Why Internet Filter Software?
The top performers in our review are Net Nanny, the Gold Award winner; Qustodio, the Silver Award winner; and Witigo, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing an internet filter system for your Mac, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of the best Mac internet filter software.
The internet can be a dangerous place. No one wants to have to monitor computer usage, but sometimes it is necessary to filter and block websites from children. Internet filter software lets you block specific content or websites from being accessed and will notify you, the parent, if someone attempts to view sites or content that you’ve deemed inappropriate for your family. Some have remote capabilities so you can be in charge of internet use while you’re away from your home and devices.
Mac Website Blocking Software: Choosing the Best Features
There aren’t a lot of website blocking programs that are designed specifically for Mac devices. The handful we were able to find are PC programs that also are compatible with Mac systems. However, the same features are available regardless of the operating system. Here are a few of the tools and features that important as part of any PC or Mac internet filter application. For more help in choosing the best application for your family, check out our articles on Mac internet filters.
Reports, Notifications & Recordings
An important part of internet filtering is being notified when someone attempts to access blocked content or if something inadvertently slips through the filters. In order to be notified, content has to be monitored and recorded in such a way to give you an accurate report of what is being viewed. Some programs simply notify you through the parent portal dashboard while others will email or text you details about the specific threat.
All of the programs we reviewed list sites, searches and viewed content in chronological order, and you can view those lists sorted both by user and by website. Some of the applications record internet browsing history with clickable links, some with screenshots and some with both, as in the case of our top pick, Net Nanny. Some programs record email exchanges (including attachments) and chat activity, both of which are helpful in ensuring your children are communicating with people you know and only sharing safe information.
Filtering & Blocking
While internet blockers for Mac aren’t able to filter 100 percent of all undesirable content, the best Mac internet filtering software comes with multiple filtering categories that allow you to block more content types than basic programs allow. McAfee Total Protection has the most filter categories, and those include online games, shopping sites, government sites, political content and porn filters. After you click the categories, McAfee automatically blocks any sites or content that pertain to that particular filter. Most of the other services we’ve looked at here have a range of categories, and all include blockers for pornography, violence and drug use.
One exception is Covenant Eyes, which doesn’t have individual category filters; instead, it has age levels. The lowest level blocks all content that isn’t appropriate for every member of your family, regardless of age. This content is based on the individual website ratings. As the levels increase, the types of blocked content change, with less and less being filtered until the highest level, which only blocks websites with a Highly Mature, or HM, rating. Parents can also create Allow List Only user accounts, where parents can specify the websites that users can connect to.
A great feature included with Net Nanny and Qustodio is profanity masking. These two programs will automatically change any profane word into nonsense symbols, such as $%#@, regardless of whether it is printed as part of the website content or typed into a search engine or instant message by the user.
Installation & Support
Installing your internet filters for Mac shouldn’t be difficult. This is why we looked for programs that include a setup and configuration wizard to help walk you through the steps of implementing and using the filters. Because of the sensitive nature of these programs, it’s important to be able to connect with support personnel if something goes wrong, or to be able to quickly find an answer online. We appreciate developers that offer telephone and live chat support. We also found those programs with a searchable knowledgebase, including FAQs and user forums, very helpful.
What We Discovered While Testing Mac Internet Filters
We evaluated each of the products on our Mac internet filter review for how well it recorded, blocked and notified parents of the internet activity of the child user. We set category filters and attempted to access blocked sites and perform. Most programs showed a blocked content message when we attempted to access block material, though some filters of Witigo redirected us to a child-friendly site with fun facts and games more appropriate for young users.
Most of the programs we tested began working from the moment the applications were installed, immediately creating parent reports and sending out instant notifications when we tried to access websites or perform searches the filters wouldn’t allow. Witigo, however, required a day of use before it could show a chronological history, filtered by date, of the internet pages and content we accessed
All of the programs we tested adequately blocked mature content including pornography, violence, drug use, sexuality, online games, religious content and shopping sites. Each provided exceptions, or a place for us to include URLs for sites we wanted to allow access to, even if they automatically fell into a blacklist category.
Most of the applications we reviewed have very similar functions and goals. The biggest differences we saw were in the reports themselves and the amount of information provided to parents. Thus, the difference in each program’s ranking ultimately comes down to the number of overall features and tools available from each program. Those applications, such as Net Nanny, that have add-ons available at an additional cost, received partial credit for having the feature available compared to those that don’t provide it at all, while those program that included the feature as part of the basic filter program received full credit for that feature in our rankings.
Other Solutions to Protect You and Your Family
A Mac internet filter is only one tool to help keep your family safe from online threats. These filters are sometimes included with other programs, and you can find more information about other software types in our articles on parental control software. Additionally, we have tested and ranked the best cell phone parental control software that makes internet filtering and monitoring available on cell phones and tablets, devices where more and more kids are spending the majority of their internet time.
In addition to an internet filter, consider also using an anti-virus program for your computer. While filters let you block content, anti-virus applications will block hidden threats that like to piggy back on legitimate sites and expose your family and computers to even more dangers. Even Mac computers are vulnerable to internet threats, but you can find the best Mac antivirus programs that will easily work right alongside your internet filter application.
Mac Website Blocking Software: Final Thoughts and Recommendations
Each of the products we reviewed have filters for pornography, violence, sex and drugs. We were especially impressed with the ease of using our best-ranked internet filter for Mac solution, Net Nanny, though Qustodio and Witigo also proved to be effective in our testing. Mac internet filtering is a powerful tool to help keep your family protected while online, and it can be used in conjunction with good anti-virus software to bump up the security of your computer while anyone is online.