It is expensive, and often confusing, to filter your computers, tablets, and game systems for inappropriate material, especially when you have lots of devices in the home. Your children are at risk on any device that has a browser, not just the family PC. So, how can you filter all these items in your home without breaking the budget or going crazy????
Easy! You use a free service that filters the web at your ROUTER!
Apple has recently announced the Public Betas for iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and other Apple Devices. This is in anticipation of the release of the “Gold Versions” (or “Release Candidates”) of these operating systems this Fall, probably in October. Likewise, The Android Community also has Beta versions of the Android OS available for testing. So, with Internet safety in mind, should your family try the new Public Betas for Apple and Android?
For a number of years Circle Home Plus has been Knights’ Quest Ministries’ #1 recommendation for parents due to it’s features, simplicity, and price. Not only were phones and tablets filterable, but EVERYTHING in the home that used the Web was filtered at the network level. And the price was not bad at all! As with all things, there have been some major changes so I have published this important update for Circle Home Plus!
Circle Has Been Sold
Internet security firm, AURA, acquired CIRCLE, the company. Aura has it’s own parental control app. So, I thought I should post an important status update for Circle Home Plus users!
This purchase of CIRCLE has brought about some changes:
The Circle Home Plus production has stopped.
The Circle app remains available. It is still recommended for phones & tablets.
Aura may offer a hardware solution in the future but the details are not available. The Aura App can be used along side the Circle Home Plus hardware with no problem.
So, where does that leave parents who are using Circle Home Plus, or who wish to use Circle Home Plus?
Your Circle hardware and software will continue to function. I do not know if that will change in the future.
Circle Home Plus is still available for purchase from eBay. There are both new and used units available as of 7/14/2023. If you get a used/refurbished unit make sure you reset it to factory conditions. Used units, obviously, will not have the 3-months or 1-year of the Premium Services included.
BARK HOME is a relatively inexpensive alternative to CIRCLE HOME PLUS. The main thing is that the Bark unit does not have internal batteries nor does it have WIFI. These are useful to counter children just unplugging the power or network cords to disable the parental controls. This product is also in testing.
There are a number of routers that have Parental Controls included. Knights’ Quest is testing the Gryphon Tower router, their mid-range device, and will publish reviews in the very near future. If you need such a device now, our recommendation is to use one of the GRYPHON GUARDIAN routers. These come with an app as well as the hardware parental controls system built into the router, itself.
I am also investigating the offerings by Aura, and monitoring for new developments.
In the meantime, I have scheduled Back-Too-School presentations of THE TECH-SAFE HOMEⓇ Webinar. You can find the schedule and register on the WEBINARS page of my web site: www.knightsquest.org.
Between the Pandemic and increasing emphasis on STEM, many youth and adults are seeking to expand their tech skills. Many are using the RASPBERRY PI series of computer-on-a-chip systems. Middle schools, high schools, and even come colleges use them to teach programming (often called “coding”) as well as other computer skills such as hardware design and programming. Despite their small size, these are capable computers. It is important, therefore, for parents to be aware of the system’s risks, as well as its benefits. So, let’s take a look at Raspberry Pi Computers and Raspberry Pi parental controls.
Meet The Raspberry Pi
You can think of a Raspberry Pi as a “hobbyist’s” computer. The Raspberry Pi Foundation created it to promote basic education in computer science in schools, and in developing countries. There have been a number of generations, with the Raspberry Pi 4 and the Raspberry PI 400 being the latest. At its most basic, the Raspberry Pi is a single board computer. Unlike the motherboards in typical personal computers, the Raspberry Pi is TINY and extremely affordable.
First off, parents must know that the Raspberry Pi also does NOT run WINDOWS or macOS operating systems. It uses a modified version of LINUXcalled Raspberry Pi OS. (LINUX is pronounced “LEN-UKS”).
Here is the basic computer.
Raspberry Pi 4
This computer has the following features:
The microprocessor (the main “chip”)
2GB – 4GB of RAM (Memory)
2 x Micro-HDMI ports supporting 2 x 4K displays.
2 x USB-2 ports
2 x USB-3 ports
WIFI (802.11ac, 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz)
Micro-SD Card slot for loading operating system and data storage.
40 Pin GPIO Header for experiments and connection to other hardware
And that starts at $35.00US. NOT BAD!
Incredibly, it is roughly the size of your VISA card!
You still have to provide a power supply and USB-C cable to connect to the board. It also doesn’t have a case, keyboard, or mouse, nor does it come with micro-HDMI cables. There is not a micro-SD card or an operating system. It’s just the circuit card. So, you have to supply the missing pieces, and that includes downloading the operating system package and installing it on a micro-SD card. Seems like a pain, but this is not a computer for everyday use (although it CAN be).
