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Re: New Smart Parental Controls (from the V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware on RBR850/RKB853)

dtay
Luminary

New Smart Parental Controls (from the V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware on RBR850/RKB853)

Last night, my Orbi AX (RBK853) got updated with the new V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware that has the new Smart Parental Controls.  Being a Circle and Circle Plus user for years, I was really curious to see how it compares in terms of functionality, usability, features, etc.  I have activated the premium trial for the time being, which gives me 30 days to try it out.

 

Some observations:

 

1. It's nice not having a second device (Circle Plus) to manage as parental controls is finally available on the router itself.

 

2. Performance - Using Circle Plus, I am forced to run Circle Plus under the "compatibility mode" which dramatically reduced the bandwidth and performance of my internet from 500+ Mbps down literaly to 10-20 Mbs or less.  With SPC, the performance is better but still not at optimal speeds.

 

3. App/program blocking - With Circle Plus, if I wanted to say, block Discord (which one of my kids is really addicted to!), I can select Discord from the list of apps in Circle Plus but how do I do that in SPC?  I don't see Discord listed as an app/program.  If I manually enter a URL/website (e.g. www.discord.com), I don't see a means to delete or remove that URL/website.  Or am I not seeing it properly?

 

4. Is SPC based on Circle Plus?  I noticed there are some similarities in the UI between the two.

 

5. Does SPC have location tracking (e.g. like Life360 and CIrcle Plus's locate a device)?  This to me is useful as it allows me to keep track on the location/presence of my kids. I don't see this functionality in SCP.

 

6. How robust is SPC's VPN blocking capabilities? My kids have literally rendered Circle Plus's ability to block any VPN software, I kid you not, because Circle Plus doesn't detect the presence of VPN clients such as protonvpn that they have installed on their devices.  I haven't tested this yet as I don't have access to the kids devices during this moment.

 

Thanks!

Message 1 of 9
CrimpOn
Guru

Re: New Smart Parental Controls (from the V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware on RBR850/RKB853)

Thanks for sharing these observations. I doubt very much that anyone can comment on the technical aspects of SPC because Netgear simply doesn't share that sort of information.

 

My own (personal) opinion is that the battle for "Control" has been lost. If the kids can install VPN's on their devices, you have no ability to control what they do.  The most you could do is control when they can do it, although if they are using devices with LTE data connections, that is also outside your control.

 

It might be time to concede defeat and employ other tactics to influence behavior.

Message 2 of 9
dtay
Luminary

Re: New Smart Parental Controls (from the V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware on RBR850/RKB853)


@CrimpOn wrote:

Thanks for sharing these observations. I doubt very much that anyone can comment on the technical aspects of SPC because Netgear simply doesn't share that sort of information.

 

My own (personal) opinion is that the battle for "Control" has been lost. If the kids can install VPN's on their devices, you have no ability to control what they do.  The most you could do is control when they can do it, although if they are using devices with LTE data connections, that is also outside your control.

 

It might be time to concede defeat and employ other tactics to influence behavior.


Tell me about it!  Sometimes I almost want to throw in the towel with the kids (they are teenagers, afterall) and their devices because everytime I remove a VPN from their phone or iPad, it's back the next day! 

 

Anyway, going back to the topic at hand, I am 100% sure now that SPC is actually a rebranded Circle/Circle Plus because when I installed the Netgear My Time app earlier this morning on my daughter's phone while she was watching, the first thing she said when she saw the app was "That is Circle!". Even the graphics on the app resembles Circle right down to the photos being used.  The functionality compared to Circle Plus is still limited (don't see the ability to block certain apps like Discord, by name) and there is no location tracking capabilities so I'm forced to install the Life360 app.

Message 3 of 9
CrimpOn
Guru

Re: New Smart Parental Controls (from the V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware on RBR850/RKB853)


@dtay wrote:

Anyway, going back to the topic at hand, I am 100% sure now that SPC is actually a rebranded Circle/Circle Plus because when I installed the Netgear My Time app earlier this morning on my daughter's phone while she was watching, the first thing she said when she saw the app was "That is Circle!". Even the graphics on the app resembles Circle right down to the photos being used.

