If your kids use the internet, use KoalaSafe to help you with time limits and access to the internet.

Parenting has never been more difficult!  Gone are the days that children can run amuck, playing from sunrise to sunset, wherever and whenever they choose.  Movies like the “Sandlot” show a different generation of freedom, one that is not available now.  Our kids used to be safest at home, in school, at functions, but now none of these feel safe.  As parents, we face a 24- hour, 365-day, onslaught of hazards.  At home, we face online threats like catfishing, cyber-bullying, Identity threat, over-easy access to adult content/pornography.  As a parent of three, I worry about internet access.  My eight-year old and five-year old sons absolutely love YouTube and learning scientific information through Google.  We try to enforce time limits, and we only allow electronics devices in rooms that my wife and I are physically occupying.  We have an open question policy, allowing the kids to ask us questions, as they have them.  Sometimes, it is difficult to get them off of their electronics devices and outdoors.  Lastly, it is difficult to truly know what they see on the internet.  KoalaSafe provides a tool that may help parents sleep a little better at night.

KoalaSafe
The KoalaSafe device ships inside of a small 8 5/8 inch by 4 1/4 inch by 1 15/16 inch cardboard box.  The cover shows a young boy playing on a laptop and promises the ability to set internet time limits, create a safe dedicated network for children and you can get usage reports for peace of mind.  The reverse side of the packaging provides the simple installation instructions.  This device is designed to be family friendly and relies on the fact that some families may not be tech savvy.   To use the device, all you need to do is plug the device into your router and download the application onto your smart device.  This will ultimately create a new app controllable WiFi network. Use this network for all of the devices in your home, to access the features of the KoalaSafe: internet time limits, Site, and App blocking, YouTube SafeSearch, Google SafeSearch, Internet Stop Button, usage Reports, Block or Allow any site, Control from anywhere.

Once you lift the lid off of the package, you will immediately notice the 2.25-inch x 2.25 inch by 1-inch thick KoalaSafe device.  On the front face of the device is a cute 7/8 inch diameter black circle, with a white Koala.  Just below the Koala is a bank of 3 LED. The back of the device has a WAN port, LAN port, and a micro USB power port.  The side has a USB A port, a reset button and an on/off switch.  Along the bottom of the device is a QR code, which provides a 23 character code (I found no use for this).  You will also find a Type A wall plug adaptor, 40.5 inch USB A to USB micro cable and a 31.5 inch Ethernet cable.  As mentioned by the very brief installation manual, this device is very family friendly and easy to set up.  You do not have to have any tech knowledge for this installation.  Plug the Ethernet cable into one of the LAN ports on your router and then plug it into the WAN port of the Koala safe.  Plug the power into the device and then notice that the LEDs illuminate.  Here is where I found one of the limitations of the device.  The power cord is a little too short, as my router is on top of my desk and my cables run down to the ground.  I had to use an extension cord for the power cable.

KoalaSafe AppNavigate to the IOS app store and download the KoalaSafe App by Koala Safe Pty Ltd.  When you open the app, you will need to create a login.  Select the “Create Account” button, add your email and then password.  You will then be taken through a series of welcome screens.  The app should auto detect the device and will pair it for you.  This process took less than 1 second.  It will then discover your time zone and will ask you for a password, one that your kids will use to access their devices on the KoalaSafe network. Once done, you will need to create profiles.  I chose to add one for each of my sons, essentially creating an older kid/younger kid profile.  Select the “+” at the top right of the app. You will need to add the name, age, gender or group.  This next step may require a little bit of tech knowledge.  You will need to add each of your children’s devices to the network.  From the main part of the app, select devices and then again press the “+” icon along the top right.  Once this step is complete, you will need to acquire each of the devices.  Open the device, navigate to Settings, WiFi and then add the Koala network.  You will need to add the created password and then you will notice the device appear on your application.  I added my 5-year-old sons Ipad Mini to the network and the listed name was No Name -3412XXXXXXXX (Address).   You can edit the device name by selecting the little pencil along the top right. This will now display the appropriate name in the list.

Under filters, you can select primary or homework.  Under the primary option, you can allow, block or partially block.  For example, you can block the iOS AppStore, iTunes, discretionary Google apps, Email, news, search engines.  You can select options “Allowed by me,” “blocked by me” and “settings.”  This will allow you to set the filter mode to high, medium or low for allowable access.  You can also allow or block given sites, todiscretion.  The generic/default access is set to medium, which does provide a reasonable compromise for protections and access. The stricter protocol may limit gaming, movies, etc.  The more lenient protocol may allow easier invasion of your network.  These are the same options that are available for the homework option as well.  If you navigate back to the main app, you can select parent mode and extend the available time for each device by 5 min, 10 min, 30 min or 1, 2, 4 hours, for the rest of the day, or forever.  You can also restrict time, which is convenient for time-out moments and or discipline.  With the internet off (default), the devices cannot access the network.  I truly found this to be incredibly useful as a parent.KoalaSafe AppI do not like that website data is unavailable in real time, specifically the sites that people are accessing on my network.  Additionally, if you access the device in parent mode and add time, you cannot access data usage.  To collect usage, you will need to create a schedule for the profile.  This is actually quite easy to do as well.  When you open the schedule, you will see an available grid.  You can choose times for primary vs homework by dragging your finger on the grid.  If the time is not set properly, the device has no access to the internet.  I made the mistake of forgetting to set this at 0600, too, homework only mode, and awoke to YouTube sounds.  The reason this happened was that I had only partially blocked Videos instead of fully blocking the category.  This is where setting up the categories really makes or breaks the experience of the app.  I love that I have the ability to access the app with my phone and make changes as I find them.  I do wish that there was an option to set if, then statements.  For example, if hours are exceeded, then the internet is set to education only sites.  Or if there is a certain time spent on a given task, that it eliminates this as an option and makes children choose another task.  The device will allow you to block sites and allows you to set limits for everyone on the network.  I have not yet used this device long enough to generate usage reports, nor used the device to its fullest extent.KoalaSafe App 2I have tested this device on my 5-year old son and have found features that I really like and some that would be very useful.  It is convenient to be able to block sites and to specifically allow others.  I love that I can set categories and block entire categories (advertising, app stores, content, educational, email, file sharing, gaming, etc.).  During homework time, you may want certain sites and during other times you may want access to others.  This may be one of the more useful parental devices that I have tested so far.  The only missing features are real time views of current usage and specific limits for specific websites (apparently a feature coming soon).  I would love to see what my children see at any given time and would love to actually limit the time for certain sites.  For example, I may set an 8 hour internet period on time.  During the time, I can set Primary or homework schedules.  What if I want to only allow 30 minutes of Minecraft during this time or Youtube of only 30 minutes?  In the current form, this is not possible.  I can see their usage via report, but this is not providing me reasonable up-to-date information either.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to set schedule/grid
  • Setup different profiles for each child
  • Add every device the children will use to the individual profiles
  • Control from anywhere
  • Combine with CURBI to get similar features with the phone LTE data.

Neutral:

  • Primary/Homework periods allow only two options (more would be better)

Cons:

  • Real time internet monitoring is not present
  • Specific time limitations for apps/websites.

I will rate this device as a 4/5 star app/device combo.
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