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Solid Oak Cyber Sitter 10 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £40
(around £24) for a one-year licence

A huge disappointment, Cyber Sitter has been left behind by slicker rivals with more features that are easier to use for beginners.

Solid Oak’s Cyber Sitter is promoted as the world’s first filtering tool, so we were expecting a lot from it.

It has a host of features that appear to offer comprehensive protection, including the ability to filter email, block instant messaging, file-sharing, FTP and secure web pages, and block individual internet ports or exclude them from filtering. You can specify allowed times for internet use, and set daily email alerts, although Cyber Sitter doesn’t support SSL so you can’t use Gmail’s SMTP servers, for example.

The interface is pretty simple, but it doesn’t seem very well organised. Options for filtering were spread over three tabs, with web, email and IM filtering options mixed on the same page. We preferred the way other parental control software organised things by the type of activity, such as web, chat and email, as this makes it more obvious what you’re controlling. Also, we almost missed the time-management options, represented by a small clock icon.

Cyber Sitter has 36 categories of filters, split into Default and Optional. There aren’t templates for different age groups, and you’ll need to check the list of Optional filters as we found the Defaults didn’t cover things such as web proxies, illegal MP3s, gambling and hentai (Japanese animated porn). However, even with these optional filters enabled, Cyber Sitter failed to block a number of related test sites, as well as drug-related and self-harm sites.

Moreover, Cyber Sitter blocks by simply cutting the connection to the site, and there aren’t any messages to explain why, such as the filter category violated by the site. In fact, there’s no indication that blocking software is responsible, which may cause some users to seek technical support if they don’t realise that there’s already a filter in place.

As well as inaccurate web filtering, we found that email filters didn’t work when using secure POP3 to access Googlemail, and in our IM tests we noticed some words were blanked while others were let through. There’s no program blocking or remote management, either, and despite the lack of a subscription we don’t feel that it is good value.

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