Net Nanny Overview August 2020
Is Net Nanny really worth buying when you can find other parental control apps that cost less money?
With five kids ranging in age from 5 to 16, I had to find the best parental control app that was easy to manage and monitor. Using my kids as test subjects, I bought and used over 50 apps on their phones, tablets, and the family computer. Then I ranked them based on the features, strengths and weaknesses, and customer support. My goal here is to help you pick the best app for your family without having to spend all the time and money doing the research.
For this test, I got the plan that included 5 devices and found a great price in their hidden deals page. It’s available on just about every platform; Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Amazon Kindle. and ChromeBook – so I was able to install it on all my kids’ devices.
What I found throughout my testing of Net Nanny is that if you view your children’s online safety in terms of money, then sure, you can find a cheaper alternative. However, if their online security is a priority for you, then it makes sense to invest in a product that actually works and does what it promises.
I had to check out the features first hand and test its ability to control the amount of time my kids were staring at their screens and keep me updated to the content they were searching for and viewing. One thing I really liked is that even when the kids’ devices were paused, the phone and contacts still worked (I was able to block them if I wanted my kids off the phone). This was important to me because when testing Google’s Family Link, they could only call me or my wife if they remembered our numbers.
Net Nanny uses Artificial Intelligence to read websites and detect questionable content. It checks out every website, link, and URL that the kids try to access. The collection of features did a great job of monitoring, limiting, and protecting my kids while on their devices.
However, I was very disappointed with the YouTube Monitoring feature for several reasons. For starters, it didn’t track any of the video searches that my kids did through the YouTube app. It did track their searches when they went to YouTube.com, but under the Seen Videos tab, it said No Views Yet, and I know for a fact that they were watching videos. Lastly, in the Family Feed timeline it claimed that a video was blocked for Weapons (they were searching for a video about weapons in PUBG), however, I watched the video with them — so I know it wasn’t blocked.
Unlike other services, such as Qustodio, Net Nanny has apps for both parent and child accounts. The child can open the app and see how much screen time they’ve used and how much remains, which is an excellent way for them to learn how to budget their time. There is the option Enable Unrestricted Mode, but they will need the parent username and password to turn this on.
All of the parental controls can be accessed either via the mobile app or from a PC or Mac. When you first log in on to your dashboard, you’ll get a quick overview of your kid’s app usage and a tabbed interface that allows the parent to check Searches, Screen Time, Blocks/Alerts, YouTube History, and Location. You can also pause their phones (which means that all apps, except for the phone are blocked) or turn off the internet from the dashboard.
All the Tools You Need to Monitor Your Kids
- Family Feed: I found this to be a handy tool since it gave me an overview of what all my kids are doing, without having to go to each of their profiles individually.
- Searches: This feature is supposed to show you what your kids are searching for online. However, I discovered a major flaw with it. I tested this on my son’s Android phone, and none of the searches done through the Google app showed up on my dashboard or Family Feed. I was only able to see searches done in Chrome or the pre-installed browser in the Searches tab, but none of the searches done through the Google app showed up.
- Location: I never had to wonder where my kids are, the GPS tracking shows me on a map where they are. There is a geofence option, although to be perfectly honest, it can use improvement. It works based on location history. This is great if I want an alert that my kids either got to school or are leaving, but it doesn’t help if I want to set up alerts for places they haven’t been to yet. The one flaw I found with the location tracking is my son was able to turn off the GPS on his phone and change the Location permissions in the Net Nanny app. Therefore, it does require a level of trust between you and your kids for this to be effective.
- Screentime: I like that I can see how much screen time my kids have used each day. This feature would be even better if it gave a breakdown of how much time was spent on each app.
- YouTube Monitoring: The way this feature is supposed to work is that any searches and views on the YouTube app will be recorded in the Dashboard, but it won’t block or restrict any videos. When using YouTube.com the YouTube Restricted Mode, which blocks videos based on meta titles and descriptions, is enforced. As I mentioned earlier, this wasn’t the experience I had. I didn’t see any of the searches or viewing history from the YouTube app and I was only able to see searches made from YouTube.com, without a viewing history.
- Blocks & Alerts: This section is a bit different than the Family Feed because instead of getting an overview of the entire family, it’s separate for each child. At first, I was annoyed when I saw that it said several websites and YouTube videos were blocked when I knew for a fact they weren’t. I did a little digging and found the answer in the Net Nanny FAQ section. It seems that it blocked trackers and ads that were associated with the page.
How to Set Filters and Limits with Net Nanny
Net Nanny allows you to set filters for specific apps, websites, and to create custom filters, plus setting limitations for daily screen time. To get started click on the Preferences icon in the Parent Dashboard to start personalizing the monitoring and limitations on your kid’s devices.
- Daily Screen Time Allocation: One of the things I really like about setting the daily time is that it’s fully customizable. Other parental control apps I’ve tested, such as Qustodio, require you to set the limit in time increments of 15 minutes or even an hour. With Net Nanny, if I want to set the limit at 2:21, I can just enter that into Available Daily Screen Time.
- Restricted Times: In addition to a daily limit, Net Nanny allows you to create a daily or weekly schedule for when the device can be used. The calendar works in time increments of 15 minutes. This allows me to restrict access during school hours, homework time, and after bedtime.
- Net Nanny Content Filters: There are 15 different categories that Net Nanny can filter: Porn, Mature Content, Adult Novelty, Anime, Nudity, Abortion, Strip Clubs, Provocative, Death Gore, Tobacco, Drugs, Weapons, Gambling, and Suicide. You can set each category as either “Allow,” “Alert,” or “Block.
