Glubble and Kidzui - good kid browsers, silly names
We looked at 2 kids browsers, Glubble and Kidzui, and gave them a test spin as well as subjected them to an unscientific kid focus group. Check out our results after the jump.
Glubble is a Firefox add-on which offers kid safe web browsing and parental controls. The browser passed the 100,000 user mile mark as of June, adding 60,000 users since January 2008. The interface is reminiscent of social networking sites - family members can write on the Family wall and you can see the sites your children last visited. Also, children can connect with other family members by sending messages and asking for new sites to be added to their homepage.
After you download Glubbles and restart Firefox, you are prompted to add your users as well as specify which Glubbles can be activated for your children. For households with multi computers, you need to install Glubble on each computer your children access. A nice feature is the ability to add authorized helpers who can grant permissions to your children to add new sites so you're not the only one person with that duty.
Once you add all the users, you will have a Userbar in which all your family members will have their own user tab running a personalized multi-user copy of Firefox. The children's user tab requires no password and switches to Firefox restricted mode. If your kids are cagey, they could click on your user tab to access Firefox with no restrictions, however they would have to know your user password to pull it off. If you have clicked the Remember Me option in the login screen, then you can be assured all bets are off.
Within their own user tab, kids can safely search Google for content, but admittedly in restricted mode, there's not a whole lot to see. For example, a Glubble keyword search for pirates yielded one result and it was for a Neopet product. This is the main reason my 9 year old wrote on the Famly wall "I hate Glubble." That, and for the fact Toontown is not supported for Firefox, she is not drinking the kool-aid.
Since the point of a kid's browser is restricted access, I found it easy to get beyond the attitude and restricted web search. (Toontown, not so much). In any event, Glubbles comes loaded with default content and if you're ok with your children accessing it, there is an "activate all" button for you. Otherwise, you can select which Glubbles you want to show on your family's homepage on an individual basis.
All in all, Glubble is a nice kid and parent friendly site which offers a streamlined user interface with all the parent controls you need to keep your kids safe online. If you're a Firefox user, then Glubble is a natural choice, however, if you use IE7 or Safari, you may want to try something different.
Kidzui is a web browser for kids and until recently was only available as a subscription. Now, a free version is offered, as well as a membership option which has additional features for $49.95 per year. The membership option provides enhanced parent emails and online reports as well as access to certain kid features.
Kidzui is compatible with both Mac and Windows and requires Safari 3.0 or later, IE6.0+, Adobe Flash Player 9. High speed internet is recommended.
Parents download Kidzui and create their child's user account which includes a "zui" or avatar which can be customized with certain free features (skin tone, eyes, clothes). If you have the membership option, your kids can pimp their zui out with all different types of clothes and accessories.
According to my 7 year old, Kidzui is better because it's "Poptropica-ish" and you can make an avatar. Definitely, Kidzui has vast more content to explore with web, photo and movie sections and various categories like science, most popular, games, animals, favorite characters, music, and totally girl. My 9 year old was thrilled to watch kid appropriate YouTube videos and gain access to the ever important Toontown.
Kids can tag sites with emoticons as well as add friends. When a friend is added, parents are notified by email and can block the friend if they want. Having a friend on Kidzui appears harmless as there are no chat or email functions and the parent is notified immediately when the child adds a friend. The friend appears in the child's "My friends" section listing the name, number of points, and the avatar.
Children are rewarded with points which are earned for exploring new videos, websites and photos. They can then use these points to unlock features to customize their zui avatar. A search with the keyword "pirates" resulted in numerous options to explore including Talk like a Pirate Day, which for the record is September 19th this year.
One annoyance is the full screen mode Kidzui defaults to at the child log-in screen, however, you can change this under the parental control section at the parent website. The good news is Kidzui's help function is very customer service oriented. My email question was answered within 24 hours.
Kidzui and Glubbles are great at what they do. Both offer parental control and a nice user interface of the interwebs for children. If the genie is out of the bottle and your kids have already experienced the internet without browser parental controls, then Kidzui will be the better choice, especially if they are in the tween category. If, on the other hand, your children are young (ages 3-8) then Glubbles is a terrific browser for the younger crowd.
Although Kidzui is targeted to kids 3-17, we think that's a mighty tough stretch to sell to teens. Let us know what browser you use to keep kids safe on the internet.