Monday, June 07, 2010

Parental controls: Apple and Google joint fail

After an epic struggle, I've given up on Apple's parental controls. They never worked very well, but Google's change to https seems to have broken them completely. I can't enable Google Calendar or Gmail access without also enabling image search. I'm not even sure I can allow allow Google access while blocking YouTube (the rules seem to be changing quickly).

It's a bleedin' mess.

I'm currently evaluating Net Nanny and Safe Eyes, but really I don't want either of them. I need a net appliance I can configure for our entire network. Those devices, however, costs thousands. Or I need to give up on Google.

I'm seriously considering the latter. If MobileMe were to offer Google-class calendaring I could use Bing for family search. I think OS X Parental Controls may still work with Microsoft's offerings.

I have to imagine Windows 7 parental controls are far better than Apple's, otherwise vast numbers of parents must be in full denial ...

Update 6/9/10: xkcd - Now I get it. So this is how things work for those that don't realize quite how bad things are ...

Update 6/14/10: I might be having some limited success with the combination of ...
  1. OS X Parental Controls: whitelist only, with the trick and our Google Apps family domain.
  2. Google's lock safe search set to the most severe filtering. It's not obvious, but I think you can log in with a parent's personal iGoogle account, lock safe search, then log out. You must, however, enable always receive cookies which is probably a serious security risk. Clearing cookies will clear this, but Parental Controls makes that harder to do.
Update 6/17/11: A comment suggests iBoss Home, a combination of wireless router and a subscription service.


Andrew W said...

https may be a problem. I believe the secure connection is made *before* the full URL is sent. So to filter specific https sub-URLs you'd need to do that via the browser or network stack (I guess - I'm not a network engineer). An net app box may be able to filter https based on domain, but even that sounds iffy.

Windows Live Parental Controls is pretty slick, and almost all of your issues you've posted about this topic would be mitigated if you were using it. In this case, though, I don't know if it handles https well.

The cool thing about WinLive PC is that your white/black list is "in the cloud" (associated w/ a parent's .NET account), so it offers whole-house protection (for your Windows machines) w/out individual machine configuration.

JGF said...

Great example from WinLive PC. If Apple were to support the Windows cloud stack that might be an upside to the Google/Apple divorce.

Anonymous said...

Just noticed this post. "I need a net appliance I can configure for our entire network. Those devices, however, costs thousands." - parental control router. I've had it for about 7 months, never misses a beat, parental features better than most software products, priced right, great support, overall it's an awesome product.

James Carroll said...

John, Are you still using Google Apps for your family domain? Are you still using Apple Parental Controls?

Here's my story: I've been fighting this bug for over a year as a student at school, and last week I bought my first mac, with 100% confidence that if I were the administrator, I could fix the bug. Then, I read your post today, and I'm shocked; I don't know what to do--return my $200 purchase and retreat to Windows 7 or continue the fight. My technical skills are insufficient for an issue like this. I agree with you that the market for parental controls may be shrinking, which is sad. Nevertheless, I am determined to find a permanent solution to protect my family. Thank you so much for your clear, comprehensive description of the problem and your attempts to solve it.


John Gordon said...

James, i wrote an update post for you:

James Carroll said...


Thank you for the update; I'm glad to see you found a solution, albeit non-ideal. I am still figuring out what my options, since I am on OS X 10.5.8 (Leopard) on a PowerBook G4; I believe for me, the best option is to disable web logs. I wish you and your family well.

Happy New Year!