Inconsistent Video Blocking Hurts Safe Eyes


Parental control (Internet filtering) software is big business with several providers trying to out do each other. Each vendor has their take on providing “safe” access to the internet. I’ve most recently tested out the latest version of Safe Eyes and their claim to block videos. It needs some work.

Screen-shot by Russ Neumeier

I originally reviewed Safe Eyes in October 2008 and, with a couple of caveats, found it a decent internet filtering software.

This time, I installed the 14-day free trial to test out the video blocking aspects of the software. I also did a cursory test of the typical site blocking and reporting. However, the majority of my time was spent testing the new video blocking. That and being bombarded with email messages from the company about their product.

Safe Eyes video blocking needs help and needs consistency.

  • I tried a Lady Gaga video on YouTube — Safe Eyes blocked it, but didn’t give a message that it was blocked: the URL just never loaded.
  • I tried a PG-13 video on Hulu (when I had set everything above PG blocked) and got a Safe Eyes screen notifying me the video was blocked.
  • I went to Comedy Central and watched videos of content I know is TV-14 (the Daily Show and the Colbert Report along with other miscellaneous videos) and did so without a sniff or a blip from Safe Eyes.
  • I went to NBC, CBS, and ABC to watch videos — the appropriate videos were blocked.

Screen-shot by Russ Neumeier

  • Going to CollegeHumor and The Onion and I couldn’t find a video that Safe Eyes would block, even though I would not let my kids watch many of them and if they showed up on prime-time TV it would be rated older than my Safe Eyes filter settings. The Onion puts a disclaimer on their site that it is not intended for those under the age of 18.

I downloaded and installed the latest version (v. 6.0.239 on 13 Sep 2010) and continued to see (most) TV shows blocked, but not all. Safe Eyes also does not address web-only/web-exclusive content so my concern for parents who put a block on PG-13+ rated shows, there will be a lot of video content that gets through the Safe Eyes filter.

Most parents will see “Filter online TV by rating” along with “Clip-by-clip YouTube filtering” and think they are covered? Only somewhat.

Clearly Safe Eyes works on your standard TV rated videos and clearly Safe Eyes struggles with non-broadcast videos. This could be the sites not categorizing their videos with appropriate ratings and could be Safe Eyes needing to tighten up it’s rating/blocking of the non-broadcast sites.

The fall-back is the reporting and statistics that show the parents which websites are most-frequented so they can then block URLs after the fact. Also, TV-rated video and YouTube blocking is only available in their Windows version of Safe-Eyes.

From the tests I did two years ago and most recently, if you’re looking for decent internet filtering for up to 3 computers in your home, it’s worth checking out, but I can’t recommend Safe Eyes for just video filtering capabilities.

Full disclosure: I only used the Safe Eyes 14-day free trial for my evaluation and I don’t use Safe Eyes on my computers at home, but that’s a blog post for next week.

Wired: easy install, decent filtering of websites based on content categories the parent decides, and highly configurable by parents.

Tired: inconsistent blocking of video content, an abundance of email from the company if you don’t unselect the “send me email updates” before setting up an account.

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