Net Xpress: Finding a reasonably priced browser for kids is no easy task

February 08, 2004|SHEILA J. CLARK

A recent incident sparked a hurried search for a good, free Web browser for children with surf protection. After all the Super Bowl halftime hoopla, a classmate of my son's suggested a Web site for him to visit.

The Web site was, to my horror, an adult Web site. Needless to say, internet access privileges were immediately revoked until a remedy could be found and put into place to prevent access to such sites.

Years prior to this incident, the kid browser of choice for us was Surf Monkey. SurfMonkey charges $3.95 for up to three kids in a family to have safe Web surfing experience. It has a list of blocked sites and many fun-filled features such as chat, e-mail and even video chat. SurfMonkey also had a cute little monkey that serves as a companion. It has silly little things your kid could do even when they aren't online such as blow up the browser window or stamp funny things on it.


My search led me to a kid browser that I had reviewed several years ago when I first started this column - it is called ChiBrow. The name derives from the words children browser. In its years of existence, ChiBrow has grown and improved with great leaps and bounds.

It also has changed in the price arena as well. Back when I first encountered ChiBrow, the price was a very minimal amount, then it switched to free via ad-supported backing. Now, with the very latest version, ChiBrow 7.0, the cost stands at $29.95. And while one can download the software online, it can't be used until you purchase a license.

So, initially, I decided to keep looking for an alternative browser because my original plan was to find a free kid's browser. I found several different ones, but none seemed to fit the bill for our situation, so I went back to ChiBrow.

With a little research, I was able to find an earlier free version of ChiBrow, version 5.50b, that still was available to download online. It was exactly what I was looking for! Registration for this version is free and not too invading. It was a relatively small download at 6.9MB and is jam-packed with everything needed to give a child an enjoyable and safe online experience.

This version of ChiBrow received the highest rating of Tucows Tukids site of five cows. The browser is colorful, easy to use and includes a dropdown list of pre-selected sites devoted to kids.

For parents, it includes a password protected area so they can manage how the browser works with their computer's environment. Parents are able to make the browser the only program accessible to the child by hiding the taskbar and/or desktop icons. They also can make it possible for the child not to be able to exit out of ChiBrow. This prevents them from minimizing ChiBrow and launching a different browser without surf protection.

The settings also allow a parent to choose whether or not to allow the Internet Explorer or Netscape browsers to be used. Parents also can add sites they allow their children to visit if they aren't listed and add to the block list of those they don't approve for their child.

Once again, it proves that you don't have to have the very latest version to have a good solid program. Now I can breathe easier knowing the kids will be surfing safely.

Download a copy of the free 5.50b version of the browser by going here.

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E-mail me at; fax me at (859) 236-9566; or write me snail-mail at The Advocate-Messenger, P.O. Box 149, Danville, Ky. 40423-0149.

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