AVG spreads its mobile shield

The well-respected security suite maker AVG brings a major update to its family-guarding iOS app, while debuting a new Windows Phone option.

The paid version of AVG Family Safety on iOS provides several options for customizing on the fly. (Credit: AVG)

AVG Family Safety has extended kid-proofing mobile protection to the handful of Windows Phones on the market today, as well as revamping its app for iPhones and iPads.

AVG, which has more than 110 million active users, is offering the app in free and paid flavors. When installing, simply elect not to supply Family Safety account info and the app will be available in its restricted but free mode.

For $19.99 per year, you get a Web browser alternative, automatic link scanning courtesy AVG's LinkScanner tech, and access to a reasonable set of parental control tools.

The free version provides the alternative browser, which automatically blocks pornographic Web sites via a blacklist, and a data feed from LinkScanner. AVG's proprietary link scanning tech keeps an eye out for social engineering tricks like phishing, along with blocking malicious, non-pornographic sites.

"[AVG Family Safety] serves two purposes," said Tony Anscombe, AVG's evangelist. "It's for protecting the child's phone, but it's also for use on baby-sitter phones," or phones that are most often used by a parent, but are regularly loaned to children to keep them entertained, he said.

Here's what AVG Family Safety looks like blocking a pornographic site on Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. (Credit: AVG)

The parental control tools in the paid version include individual child profiles, social media tracking, customizing the Web site blacklist on a per-child basis, and monitoring Web activity. Of course, these are tracked only when they occur within the browser, and not other apps.

The apps require iOS 4.3 on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, or Windows Phone 7.5 Mango.

One unintentional restriction that the app faces is that neither iOS nor Mango let people fully change the default browser, the way you can on Windows, Mac, or Android. So as long as the child is staying within the Family Safety browser, its protections will work. But when you open a link from an e-mail, it will go to the default browser. On iOS, you can manually disable Safari in Settings, but then all link opening will deactivated.

Corrected, 10:05 a.m. PT: The original version of this story described LinkScanner as being built into Family Safety. That has been clarified.