Our Testing Terms
Precision: Does the tool do what it says and not more?
A tool's precision is the degree of accuracy with which it filters online material. For example, a very precise tool would be able to make very fine distinctions between information which parents might not want their children to see, such as how to build a bomb, and information which has educational merit, such as how the Manhattan Project built the atomic bomb during World War II. A less precise tool might improperly filter either one. In this guide, we ask, 'How precisely does this product deal with online material?'
Control: How much can families adapt this tool to their needs?
For any online safety tool, ultimate authority over online access can rest with only one entity. It may be the parent, who makes final decisions regarding their children's access to online material; the software vendor, which maintains rules for access and lists of inappropriate content that parents don't have access to; or some third party that rates online material. We use the term control to talk about these differences in authority, as in, 'For this product, who has ultimate control over online access?'
Scalability: How well will this tool handle new information?
The Internet grows at an unbelievable rate -- exponentially, in fact. The World Wide Web alone doubles in size every six months or less. With thousands of new Web pages appearing every day, the ability of Internet safety tools to handle all the new material is an important quality. We refer to this ability as a tool's scalability. A highly scalable tool will have little or no problem dealing with new material, even items it's never encountered before. A tool that's not as scalable might run into problems. Of each tool, we ask, 'How scalable would this tool be for parents?'
Physical safety protections: How can this tool help families keep children safe?
Many of the tools we present can help a parent protect their children's personal development by limiting access to inappropriate content, but many parents are concerned about online dangers that exist even to their child's physical safety. Cyber-predators do, sadly, exist online, and different tools deal with the risks they present in different ways. We refer to this quality as a tool's physical safety protections, asking, 'How well will this tool protect a child's physical safety?'
Functionality costs: Will this tool affect children's ability to benefit from the Internet?
One of the Internet's greatest strengths is its diversity. It can serve as an open forum for countless ideas, viewpoints, and experiences. By their nature, many online safety tools restrict that forum to promote child safety, but in doing so, they may also restrict some of the Internet's most valuable functionalities. For example, tools that limit online access to pre-established "greenspaces" risk restricting access to other valuable online content that falls outside of those realms, either by oversight or by necessity. We call these restrictions functionality costs, and we ask of each tool, 'What costs will this tool have on my child's overall online experience?'