- Create Content Filter: In addition to the default web filters, you have the option to create your own keyword-based filters:
- Block or Allow Specific Websites: Net Nanny allows you to select specific URLs to either block or whitelist if you’re finding a site is being incorrectly flagged by the filters.
- Block or Allow Specific Apps: Net Nanny compiled a list of over 80 popular apps, plus the apps currently installed on the phone or tablet, and you have the power to block them.
- Mask Profanity on Websites: If this feature is activated, Net Nanny will place #### over common curse words.
- Force SafeSearch: This will use Google’s Safe Search feature to filter all out inappropriate results from searches.I was surprised to see that even though it says “Force SafeSearch” there were still steps I had to take to actually turn it on.Net Nanny can only apply Safe Search on the browser. It can’t filter searches done through the Google app. You can manually turn on Safe Search through the Google app.
- Click on the More on the bottom of the screen
- Click on Settings
- Click on General
- Make sure SafeSearch is toggled on.
If you’re using Google Chrome the SafeSearch feature should be turned on by default. However, there is a setting in Chrome that should be adjusted in order to get Net Nanny to filter properly.
- Open Chrome and type in the following address: chrome://flags.
- Scroll down through the list until you see Experimental QUIC protocol.
- Click the dropdown and change it to Disabled.
- Click on the Relaunch Now button.
- Clear the cookies and cache in the browser.
Before you download the app from the App Store or Google Play, you should get a Net Nanny subscription and set up your account.
Installing the Parent App
Download the Net Nanny Parent app from Google Play or the App Store and sign in with your credentials used to create the account. A welcome window will walk you through some tips and show you where everything is located on the dashboard.
Installing Net Nanny Child App
There are a few additional steps to take when installing the child app, because you will need to make some changes to the phone settings to allow Net Nanny to run in the background, access the location, filter apps, and enforce the time management feature.
Download the Net Nanny Child App from the App Store or Google Play and create an account for each child. The app will walk you through each of the changes it will need to make in the settings in order to properly work.
You will have to give Net Nanny admin permission on your child’s device. This will allow it to monitor the phone or tablet accurately. Click Let’s Do It and then on the next screen click Activate. Depending on your device, you may receive warnings from the OS about granting the app Admin permissions. The permissions are needed to allow Net Nanny to work.
Once all the settings are adjusted and you’ve given Net Nanny permission to access the phone’s GPS, pictures, contacts and more, the installation will be complete and Net Nanny will instantly start monitoring the devices.
Ease of Use9.8
Net Nanny is a straightforward program to manage. Once the Child App installation is complete, the parent can check in on the dashboard through the computer or their phone. All the information you need is clearly laid out on the dashboard, including the Family Feed, Location, and Time Used/Remaining on the device.
To set up a daily or weekly schedule for when the phone can be used, click on the calendar icon on the dashboard.
A calendar will open, and you can click on the Add Interval button at the bottom of the screen. This will allow you to choose whether the phone will be blocked entirely, or just the internet will be paused.
When the time limit is reached, or if a child is attempting to use a blocked app, they will get a message saying, “Oh No. The Internet is Blocked.”
The kids can open the Child App on their phones and see how much time they have already used and what is remaining. I find this to be a useful tool for teaching them how to budget their time.
There is also a button to Enable Unrestricted Mode, although I have no idea why, which can be turned on with the username and password. Therefore, for this app to work, you will need to use a password that your child doesn’t know or won’t guess. (Hint: Don’t use your birthday, anniversary, or Netflix password)
Net Nanny has three ways of getting answers to any questions that you might have.
- Live Chat
- Extensive FAQ section
While each of these options has some limitations, for example, the Live Chat is only available Monday – Friday from 10 – 7 EST, you should be able to find answers to your questions fairly quickly. I waited until the customer support staff was working and spoke with them through chat. I was happy to see that they were using real people and not bots that just give pre-written answers.
Q. Is Net Nanny Safe?
A. There are no known viruses or malware attached to the Net Nanny line of apps or desktop. It is safe to download to your computer or mobile device.
Q. Can I limit specific apps for my kids with Net Nanny?
A. Yes, it’s one of the best features Net Nanny offers. However, while you can block certain apps — you can’t put a time limit for a specific app.
Q. Is there a way for my kid to bypass the Net Nanny web filter?
A. While kids are resourceful and always finding new hacks, we were unable to bypass the web filter during our testing. Here are some tips to help make sure that your kids can’t avoid the web filter.
- Always make sure you’re using the latest version of the app. Net Nanny releases updates fairly regularly to patch and weaknesses.
- Keep your password a secret from the kids. Otherwise, they will be able to log in and bypass restrictions.
Q. What Operating Systems support Net Nanny?
A. Net Nanny works with most major platforms:
- Windows 10 – 64bit
- macOS 10.13 and above
- Android 5.1 and above
- iOS 11 and above
- Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8 and 9 (8th Generation) running FireOS 126.96.36.199 or 188.8.131.52
Q. Will Net Nanny combine usage times between multiple devices?
A. Yes, as long as each of the devices is associated with a user profile, Net Nanny will combine the time spent on all devices and lock when the time limit is reached.
There are three pricing options for Net Nanny.
- Only monitors PC and Mac
- Up to 5 devices
- Up to 20 devices
The first option is ideal if your child doesn’t have a mobile device, and you just want to monitor their time on a PC or Mac. The second and third options are nearly identical, the only difference being the number of devices you can monitor and the price. I recommend you to check their hidden deals page, as it can save you a lot of money. All three plans come with all the features listed above.