Appiphilia: Safe Eyes Mobile puts parental controls on iPhone Web surfing

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

What about smartphones makes me nervous? Smart kids.

Yes, handing a child your iPhone or iPod Touch may seem a fine idea; the videos and games can keep little Lucy or Larry entertained for as long as the device’s battery lasts. (Although I’d rethink showing off the virtual lightsaber for fear of the iPhone flying from the hands of an over-exuberant young Jedi.)

While it offers convenient -- and essential -- access to the Web, this sophisticated device becomes a portal of potential vulnerability in immature hands. has developed a mobile version of its filtering software.

Safe Eyes Mobile ($19.99)

What it is: A phone-based browser with content filters. A parent or responsible party sets up an account, creates user profiles and configures the settings for permissible content.


What sizzles: It works mostly like the iPhone’s native browser, with a built-in Google search field. It includes pinch, tap zoom and some other options, such as ones for adding a bookmark and mailing the link. You can open as many as eight Web pages at a time.

When I tested it without having set specific categories, the filtering software seemed able to make distinctions between an encyclopedic entry on ‘breast’ and a questionable site featuring the word, as well as between sites featuring ‘porn’ and the Porn Ping Tower Hotel in Thailand. Other sites such as were just blocked outright.

With a Safe Eyes account, you can also set up, through Friend Portal, e-mail alerts about attempts at banned online activity.

You can set up different browsing profiles for different users. and if you have an account for your computer, the settings will transfer to your iPhone.

When the user reaches a restricted site, a pop-up appears saying the site is blocked.

What fizzles: In order to be child-proof, the app is a little parent-proof too. The company boasts 35 categories to which it will allow or block access, but, for those of us without computer-based accounts, how exactly to set up those categories on the iPhone is unclear. I had to set aside my ego and call the support line. Turns out, to change the settings you have to visit by firing up the Safari browser, or by disabling Safari and using the Safe Eyes Mobile browser.

Unfortunately, you can’t import your Safari bookmarks into Safe Eyes Mobile or make it the default browser on your iPhone. While you can disable the Safari browser on your phone -- even suppress it from view -- and use Safe Eyes, the bummer is that it won’t auto-launch from e-mail, Google Maps or other apps.

Some of the cooler features, including the ability to set limits on browsing time, are available on this version for iPhone and iPod Touch, but they have to be set using a computer. (The time allotment is linked so if time’s up on the computer, the user can’t access the Web on the phone either.)

Bottom line: A protective layer for safer surfing. It’s an app worth watching for additional functionality.

-- Michelle Maltais

Subscribe to the Appiphilia RSS feed and follow us on Twitter.