Don’t worry, a number of enterprising firms have created “starter kits” that provide everything but a mouse, keyboard, and monitor. For my investigation I went down to my local Best Buy and picked up the Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter PRO Kitby CANAKIT. It was only $99.99US and included everything I needed except for the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Fortunately that was not a problem! The kit also included a case, a micro-SD card w/ the OS installed, and an on/off switch.
Raspberry Pi, LINUX, and Included Software
The Raspberry Pi runs a version of the LINUX operating system. LINUX comes in many different flavors and is extremely popular with corporations and industry. Here are some stats:
In 2019, 96.3% of the top 1-BILLION servers ran on LINUX.
By the end of 2017, LINUX dominated the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world.
The ANDROID system built upon a foundation of LINUX.
Compared to Windows and macOS systems, LINUX is far less user-friendly.
So as you can see, if your child is going into engineering or computer science, a knowledge or LINUX could be very useful. The Raspberry Pi systems are a good introduction to the LINUX operating system which also allows some hardware interaction.
Like many operating systems, LINUX comes in different “flavors”, called “distributions”. While the Raspberry Pi OS is the primary OS for the Raspberry Pi system, it can use many other distributions of LINUX. For this article, I will stick to the recommended version.
When your Raspberry Pi OS is loaded and your system up and running you will see a fairly familiar sight: A computer screen with a menu button in the lower left, just like with Windows. This menu has a number of programs pre-loaded including TWELVE programming environments, including JAVA and PYTHON, two very popular coding languages.
It also comes with a very capable office suite: LibreOffice. And this is FREE.
Raspberry PiParental Controls
The basic package of Raspberry Pi OS also comes with an Internet browser (Chromium) and an email program. This is the major vulnerability. LINUX is NOT supported by the vast majority of parental control software. And the Raspberry Pi O install package has no Raspberry Pi parental controls included. The parental control solutions that do exist in the LINUX world are very technical and are mostly limited to web site filtering based upon web sites YOU input manually. Given the thousands upon thousands of inappropriate sites that we don’t want to expose children to, this is a cause for concern.
There is a solution. You can filter and control a Raspberry Pi by using network-level parental control. Examples are OpenDNS, CleanBrowsing, or (our #1 recommendation) CIRCLE Home Plus. These solutions only work for systems are in your home, on YOUR network.
So, what parents need to know is:
Raspberry Pi systems are a great way to learn coding and computer science.
Since they have a browser and connect to the Internet, there is some risk of access to inappropriate content/persons.
It’s that time of year, again when Apple conducts public testing for it’s new operating systems.
Apple typically begins a Public Beta Test of it’s new operating systems for it’s products in the Summer to support the Fall release of the new software! A beta test is the final step before releasing new software and consists of tests by folks who are not part of the development team.
Currently Apple is testing:
iOS 14 for iPhones and iPods
iPadOS 14 for iPads
macOS Big Sur (aka OS 11)
These public betas are very popular among those comfortable with experimenting with their devices. They get to try out “the latest and greatest” before it is released and even get to provide suggestions or report issues with the beta.
But, if you have been working on a TECH-SAFE HOME the question arises:
“Should you beta test Apple’s new operating systems?”
In a word: “NO!”
Beta test software is “incomplete” and often does not work with other programs until a program’s publisher updates their apps. There may be many iterations, or versions, of a package in beta test. Therefore many publishers will not release an update until the “Gold”, or final, version is released. Until that time there are always bugs and glitches and compatibility issues that arise. Specialized software, such as parental control and monitoring apps, is especially susceptible.
The Beta Test Hazard
In some cases, everything might work just fine. But, the changes in the new operating systems could result in parental controls not working as planned. This might happen even (though unlikely) the built-in Apple Screen Time controls.
You can call the publisher of a parental control (or just about any other) app to find out if they support it. If you do, you will get the party line: They do not support their product on unreleased operating systems still undergoing development and testing. I’ve asked!
You might consider participating in a beta test. Doing so might make your children’s devices become “unsafe”. I recommend that you wait until Apple launches the final commercial release of these operating systems.
Another reason is this: Your child is most likely homeschooling right now, to some degree, due to the Pandemic. Software that schools may require your child to use may not be compatible with the beta versions of the operating systems.
When you do upgrade to the new OS you need to check your parental control apps to make sure settings having changed. You can make sure your apps are automatically updated by following these instructionson Apple’s web site.