Over the past several years, Netgear has made several forays into the Parental Control arena.

  • Primitive restraints were added to the basic router mechanism to 'block sites' and 'block services'.  These are cumbersome to use and easily evaded, which led to:
  • An arrangement with OpenDNS (which offers two tiers of Parental Controls - one free, one paid), to incorporate links to OpenDNS into Netgear routers, which led to:
  • A partnership with Disney Circle to host the smarts of Circle inside Netgear routers, and (I assume) sharing the revenue with Disney, which led to:
  • The 'new' Smart Parental Controls which no longer mention Disney Circle, and (I also assume) no longer call for sharing revenue with Disney.  I get the impression that the 'new' SPC is restricted to the US market while Circle remains the product worldwide.

I am 100% certain of my ignorance, as Netgear provides no useful information to the public.  Instead of rebranded, I would use the term reverse engineered.  As in, "We've got plenty of experience and lots of smart programmers, we can do this better than they have and keep all the money for Netgear."

Message 4 of 9
DubSyd
Guide

Re: New Smart Parental Controls (from the V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware on RBR850/RKB853)

We just got a trial of the SPC with our latest upgrade - and it is not working well at all for us. We have been using it for 5 days, and it seems to be tracking internet use according to the history, but the time that is actually shown in the children's usage total is way below how long they are actually spending. For example, today it was saying that my daughter had been online for a total of 30 minutes, when she had been on for close to 2 hours. The history showed sites being visited, but it just want not adding up all her usage time.

 

The only time so far in this trial where it actually said that my two kids had reached their time limits, it did not actually stop my son's access to the internet on his laptop, despite indicating that his time was used up.

 

So it is definitely not reliable for us so far!

We will be contacting netgear support and hopefully we will be able to get it functioning as intended. I love the features that it is supposed to have.

 

 

Message 5 of 9
DubSyd
Guide

Re: New Smart Parental Controls (from the V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware on RBR850/RKB853)

Forgot to add - We also have the RBK 853

Message 6 of 9
dtay
Luminary

Re: New Smart Parental Controls (from the V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware on RBR850/RKB853)

While I love the integrated functionality of the parental control (and not having to run a separate app), compatibility and and better performance (when compared to running Circle Plus in compatibility mode on the RBK853), the limited features may be a deal breaker.  For instance, I added "discord.com" as one of websites to block yet my son is able to continue using discord on his laptop.  On Circle Plus, Discord shows up as an app and when I block Discord, it is blocked.  But not on Netgear's Smart Parental Control feature.  

 

WIth all these limitations, I am seriously considering now paying for the premium subscription when the trial ends.  What sucks is that I paid for the Circle Plus premium (almost $200 for lifetime subscription) only to find that I had to run it in compatibility mode with the RBK853 and it drops the connection speed from 500+ Mbps down to less than 20 MBps!

Message 7 of 9
donewithorbi
Aspirant

Re: New Smart Parental Controls (from the V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware on RBR850/RKB853)

I agree. I even did a test on the history and went to some websites which never ever showed up on the SPC history so how is this useful? It is also not reliably pausing devices . I am using RBR750

Message 8 of 9
dtay
Luminary

Re: New Smart Parental Controls (from the V4.6.3.16_2.0.51 firmware on RBR850/RKB853)


@donewithorbi wrote:

I agree. I even did a test on the history and went to some websites which never ever showed up on the SPC history so how is this useful? It is also not reliably pausing devices . I am using RBR750


What's even more annoying is that for something as simple as blocking an app/website like Discord, it takes multiple steps.  Unlike Circle, I simply highlight or select Discord from the list and it's done.  With SPC, I have to select at least seven different websites that are associated with Discord from the history: discord.gg, us-south9263.discord.media, gateway.discord.gg, media.discordapp.net, discordapp.net, images-ext-2.discordapp.net, and finally discord.com.  That doesn't sound very "smart" to me, in my opinion.

 

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