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62 posts

Master Geek
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  # 1771607 27-Apr-2017 22:47
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Great thread!

 

SheriffNZ: I read about this one on the New York Times. It was used by some IT guy. Other than that, I don't know anything about it but it adds another option.

https://meetcircle.com/circle/

 

 

 

 

I looked into that. They made no guarantees it would work in NZ, but to give them credit they were prepared to give it a go if I bought one. I was prepared to do that but their support dissappeared for about 3 weeks, and during that time I'd gone with an alternative (see below). Also when a site is blocked it puts up a whole lot of "Safe" disney links.

 

The other device I went with was a Koalasafe. http://www.koalasafe.com. We have a range of items on our network, ipads, pc's, chromebooks, iPhones and Android phones. We don't want to protect all those devices, but we do want to block the chromebook, for which there is very little software around that does this effectively. It's designed and shipped from Australia, under active development. Shipping took a while for a number of reasons, but kudos to the support team for keeping us updated throughout the whole process

 

The KoalaSafe device plugs into your router and sets up another wireless network. You just set the devices you want to protect to use that network and away you go. Setting restrictions on the device is done through a mobile app. You can set time limits, add sites, check sites visited, even add extra time or reduce time as required. If you prefer you cn use some of the preconfigured groups and apply them to a users profile.

 

Profiles can have two lots of settings applied - so you could say homework gets done between 3 and 5pm and only allow acess to homework type sites, and then playtime happens between 5pm and 6pm and allow an expanded set of sites. There's a bit of flexibility but I haven't been able to figure out how to use the same device with two different people / profiles.  

 

Has it helped us? Yeah, I'd say so. We always used to have robust discussions when internet time was up, temper tantrums and the rest. Now that never happens. There is the odd request for extra time and we can give an extra 5 mins easily via the app, and then say enough is enough. There's less stress in our family for it, and we can easily monitor and have discussions about what sites are visited.

 

It's not the cheapest option but we have two more kids to go through learning how to be safe online, so we figured over that time it would provide enough value to pay for itself.


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  # 2165083 22-Jan-2019 06:35
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I'm revisiting this thread because there's always a parent arriving newly at this issue. @gabba most recently posted about Circle and KoalaSafe. I'm curious to hear how the KoalaSafe unit/app have gone for you in the past two years. Are you still using this solution?

 

My kids' school works with Chromebooks. They have recently purchased FamilyZone for content filtering and have forced it on us whilst not sufficiently checking it out - for example, before Christmas we were told "it's here, go install it, it'll be required next year" but their device management settings don't allow the installation. School IT staff aren't very responsive. It's maddening.

 

For home over summer, I gave Mobicip a good try but the Android app interface is terrible. If a kid requests something, I get a standard windowshade notification. Tap it and the app opens - to a blank screen. No option to view the message or take action on it. Requires pulling out the laptop. It's worn on me too many times already after only a few days.

 

Circle by Disney looked good; I'm willing to accept Disney-sanitised content on a blocked page (my kids play the Disney Heroes game frequently). I ordered one late yesterday from 2Degrees (seems to be the only NZ reseller). Buuuut...KoalaSafe's website points this out:

 

Circle uses a trick called "ARP Poisoning" to tell every device in your home that they should send their data to the Circle device instead of the Internet. The problem with that approach is:

 

- The device becomes a bottleneck, whereby all internet traffic must go through the Circle, including parent devices

 

- You may have privacy concerns if you parent browsing goes through a filtering device

 

KoalaSafe creates a separate network kids, so parents and children have a completely separate experience. On your kids network, you control time, content and can monitor it. For parents, nothing changes - no filtering or monitoring between you and the Internet.

 

So now I've hastily cancelled the 2Degrees order and am waiting on a KoalaSafe Dome unit.

 

What else has everyone else been trying lately?


