Whether it is to improve your safety, save time, or avoid computer malware, home users and organizations can block social networking websites on both computers and mobile devices. Various programs are available that allow users to either block the websites or limit their usage. Features include the ability to monitor Internet activity remotely, and manually block or allow specific websites.
Useful for Windows users who want to restrict their children's Internet access, PureSight is a web monitoring program that features preconfigured categories that allow users to block all common social networks quickly and easily. The program allows users to block other specific websites manually as well.
Users can block a group of websites by selecting a single category filter. After installing and configuring the program, parents can also view their children's Internet activity remotely by accessing a special online portal.
The product's pricing depends on how many computers on which the program is installed. The company offers monthly and yearly service plans.
K9 Web Protection
K9 Web Protection is another content filtering program suitable for home and business users and works on Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS devices. According to the company's website, an Android version will be available in 2012. The program can block websites permanently or during certain time periods each day, and it keeps track of user activity through its monitoring utility. It also allows authorized users to override a block using a password.
Like PureSight, users configure the program's settings through an online portal, and users can choose from various customized protection levels and predefined categories that will block online communities and chat rooms. Users can view all visited websites and adjust the content filtering levels as necessary. If there's a website that need to be blocked but is not in K9's default block list, users can make the program always block individual URLs.
The desktop and mobile versions of the program are free for home users. Business users need to purchase a license for each computer and can purchase either a monthly or annual subscription plan.
Intended for Mac users who want to block websites temporarily for up to eight hours at a time, Anti-Social is designed to block all major social networks. It also allows manual site blocking for other types of websites as well.
Upon installing the program, users configure it to block websites for a specific number of minutes. Since rebooting the computer will disable the application, Anti-Social is not suitable for children but is helpful for home and business users who want to use the block to save time or increase productivity.
A free trial version of Anti-Social is available. Registration requires a one time fee, and the company offers discounts for volume license purchases.
GFI WebMonitor is a program that acts as a proxy server and is designed to block websites for multiple computers on a network. It works on Windows XP SP2 and higher and Windows Server 2003 or higher. What sets this program apart from other blocking utilities is that it can thoroughly analyze web traffic for a large group of users.
The program's administrator can configure the program to block a set of websites for all computers or for specific users, and the block can be permanent or for a specific time period. Using the program's comprehensive monitoring features, an administrator can view how long each user spends on websites and adjust access accordingly. It also supports manual policies that allow certain websites and block others.
Pricing depends on the number of computers on a company network. The price also depends on the edition of the product installed.
Available for the PC and the Mac, Net Nanny provides a simple solution for blocking social networks on a home computer and allows parents to monitor what their children do online. The company plans to launch an iPhone version of the program in January 2012. The program has a special utility designed to block a category of websites by setting a single option, and parents can fine tune the settings to allow specific websites to be used during a time period.
Users configure Net Nanny through the program's administrative console and have the option to hide the program's icon from view. Accessing the console requires a password, so unauthorized users won't be able to disable the application. Users can create different profiles for each computer user and can manually allow or deny specific websites if desired. Additional settings allow parents to block access to chat rooms and online news groups.
The Net Nanny website allows users to sign up for a free trial account. After the trial period, users can subscribe to a yearly plan for a single computer or up to three computers.
Using these various blocking tools has both its advantages and disadvantages for different groups of users, such as parents, employers, and users of public networks. Before completely blocking these websites from use, consider the positive and negative implications the block will have on users.
Due to online predators and the rise of cyberbullying, online communities and chat rooms can be dangerous for children. Some pages contain inappropriate content, and users can try to obtain personal information about each other. If a child gives his or her personal information to strangers online, this can be disastrous. The websites have also given bullies an easy way to harass children online. On the other hand, blocking the websites can be a disadvantage because they allow older children to connect with their peers, and students can use the websites to work on class projects together. Some school projects can require their use since some teachers have integrated social networking into their lessons.
Blocking at the workplace can be beneficial in that it prevents employees from wasting time on the clock. It can also somewhat prevent employees from leaking confidential information, although this can happen from home as well. The rising threat of malware coming from social networks makes blocking these sites another advantage to both computer and network security. However, blocking the websites completely can be a bad idea because they can help employees collaborate if used solely for business purposes on the job. Some professionals can also use the websites to come up with marketing ideas and connect to other professionals in the field. Due to the disadvantages of a complete block, some employers allow employees to use the sites during lunch breaks and other set times.
A major advantage of blocking on public computers is to maintain privacy. If one does not properly log out of a public computer, another user may be able to access the previous user's account. Libraries and universities often also want to prevent users on public computers from posting inappropriate content, and blocking certain websites can prevent this. There are also disadvantages of blocking because some users need to use the websites for legitimate reasons, such as for business or school. This can be a major problem for users without home computers because it stops them from being able to connect with others online.
Making the Decision
Social networks can be a good tool for collaboration at school and work, and allowing them on public computers gives users opportunities they may not otherwise have to communicate. If it is critical for safety or confidentiality to block the websites entirely, then using one of these applications for a full block may be necessary. Otherwise, users should consider a partial block that allows the websites to be used at an appropriate time period. Using some of these programs' monitoring tools can also help parents, bosses, and owners of public networks know if a specific networking website is being used inappropriately and need to be blocked entirely.