Glubble for Families: Parental Controls and a Social Network for Your Family

Glubble is about to release a major update to its parental control plugin for Firefox, which we first reviewed in 2007. This new version takes Glubble far beyond its origins and introduces a wealth of social networking features. Every family now gets a homepage on Glubble.com, which includes a Twitter-like instant messenger, photo albums, and an event calendar. Glubble represents a natural evolution for parental control software towards a more social approach, and after testing it extensively, we have come away impressed with its functionality and ease of use. Glubble for Families will launch on September 25.

Installing Glubble is as easy as installing any Firefox extension. For those who do not use Firefox yet, Glubble will also provide a version of Firefox 3 with Glubble for Families already pre-installed. After the installation, you can set up accounts for your children, as well as other family members or friends. Typically, these friends should be adults, as they get the ability to moderate content for the children in your network.

Parental Controls

The parental controls in Glubble function on two levels. First, parents have the ability to unlock certain sites for their children. Glubble already includes a large selection of pre-screened sites, but parents can also add other sites individually. If a child tries to access a locked site, it can request access through a simple form and the parent is immediately notified and can then approve or deny the request.

Glubble monitors your children’s Google searches and filters out any inappropriate content. Glubble also keeps a record of all the sites your children visit.

When a child uses Glubble, it is presented with a full-screen Firefox skin that blocks access to the rest of the desktop. From there, children can browse the web, post to the family wall, or chat with family members.

New Features: Message Wall, Calendar, Photo Album

One of the most interesting new features in this version is the ‘family wall,’ which is similar to the message wall in Facebook. Families can also use a shared event calendar to keep their schedules organized.

The new Glubble for Families also includes a shared photo album. Photos are uploaded through a simple web interface. These albums will not replace a full-featured online photo gallery, but they give you the option to easily share one or two pictures with your family. Whenever you upload a new photo, a new message is posted on the family wall and all your family members are notified.

Verdict

Glubble is a great way for parents to keep their children’s online activities under control. We really enjoyed using the new features and we especially liked the fact that every family now gets an internet accessible homepage, which allows family members to stay in contact while keeping children safely away from some of the darker sides of the Internet.

If you used Glubble before, you will notice that the layout and theme has changed dramatically. Personally, we prefer the simpler and more colorful theme of the Glubble Family Edition, but given the wealth of new features, a new theme was probably necessary to accommodate all the new functions.

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