A Review of KidsWiFi
Recently, I became aware of a Canadian company called “KidsWifi.” Their website can be located here: https://kidswifi.com
As a recently retired Canadian police officer, and a current internet and social media safety advocate, I am continually looking at software and hardware products to help keep our kids, especially the younger ones, safer while they are surfing the web. Before I ever recommend a product to my followers however, I will always test and evaluate it first, to ensure it does what the vendor says it will do. Some will promise you the world, but when put to its paces, many often fall short. Specific to KidsWifi, I’m very impressed with what they have developed thus far.
KidsWifi ($129.00 CDN) is both a hardware/software solution that acts as your child’s primary Wi-Fi access point in your home, or even when away (like staying in a hotel or at the grandparents for a weekend), as their product is mobile as long as you have Wi-Fi access and an electrical wall outlet you can plug it into. Once your child connects to KidsWiFi, it filters, monitors, and controls all your kids’ online devices, from tablets to computers to game consoles and even devices brought by visiting friends. Some of the filtering features offered by KidsWifi include blocking adult and mature sexual content, limiting social network connections, blocking the access of gambling and illegal downloads, blocking ads and identity trackers plus, Google/Youtube search filtering.
What I really appreciate about KidsWiFI is the simplicity of its setup. When it comes to most other products on the market, the parent practically needs a computer science degree to get a product installed on the child’s device. I consider KidsWifi “Barney Fife” proof. For those of you who are not old enough, Barney Fife was the bumbling police officer on the old Andy Griffiths Show who couldn’t make anything work no matter its ease. After plugging in KidsWifi to an electrical outlet, you now use your computer or mobile device to set it up, which only takes 5 basic steps and shazam, your kids are ready for a safer way to access the internet.
The online parental dashboard that comes with their product helps you to increase or decrease filtering and monitoring. Controls are, again, very simple to use, add, remove, or even change settings depending upon the age of your child. Once I setup my KidsWifi unit via their easily followed online instructions, I proceeded to test both the parent filtering and monitoring controls. I tried searching a variety of problematic websites, and was unable to connect to any. When I attempted to search for porn (pictures and video) I was unable to locate any true porn, but some “provocative” pictures did appear; like big breasts under a shirt without a bra. When I searched the word “F**k,” no porn was located, but several pictures with the word “F**k” did appear.
Given that I have presented to over 300,000 junior and senior students from across Canada and the US, I am very aware of how they will attempt to bypass these types of parental tech filters and monitors, one of those ways is to use a Virtual Privacy Network (VPN) or proxy. Given that I already had both a VPN and a proxy service on my laptop, I was able to bypass all monitoring and filtering that KidsWiFi had to offer. When I spoke to one of the software developers, this is something that he identified as a challenge as well. It is important to note however, that KidsWifi has built in the ability to prevent a user from downloading a VPN/proxy while using their product, but it will not stop a user from downloading one onto their device from another Wi-Fi access location. Now, although this is an identified challenge, I should emphasize that most youth in grades K-6 will not know how to use a proxy or VPN. This is one reason why I recommend KidsWiFi to parents of children in grade school or younger. Once a child hits junior/senior high school, I can almost guarantee they will be able to bypass KidsWiFI by using a proxy or VPN.
A second way we identified that junior/senior students will use to bypass a unit such as KidsWifi is that they will plug their device directly into the home modem/router. I did this with my laptop and once again I was able to bypass all of the filtering and monitoring that KidsWiFi had to offer. Again, this is a bypass hack that is well known to teens, rather than youth and tweens. If you are tech literate, there are ways to secure a home modem/router to prevent this hack, both high tech and low tech (locking up the modem), but most parents I find are unaware and unwilling to go through the effort of utilizing these hacking countermeasures.
The third challenge with KidsWiFi is that once the child leaves the home with their tech (like going to school), then they will be able to access other Wi-Fi networks. For this reason, I recommend that parents also utilize the native parental options that most mobile tech possesses. (http://www.imore.com/restrictions and http://www.geeksquad.co.uk/articles/set-up-parental-controls-android), combined with an excellent mobile monitoring software solution, I recommend NetSanity for both iOS and Android phones (https://netsanity.net). By utilizing this layered protection process, parents will greatly diminish the likelihood that young eyes will come across or download content that is age inappropriate.
I believe that KidsWiFi is an excellent option for families with children who are in elementary school and younger, and who allow their child sometimes unsupervised access to the home internet Wi-Fi connection via home computers, laptops, gaming consoles, tablets, iPods, iPhones, or any other device that a child or youth uses. Now is KidsWiFI 100% effective? No – it still allows some questionable material to get onto a child’s device. Having said this however, it does an AWESOME job at filtering out most of the less-than-desirable garbage that we don’t want our kids to see or read. When KidsWiFI is combined with a device’s parental control settings and NetSanity, plus parental communication and participation, we have now created a safer digital access ecosystem for our kids. My professional and expert opinion has been, and will continue to be, that monitoring and filtering, combined with parental communication and participation, is a must until such time as our kids are digitally literate enough to no longer require continued parental oversight, and can go it alone.
AKA “The White Hatter”