Smart control for smart kids

The updated version of Kaspersky Safe Kids addresses three typical parental control issues.

Our kids should surpass us in every way: talent, looks, happiness, intelligence. But children seem to get too smart too quick these days, and they can end up giving their parents the runaround in the most innocent yet cunning ways. Today’s fifth graders know very well what their parents are hiding from them, how to open locked doors, and where to find forbidden fruit online.

To stop inherently curious kids from venturing off the trail online, we have parental control applications, such as Kaspersky Safe Kids. In theory, these programs restrict access to apps and websites that, according to parents, are not appropriate for kids’ consumption. But in practice, children quickly learn to bypass such restrictions or even use them for their own purposes.

If you see that your child has bypassed your parental controls, your initial reaction may well be overwhelming pride — what a brain! But it’s clearly a problem, and the solution isn’t immediately obvious. Never fear: We’ve updated Kaspersky Safe Kids to tackle three typical problems that parents of overly savvy kids might face.

The buck stops at Wikipedia

Kaspersky Safe Kids has always had an option to restrict access to websites with particular types of content. It is quite typical for parents not to want their youngsters to peruse adult content, read forums about weapons, or obtain information about certain other topics. But classifying all websites on the Internet is fundamentally impossible — they appear faster than we can squeeze them into categories.

So, crafty kids have always been able to find what they wanted on some obscure sites that we had not yet managed to add to our lists. But no more. We have implemented the Block all websites feature, which (as the name suggests) blocks access to all sites except those that parents manually add to the list of exclusions. So, say, Wikipedia, NASA.gov, and other potentially useful tools can go in this list, and children’s access to all other sites is safely blocked.

The option is disabled by default. If you turn it on, all sites, except those you’ve added to the white list, are effectively blacklisted, thus preventing children from viewing them. The feature is currently available only in Windows, but will soon appear also in Kaspersky Safe Kids apps for Android and iOS.

How to keep access to your favorite applications

“Mom, I was at Tony’s house! Yes, till 10 p.m. No, I couldn’t call or text. You blocked all the apps yourself, and told me not to call ’cause you had important meetings. So I didn’t call.” To many users of Kaspersky Safe Kids, such excuses may sound familiar. The application has a function that allows you to block access to all applications except the phone – which is handy, but, as it turned out, not sufficient.

Messengers have invaded our lives to such an extent that it is often easier to use them to contact your kid than to call, for a variety of reasons. As a result, many parents requested a feature that would let them create a white list of applications that includes more than the phone itself, and to block everything else. We listened and added such a function to the new version of Kaspersky Safe Kids. Now it is possible to whitelist useful applications and block all the rest during a certain period of time (say, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday). In other words, you can ban games from the classroom but allow anytime use of electronic dictionaries and the messenger you use to keep in touch.

This video demonstrates how to set up the feature:

Deleting Kaspersky Safe Kids just got harder

Perhaps the worst headache for parents of smart, persevering kids occurs when the kids try to turn off or delete Kaspersky Safe Kids, and then use the device as they please. On a computer, this is harder to do (and no, we don’t have an instructional video for that), but on Android it’s relatively simple. Actually, that’s a problem common to all parental control applications, not just ours — easy deletion is an Android OS quirk.

Kaspersky Safe Kids uses certain permissions for overriding the system interface with its own. This is necessary, for example, to block access to settings that the child could use to turn off parental control permissions, depriving the application of a good half of its features and effectively disabling it.

But on some devices it was possible, by prodding the screen very quickly, to get into these settings and rob the application of the permissions required for its operation. Very few manage it with the first attempt, but, as everyone knows, children can be amazingly persistent when it comes to things that aren’t allowed. So given enough tries, someone was bound to get inside.

Now, however, after two such attempts, Kaspersky Safe Kids temporarily blocks the phone for a minute, preventing the child from disabling parental control.

Children are spookily good at finding ways to bypass parental control, and they eagerly share their findings online with others, for which reason we continue to refine our application, closing loopholes, so that each iteration of Kaspersky Safe Kids is more robust than its predecessor. To keep it that way, we strongly advise you to enable automatic updates for the Android version of the application, both on your phone and on the child’s device.

Our efforts to improve our parental control solutions have been highly rated by independent experts. In the past year, Kaspersky Safe Kids received one of the highest scores in PCMag’s roundup of parental control solutions and “Approved” certificates from two major testing labs: AV-Test and AV Comparatives. Note that these awards were picked up by the previous version of the product; of course, the new one is even better.

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