My browser needs child-safety locks.
October 28, 2010 4:18 PM   Subscribe

My son just turned 4 and has become a wiz at bypassing all parental controls, and I need a browser that will restrict him to a few sites, such as stuff like

You might've heard about my not-so-verbal child in my last ask - well, since last I asked, he has learned his entire alphabet and phonics and is ready to start reading. We play on Kidzui together (he will not have any unsupervised computer time...not til he's older. Much older) and he tend to want to spend his time on the less educational sites, games, and vids. I can intervene a little, but he's very possessive with his mouse. It's car-shaped. You know how it is.

I love some of the Kidzui features like the desktop lockdown, favorites, easy to navigate menu bar with the back button, etc, but they do sprinkle in some ads in there. We don't even have cable at home and I try not to expose him to any advertising, and I'm not about to start just because he's becoming computer literate. Is there a browser out there - or even a firefox extension - that has the basic child-lock features, but has a site list that is customizable?

KidRocket has the interface that I'm thinking of - no url bar, just a list of website to click on, but it cannot be customized.
posted by Sallysings to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You could just code your own HTML page with links on, and then customise your Firefox toolbar to remove absolutely everything (the buttons, URL bar, File/Edit/etc menus). Only works if your kids doesn't know to right click on the toolbar again and re-edit the toolbar (or the keyboard shortcut to, say, open the favourites), but it's a quick solution to the problem.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:25 PM on October 28, 2010

FamilySheild from OpenDNS. It's free, and you don't even have to install anything.
posted by Mwongozi at 4:28 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

looks like kidzui can be run as an addon to firefox - that plus adblock should remove the ads. you can even tell it what things to block.

you could also have a custom login for your son and have that run the internet under a whitelist.
posted by nadawi at 4:29 PM on October 28, 2010

Mozilla suggests two add-ons, and the second one looks to be what you are looking for. ProCon Latte allows for whitelists to be made so the browser can *only* point to certain websites.
Also, remembering how I was when I was 5 and on a computer: make the password difficult. If your son is anything like I was, he will crack the password. (My dad thought I wouldn't be smart enough to try our address, phone number, his SSN, DOB, etc.)
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:29 PM on October 28, 2010

Well, I have a 2 1/2 year old who is also somewhat challenged on the communication front and has some midly autistic tendencies, and something I've found to be very useful, educational, and entertaining for her which you might like to check out, is a customized Windows browser called zacbrowser (downloadable for free at

It's officially designed for autistic kids, and a few of the provided links are particular to that crowd, but most of the stuff is very entertaining and helpful for toddlers and preschoolers of all levels. It's not yet customizable with your own preferred links, but provides a ton of interesting content. Also, it's sort of a captive browser: control keys do little (except ctrl-L which exits the program), so they can't do very much damage when they're in there.

We have it set up to automatically launch when Windows starts up on a dedicated hand-me-down computer with a toddler keyboard, the the control key doesn't even exist for her. I assume your kid is adept with a mouse now, which should make is excellent (my kid can only use the keyboard, so some of the apps I have to "drive" for her.) You'll have to poke around and find some favorites, but maybe your kid can do that himself!

The only catch is that if we want the computer to run other things, such as netflix, we need to keep an additional "adult" keyboard nearby, so that we can actually get out of the zacbrowser when we need to. One of these days I'll install a certain windows utility to map some obscure keyboard combo on her keyboard so we don't need the extra keyboard around, but that's an exercise left for the reader. ;-)
posted by otterpop at 4:50 PM on October 28, 2010

Effective short term solution:

You can play around with the LeechBlock extension to whitelist sites that you want your kid to see, and leave everything else blocked all of the time. You can also add the whitelisted sites to their own set so you're not spending hours on them. See this previous comment. Put the sites he's allowed to use on the bookmarks bar and hide the location bar, or do like EndsOfInvention suggests and make your own HTML page.

Effective but technical long term solution:

Get a copy of VirtualBox and install another operating system for him to use. You can restrict the sites he sees using any method you want, and you're given some peace of mind in case he downloads something that would trash the computer -- just roll back the virtual machine. You're also given freedom to customize the desktop and operating system (uninstalling other programs you don't want him to use instead of trying to hide them). Plus if you install something like Ubuntu you can get a bunch of free educational games and not have to worry about malware.
posted by ayerarcturus at 4:50 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry, one more comment on the zacbrowser: as of the current revision, the provided links are not customizable, but they are promising that in a future version. Do check it out and see if it's a match for your needs as it is.
posted by otterpop at 4:55 PM on October 28, 2010

K9 Web Protection is fantastic for this.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:43 PM on October 28, 2010

Beyond the immediate technical solutions, I think you should start planning for longer-term discussions you need to be having with him.

At the end of the day, he most likely will surpass your computer skills at a fairly young age, and its less "if" than "when" he will break through your protections. When that time comes, it is best to make sure you have educated him about the pitfalls of the internet, how to avoid getting viruses, how to be smart about your personal data sharing, communications with strangers, downloading files, viruses, etc.

When I was younger I learned all that stuff myself and my parents had not a clue. Fortunately I was always a researcher so I was prepared for those situations even at a young age, but a lot of kids these days growing up on the net are innately more trusting of other sites and tend to do first and ask questions later and by that time it can be too late.
posted by Elminster24 at 6:02 PM on October 28, 2010

Response by poster: Small update - for now, he's not getting a keyboard. He's perfectly proficient at using both left and right mouse buttons (he has figured out the whole context menu thing) but when given a keyboard he will first try all the function keys, then the multimedia keys, and try combos. So I will probably give him one in a year, but for now, he's using mouse only.

Thanks for all the lovely suggestions, and it's looking and more like the free options are not customizable, and even the paid options require using their pre-approved list of sites. So maybe a customized start page with k9 and firefox running in fullscreen is the way to go.

Thanks for all the advice so far though, and if there's any free (or almost free) software out there that would do these things, please fire away!
posted by Sallysings at 7:27 PM on October 28, 2010

Response by poster: Last update, for anyone who's looking for the same thing. I think I've finally found what I'm looking for.

Pikluk is a no-frills, no preloaded content kiosk for kids, with an online parental controls panel. The basic is free, and it's $30 for the full version - the only things the free version limits is the number of sites you can add. Which I won't be needing because choices are overrated anyway.
posted by Sallysings at 12:34 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Tiptree   |   ?Como se-dice "ye-ye"? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.