 
 
 
 


xpd

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  # 2165092 22-Jan-2019 07:43
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I got the MS Family thing running again to control time for the youngest as shes the more troublesome one when it comes to removing herself from the PC ;) Apart from that, nothing, kids are good and if do see something they dont think they should be seeing they mention it to us. For now........ ;)

 

 





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Master Geek
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  # 2165177 22-Jan-2019 09:50
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maybe look at openDNS? set one up, and change the DNS on your kids devices. when you dont want them to use, login online change the filter setting to filter all?

 

 


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  # 2165191 22-Jan-2019 10:08
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You have many options - the Trend Micro Home Network Security uses a similar ARP hijack but it's very effective for device management. It is good and bad. It is good because you manage and protect your network (it does more than Parental Controls, including malware filtering/blocking, intrusion detection, etc) but if your kids have access to a different network (mobile data or friends' homes) then you need something on device as well.

 

Google Family Link allows you to create a Google account for kids that is only usable on Android and Chromebook devices - you can limit usage time, schedule, only YouTube Kids is allowed, SafeSearch is enforced as well as GPS location.

 

Obviously if your kid use the school account then you have to trust that school will manage the filtering so it is active while outside their network - meaning the kids won't want to use that account, so they will be back at using their Google Kid account, which you control.

 

The Google Kid account can be changed into a normal account when they turn 13 - at which time you probably have had a talk about the dangers on the Internet, how to behave, why is not good to abuse the time restrictions, etc...





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  # 2165192 22-Jan-2019 10:10
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Good suggestions re the Google Parental Controls, @freitasm. Unfortunately implementing that part of the Google ecosystem cuts off access to the Play Store in any form, and YouTube, from what I have read. The screaming that follows my kids losing access to the Play Store would be unbearable.


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  # 2165196 22-Jan-2019 10:14
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Play Store is still available. You receive a request for each install and Approve or Deny. You also can buy apps on your parent account and make it available to the Family Library so the kid can install from there without having to buy it again.

 

As I said, YouTube Kids is available.





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Master Geek
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  # 2165509 22-Jan-2019 15:26
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Get a fingbox.. best investment for internet control I've made..

 

 


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Master Geek
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  # 2165510 22-Jan-2019 15:27
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HcoNmeM:

 

Get a fingbox.. best investment for internet control I've made..

 

 

 

 

I agree, amazing little gadget. 


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  # 2165649 22-Jan-2019 18:19
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kelly42:

 

My kids' school works with Chromebooks. They have recently purchased FamilyZone for content filtering and have forced it on us whilst not sufficiently checking it out - for example, before Christmas we were told "it's here, go install it, it'll be required next year" but their device management settings don't allow the installation. School IT staff aren't very responsive. It's maddening.

 

 

@kelly42 

 

Yes the bane of my life is those chromebooks. School gets to pick them but appear to have put no thought or have accountability into what happens with them outside the GAFE system. I would suspect many parents don't have the time to learn about them, nor afford to spend additional money on parental control software or hardware.

 

Just checking re the comment above, have you made sure you were the first person to log onto the chromebook. That person is the administrator and should be able to install or uninstall anything. If not you can reset the chromebook, and then set up an account for yourself as a new user. Then add the childs account back in again, and all should be good.

 

Re Koalasafe, it sits there quite happily doing it's job without alot of interaction. The kids understand now when the access time goes on and when it goes off. As parents we both have access, and having a mobile app is good if Mum is busy and Dad needs to give access from work. Accessing the management interface from a desktop still feels clunky - it's "mobile first" designed, but still functional.

 

I'm not that sure now what else is out there. I have wondered if I can get some software via the play-store to work, but TBH Koalasafe just does it's thing, and it's fairly well embedded in our family. To change it would be a bit of work.

 

The kids have worked out that for some things they don't need to be online to play. They just have to be on the site when their time goes off, and they can keep on playing. If there is one downfall of all the systems (except maybe Mobicip) that I've seen is that there is nothing for chromebooks that would shut down the machine after a period of time (give a warning first). So we are still left with managing chromebook usage time. I guess as parents we still need to be responsible for something!

