Mobile Internet Filtering and Accountability: Safe Eyes Mobile – WHS 45

This week I’m starting a series on mobile internet filtering and accountability. I’m going to review 3 products that will help protect your children when using an iDevice. Some of these products are also available on Android and I’ll provide a rundown of those features at the end of the series.

First up is Safe Eyes Mobile from Internetsafety.com available for iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. It even works on 1st-generation iPods and iPhones. Safe Eyes is a replacement browser for the native Safari browser and filters your Internet activity as opposed to just monitoring and reporting on your Internet activity.

Before I get into the full review, I’d like to welcome a sponsor to the podcast: Scholaric. Scholaric is the simplest homeschool record keeping system I’ve ever seen. Fewer settings. No unnecessary features and highly customizable. Check it out today and get a 3 month free trial. When you go to the site click on the button that for the 15 day free trial and you’ll receive 3 months free. That’s scholaric.com/wiredhs2012. With Scholaric simple homeschool record keeping is just a click away!

OK, back to Safe Eyes. Like I said earlier, Safe Eyes is intended to replace Safari for iOS in order to provide filtering. Due to the iOS SDK, there is no way to install an app that monitors all Internet activity (this is something you’re going to hear a lot about from me).

Safer Than Safari

For casual browsing on the Internet Safe Eyes is a suitable replacement, especially for children. It doesn’t lag at all.  I used it for a solid hour with multiple tabs open and it didn’t crash.

The first screen you see after launching Safe Eyes

If you use the home version of Safe Eyes it can also enforce time limits across devices, and syncs settings across PC, Mac, and iOS. That means no having to reconfigure the filter for each device.

When you launch the app for the first time you’re prompted to either create a new account or use an existing account. If you don’t already have an account you can create one on your device. Once you’re done with the account creation process you won’t see the screen again.

From there you’re prompted to either start browsing or disable Safari. If you’re setting this up for a child I highly recommend disabling Safari. You’ll then be provided with instructions on how to do that. It can’t be done automatically because it’s not supported in the iOS SDK.

Most of the features I’ve come to expect in a mobile browser are present: multiple windows, bookmarks, share links via email, pinch to zoom, double-tap to zoom, etc. I was able to play embedded YouTube videos and audio files on multiple websites too.  I had a problem logging into one social media site but it’s not one I use regularly and there’s an app for it.

Denied!

Despite the negative comments I’ve seen about Safe Eyes in the App Store, I experienced none of the crashing or errors that others complained about. Some of the complaints were about features that weren’t present. Some of these features might be helpful but aren’t permitted because of the iOS SDK. Let’s address some of those now.

Apple iOS SDK Woes

  • No device-wide filtering of Internet capable apps
  • Cannot import bookmarks
  • Cannot assign Safe Eyes as your default browser
  • Cannot click links in email and have them open in Safe Eyes

These are all the things the browser doesn’t do because the SDK doesn’t allow it. Apple has really ham-strung developers when it comes to this. As a result, you need to really be careful of the apps installed on your child’s device.

Hidden Browsers

Many apps have hidden browsers in them. Twitter, Facebook, GMail and Google+ are are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head. This means that your child could potentially access explicit material and circumvent the the filtering provided by Safe Eyes. Again, this isn’t a knock against the app because Apple doesn’t provide a way in their SDK for every Internet connection to be monitored.  Get used to hearing this from me because when I review the other two products in this series I’ll sound like a broken record.


One more thing

Safe Eyes Mobile hasn’t been updated since August 2010. This was a little disheartening because it seems like the app has been abandoned. I do hope to see a refresh of this app soon that would feature tabbed browsing for the iPad (tabbed browsing is available on the iPad), the ability to share links via Twitter (since it’s baked into iOS), and a print option.  The more “Safari-like” these alternative browsers become the more likely they’ll be adopted.

Recommendation

I can confidently recommend Safe Eyes for parents who want to be sure their children don’t accidentally come across explicit material on their portable device. Used with iOS restrictions and iTunes parental controls, Safe Eyes is a strong addition to the homeschooler’s digital tool belt for protecting their family.  The one-time price is great if you have an alternate filtering solution for your desktop and it integrates well with its desktop counterpart.

Safe Eyes Mobile
Safe Eyes Mobile - InternetSafety.com
Cost: $14.99
Category: Utilities
Language: English
Rated 12+
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Have you used Safe Eyes Mobile? Perhaps you’re using the desktop version. I’d like to hear your impressions about the product. Leave a comment below and give me your take on Safe Eyes Mobile.

Note: You can save 20% to 40% on Safe Eyes for your desktop at Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. Offer Expires 05-31-2012 at 11:59 pm Pacific.

Listener feedback

I received a Homeschool convention report from Michael Prince of The Super Secret Podcast for Young Husbands. He attended his first homeschooling convention and shared his experience.  Listen to the podcast to hear what Michael had to say.  Have you been to a convention too?  Planning to go to one?  I’d really like to hear from you too.  Share your experience in the comments below or via voice or email.

I received a great review of the podcast on iTunes by Tina S.  She writes:

I love that here is a religious homeschooler that doesn’t saturate his podcast with religious content. Whether that’s intentional (realizing there do exist non-Christian homeschoolers) or not, I really appreciate this, as a non-religious homeschooler.

Also really like the way John talks…its very natural and not put-on like many other podcasters. He is very real and always has tons of great ideas and info and resources to share! He really knows his stuff. No random babbling here…John obviously very thoughtfully plans out these podcasts. I really enjoy The Wired Homeschool. There’s so very few homeschool podcasts to begin with…even less that are actual high quality and not jam-packed with religous content. This one is on my short list of excellent homeschool podcasts for even the secular homeschooler (like me!)

Thanks to Tina for the review.  Listen to the podcast to hear my response.  Have you left a review yet? I really would like to hear what you have to say about the podcast.

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If you’d like to leave feedback about this or any other episode you can call and leave a voice mail by calling 518-290-0228, send email to feedback@thewiredhomeschool.com, or leave a comment on the blog. Follow me on Twitter: @jwilkers. Also follow the podcast on Twitter: @wiredhs. Join the Facebook page over at http://facebook.com/wiredhs

Music: Poofy Reel by Kevin Macleod.

The Wired Homeschool is a proud member of the Tech Podcast Network. For more family-friendly tech podcasts visit techpodcasts.com

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