their activity levels over the last 30 days.

KidZui Graphs

The reports also display a table that lists every website they visited, including sites and content that they were blocked from.

KidZui Access Table

As a parent of two brilliant and technologically savvy kids (look at where they got their genes, after all), I am always concerned not only about what websites and content my kids can access on the Internet, but also what damage they can do to the computer itself. KidZui provides the perfect answer – locked down access to a smaller and safer version of the Internet, contained within an application that not only protects your child from the web, but it also protects your computer from the child.  What more could a father ask for?

How do you protect your kids from the internet? Do you use filtering software or do you just trust your kids to stay away from the dangerous sites and predators online? Tell us in the comments.

  1. umar
    January 28, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    excellent review..

  2. Jim
    January 6, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Lefty - I think there is a Windows install - but it is also available as a standalone Firefox plugin. My kids use Edubuntu and it installed there fine.

  3. lefty.crupps
    January 5, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    kidzui.com/downloading
    Unfortunately, this seems to be for Windows computers only. I wouldn't trust anything to keep a windows machine safe, personally. But there are likely plenty of people out there who would like this. I prefer to keep my computer safe by keeping the whole computer *safe*, not just away (with this app) from some pages that infect Windows; I run Debian and I have installed Debian machines for children with dozens of Free (and free), safe childrens games.

    Not quite the Internet, I know. Safer though.

    • Erin
      January 6, 2009 at 1:16 pm

      KidZui works on both Windows and Mac OS. They also recently released KidZui as a Firefox add-on, which also offers a Linux version.

  4. Jim
    January 5, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Tried this but kids said it was too slow (their computer is a bit old). So far I've been happy with the Pro Con Latte Firefox plugin - I basically use it for the whitelist feature.

  5. TBone
    January 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    We have tried a number of things in our house with little luck before using Kidzui. We saw them on the Today show back in the summer and it was a blessing for our family. Our kids our 3, 7 and 9 and they fight over it. I wish it had e-mail for my 9 year old but we got around that by opening up g-mail for him at the parent website.

  6. Simon Slangen
    January 3, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I'm a fervernt proponent of letting people screw up, that's the way people learn.

    You wouldn't be riding that bike so quick, if falling didn't hurt.

  7. Sean
    January 3, 2009 at 2:11 am

    This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen on MakeUseOf. It's great to know something like this exists, and I'm extremely happy to know there are people out there trying to make the internet/computer friendly for very young kids.

    By the way I also have fond memories of playing text based stuff (space wars, anarchy online or something like that...) with my brother. One of my more fond memories of childhood

  8. SAM ALI
    January 3, 2009 at 2:11 am

    JUST USE THE AWESOME FREE FILTERING SERVICE PROVIDED BY OPENDNS.COM. I have been using it for computer at my work and for kids at home. It does an awesome job at filtering, and their website database is much larger than anyone else. I tried many different methods but this is by far the best one.
    SO USE OpenDNS.com

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