ChildPad – Parental Controls
Is it an advantage for the ChildPad to be a real Android tablet, or does its much more open nature bring with it real concerns for parents? Our over-riding concern is with giving a child unfettered access to the Internet.
Do you let your child use your tablet’s browser unsupervised? I bet many iPad-owning parents don’t even consider that they’re handing their children full access to the Internet. They should give that idea some serious thought.
Apple’s iPad has very limited parental controls. You can restrict and hide the Safari browser, with settings protected behind a passcode. There are actual no parental controls in Safari on the iPad. You can hide Safari, then install a browser with built-in parental controls.
The ChildPad comes with six months of parental-control application Mobile Parental Filter by Editions Profil. Its Intelligent Content Evaluation system verifies websites as your children browse, blocking inappropriate content and supposedly leaving the web safe for your kids.
When the six months is up, the annual fee is £19.98 – worthwhile for peace of mind.
When we had set up the parental controls and tested the web browser the Filter kicked in on all the obvious adult searches, but it’s not watertight by any definition. This is possibly because the software is French, and so some English-language adult content has escaped the censors. It didn't take too long for even our saintly minds to dream up a few searches that got past the filters.
We were able to access sexual images via a quick Google search, so it’s clear that the parental filter isn’t perfect.
This is a big negative for the ChildPad. It purports to be secured from adult content, but isn’t. Its default settings aren’t really good enough.
You can’t disable the browser but you could turn off the Wi-Fi to disable it – although this starts to eat away at the point of it being a proper Android tablet.
Things should get better, as a future version of the Parental Control app will let you limit the access to a ‘walled garden’ of sites selected for children. These sites comply with European standards for content for children.
In the meantime, however, there is a workaround for parents to be able to block everything and then add in sites they approve. You need to block all languages from the Setup tab, then add the sites you want to a whitelist from the enter websites tab.
So you could approve Cbeebies, Moshi Monsters, for example, and pre-checked educational sites, and feel secure that Little Johnny won’t be checking out, in graphic detail, how his baby sister was made.
(Remember that you might need to add the mobile-site address rather than the standard web URL, as some sites redirect the 7-inch device to their mobile sites.)
The ChildPad is much more secure than other tablets but unless you block everything and then add-in sites on a one-by-one basis (as described above) it isn’t 100 percent effective at blocking adult content. And, importantly, you have to set up this level of restriction: the default settings are good but not totally secure.
The Arnova ChildPad is a nice design for a kid’s tablet, and a lot cheaper than an Apple iPad. It’s more functional than other kiddy tablets, and older children will prefer its cooler, more-adult design.
In terms of price it’s reasonable – a little more expensive than the Leapfrog and VTech alternatives, but with more free and cheaper games; and it costs a lot less than Apple’s £329 iPad. The in-between iPod touch (new from £169) is smaller but boasts superior interface, games and apps – but with similar worries as the iPad on the web browser front.
It should be remembered that most tablets feature near-zero parental controls, and the ChildPad's filters are mostly successful but the fact that they're not 100% secure at the default setting does worry us. That said, no parental controls can be 100% secure, and it's a bonus that the ChildPad offers which other tablets do not.
The Arnova ChildPad is let down most, however, by a ragbag of pre-installed games and apps that are nowhere near the quality of what you’d get on an iPad or on other child tablets such as the Leapfrog LeapPad or VTech InnoTab. ANgry Birds is good but most of the others are pretty dreadful.
Its vanilla Android interface is also a fiddly, low-resolution affair. This is a real shame, as otherwise the ChildPad hardware is excellent for the price.