 

Happy to answer any specific questions about Koalasafe. Otherwise enjoy the Dome

 

Cheers


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Ultimate Geek
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  # 2165714 22-Jan-2019 18:55
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FamilyZone is from the same people that do Linewize (iirc Linewize got sold to them). One of my kids is making a mockery at school with their Linewize product. It is common knowledge among the students on how to bypass it. Most of the schools are going to use N4L's Fortigates, so hopefully they will sort it out.

 

Here's the reality check, go to https://translate.google.com, type in www.playboy.com, on the right window click Spanish, then click on the right www.playboy.com link.

 

That's how simple it is.

 

Can it be stopped? Well the school could potentially block translate.google.com via DNS blocking, (google use a wildcard cert so you can't do that). But there are other similar translation tools. So it would be a game of whack a mole.

 

Some advanced firewall and web filter products will do it in conjunction with SSL decryption. If you're running a sonicwall these do it via the "Enable Smart Filtering for Embedded URI" option.

 

I would add some sage advice around the family filter products...

 

Most traffic on the web is SSL encrypted. What does that mean? Well it's not easy for a product (router/firewall/etc) to look into that traffic - you need SSL decryption, that requires horsepower and a reasonable level of IT knowledge to set it up (it's not hard if you know what you're doing). If you're not doing SSL decrypt then you cannot see the contents of that traffic, whether someone is going to a porn site, or a virus is coming in, or someone is attacking you.

 

Products like fingbox using DNS blocking is about as good as you'll get. You could achieve similar results with PiHole on a raspberry Pi (but of course you need to buy the gear and set it up which may take you longer than what it's worth vs buying a findbox).

 

Just keep in mind many kids will easily able to bypass many home solutions. For example I doubt fingbox blocks googletranslate, and there is no way it will deal with Embedded URI's.

 

My advice, keep it simply, find a product with time restrictions and DNS filtering. Anything else is marketing fluff.

 

 


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  # 2165732 22-Jan-2019 19:59
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Re the Google Family Link product: After trying diligently this evening, I still have not been able to get it set up properly on a Chromebook. The error message is non-helpful:

 

xxxx@gmail.com is currently signed in to a Chromebook in addition to this device. Family Link supervision for accounts on Chromebooks is coming soon.

 

This is on a Chromebook where the child account is signed in.

 

Following Google's 'help' instructions, strangely, doesn't help. :( They recommend a Chrome OS update (of which we have the latest) and removing the child's account from the device - a last resort.

 

I'll await delivery of the Circle (which 2Degrees couldn't cancel in time before shipping it) and the KoalaSafe.

 

ETA: I finally got there in the end with a lot of perseverance. So far so good. The Google app design is nice and fully featured, for what it has.


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  # 2170046 30-Jan-2019 09:20
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Warning: The KoalaSafe company has been horrible to deal with. They cancelled my order a week after I placed it, with a note that said "sorry, we don't ship this unit [KoalaSafe Dome] to NZ; sorry it wasn't clear on our site". No other alternatives were offered including their first-generation KoalaSafe device which others have posted about here.

 

I've been over their site with a fine-toothed comb and I can't see any restrictions that say it won't be available in NZ.

 

The company's support response even in this one transaction was bad enough that I never want to deal with them. Since they won't ship me a unit, I guess I won't have to!

 

Google's Family Link has been working really well for us.


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  # 2170058 30-Jan-2019 09:46
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My thoughts at this point in this discussion - I agree with having Internet controls at home for kids, but I keep reminding myself that I can't rely on them in lieu of the parenting bit. As mentioned previously, all systems have limitations and flaws. What happens when you kid turns off the WiFi and uses mobile data? What happens when they go to their friends place and uses their devices? Obviously different ages need different controls/rules/considerations.

 

Personally I have a small Fortigate at home and use it for time restriction and DNS rating of sites etc. It seems to work ok, but I know that is just one part of it.

 

Netsafe seem to have some good articles for parents, eg https://www.netsafe.org.nz/online-safety-for-parents/

 

 


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