Block bad sites with BlockSmart

Help your kids surf safely with this free site-blocking tool.

Few things worry parents like the Internet. Kids need it for their studies (sometimes it's required) yet it often seems like they're walking to the library through the red-light district. Software programs promise to protect children from online predators, scam artists, and "adult" sites, but they're often too complicated to be effective and end up failing both to protect kids and to allow adults normal, unrestricted access. BlockSmart may be the answer to many parents' pleas. This free tool uses online resources to help parents block broad categories of sites such as gambling and pornography. It automatically applies updates as new threats appear, much like an antivirus program. Parents can customize BlockSmart to block or allow specific sites, too.

You'll need a free BlockSmart account to set up the software, but you can do that quickly during the process and sign in as soon as BlockSmart is installed. Most parents will want to start with the default data set, which blocks a wide range of sites. When it's enabled, BlockSmart stays in the system tray, out of sight until it's needed. The system tray icon lets you disable or exit the program as well as access the settings. Naturally, you'll need to enter your password to disable or change BlockSmart. The program's secure, Web-based interface gave us easy access to its settings and documentation (and Help file).

It didn't take much effort to test BlockSmart's effectiveness; just a quick-and-dirty (so to speak) Google search for the sort of site that the program certainly should block. Clicking on the site took us instantly to a STOP page with fields for entering our user name and password to allow access. Entering our data unblocked the site and added it to the Allowed sites list. The confirmation message noted that we might have to reload the site a few times for the change to take effect, and after two or three attempts we accessed the site. To disable BlockSmart, we merely had to enter our password in a tiny pop-up window. Since the program automatically adds sites enabled under protection to the Allowed list, be sure to re-block any sites you don't want the little darlings returning to later. Adults should simply disable BlockSmart for their sessions.

Parents can't protect their kids every minute of the day, but they sure can take action to keep online threats and unsuitable material away from their own kids in their own home, and BlockSmart is one option.

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