computer parental controls/monitoring software

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by rlsnights, Oct 26, 2009.

  1. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    Looking for a really good parental control and monitoring software program to load on my 3 home computers.

    Suggestions?
     
  2. MyFriendKita

    MyFriendKita Member

    I had good luck with Cybersitter:

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,1618830,00.asp

    It lets you pick and choose what content you want to allow/disallow, you can disallow internet completely while still allowing computer use, it has a timer, so if I wanted on the computer, I could disable the software and set the timer to turn it back on when I was done (so I didn't have to remember to turn it back on), and it kept my computer-savvy son from getting into trouble on the computer for a year. It would have worked longer, but he was able to get my password for the software, and by then he was old enough that I just gave up. Some of the reviews state that it caused people to have problems with their computers, but the only problem I had was when I tried to buy something online and had forgotten Cybersitter was on (one of the controls I chose was to keep my son from being able to purchase anything on the internet).

    I found a link that compares several different software packages that might be helpful:

    http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2009
  3. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    I have Windows Vista O/S and it has a built-in parental control feature that allows you to restrict the time of day the computer can be accessed by different user accounts, as well as restricting internet access down to specific sites that are allowed/disallowed. So far, it has worked well for us (when I remember to put the restrictions on!)
     
  4. shawnb

    shawnb New Member

    I've been happy with ZoneAlarm & Trend in recent years.

    I used ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite for a while and liked it a lot. I later had to discontinue ZoneAlarm because I purchased an early 64-bit Vista laptop, and at that time, ZoneAlarm did not support 64-bit Vista. (They do now.) $39.95 to cover 3 PCs for 1 year.

    I now use Trend Micro Internet Security. Also seems to work fine. I can tell, because my difficult child is always asking why certain websites are unavailable. :smug: by the way: I'm an IT guy, and my corporation uses Trend. If it's good enough for a Silicon Valley corporation, it's good enough for home... $49.95 for a year to cover 3 PCs.

    Both suites offer a lot of control over what kinds of sites you wish to allow & disallow, e.g., chat sites, alcohol, sex education, military, occult, pornography, etc., etc., to make it easy to make it age appropriate for each computer.

    Both suites allow you to set time constraints on web access.

    Both suites also include firewalls, full antivirus protection, & much more. Hard to beat the rates, etc. Just install the new package & deinstall your old anti-virus software.

    I have stayed away from both Norton & McAfee, as I've heard of too many issues with easy child performance once they were installed. I've never had easy child performance or stability issues with Trend or ZoneLabs.

    All of these packages have learning curves, it'll take a while to learn 'em.

    >>> Added note: I would rate Trend a little higher in terms of ease of use. Once installed, it just seemed to work. ZoneAlarm seemed to raise alerts & ask how to proceed fairly often, even after a year of use.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2009
  5. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    Thanks to everyone who responded.

    It may be that I need two separate kinds of programs to address my concerns/needs.

    1. Control - I want/need to have some control over their computer usage (time, internet sites accessed) which is typically what I have found available through parental control software, especially that bundled with Vista or McAfee. We have McAfee through our At&T internet service for free so I have been using that for our firewall/virus protection etc. But I can't install the parental control software on my kid's computers and get it to run.

    Long story short, their auntie gave them the computers and they came with a mish-mash of software on them some of which is apparently cracked. :( They have some weird combination of Microsoft XP and Vista as the operating system. I could replace the operating system on each computer but I am not a computer geek and I'm afraid all I would do is make the darn things inoperable.

    Of course this may pose a problem with any software I buy...

    2. Information control (AKA spying) - I want to know their passwords, what they're saying to each other and other people. I want to block their ability to share personal information like phone numbers and most photos AND I don't want them to necessarily know that I have or can get this information. For this I would need software that tracks keystrokes and provides the option of a much higher level of monitoring that is normally available with parental controls.

    I want and need this in part because we have already had issues with the sharing of personal information online with strangers and secrecy over passwords and social networking site participation. Despite the fact that their computers are in the family room in plain site I have found that I cannot be looking over their shoulders every minute - nor do I want to be. I would love to act like I trust them while monitoring their activity in detail.
     
  6. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    What about just outright banning them from online chat rooms/sites? If they are proving that they are unable to follow the ground rules you've established, then they are not yet mature enough to be given this much freedom/responsibility. That's kind of where I've arrived with difficult child 1 because of his penchant for porn (even on my iPhone I've caught him looking at stuff on YouTube). He only gets on the computer when I allow him access through HIS account, and that account has severely restricted internet access (his school website, his grade website, and I think one other kid's website). Everything else is blocked. When he earns back my trust, he gets the privileges back.
     
  7. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    Do you allow him any e-mail priviledges?
     
  8. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Although he has an email account, he doesn't usually get email or think to check it. I do have that set up so that ALL of his incoming messages automatically get cc'd to me since I hold the master account (we have Time Warner). I don't think I'd be able to see any outgoing messages unless I had his password and could log in as him (which I do at this point -- but not sure I'd be able to maintain that if he really wanted to keep me out). I can see where this would be problematic for you if your difficult child is sending out info you don't want shared. I think if I were dealing with the same issue, I'd probably institute a very short leash and require that I be able to review outgoing messages. And if that can't be agreed to, then I guess all deals are off. I tend to be a bit authoritarian when it comes to stuff like this, whereas I'm more willing to be flexible on other stuff. Ultimately you've got to decide how much freedom you're willing to give in exchange for the rules you need them to follow and what the consequences will be for violating those rules. It's a hard process of giving them just enough rope and knowing when to reel them back in for their own safety despite their protests.

    Good luck!
     
  9. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    I have a very sly little difficult child 3 these days. She is very clever at getting around limitations we set for her. For example I discovered she was using the computer at a friend's house to access her one allowed social networking site (Club Penguin for heaven's sake) when that privilege had been taken away temporarily. So I yanked the account entirely.

    I can shut things down to the point that she has virtually no internet access but I think if I do that it will just drive her in particular to take up more of these kinds of sneaky tactics. She doesn't have a phone and isn't going to get one and she's mad about that. So she borrowed one from a friend at school during school time and then was caught using it during class to text her friend's older male cousin whom she has never met. She lost all internet privileges when I discovered she had given out our phone number to kids she met online and was making phone calls to them when she was left home alone. Got the phone password protected now.

    We of course can see the direction this is going but she is so deep into her self-righteous rebellion that she won't believe her behavior is unsafe. That's what really worries me. So I think I need to be devious about monitoring her while appearing to give her some latitude with e-mail and a limited internet access. That way I know what she's doing because she's doing it here and not somewhere else. Does that make sense?

    I don't actually think she's doing stuff like pulling up porn or arranging to meet people she meets online. I think she's mostly just chatting with other kids in a pretty typical way. But I don't really know. Since I never in a million years thought she would give out our phone number (how MANY times had I drilled into her head that this just wasn't safe) I feel like I need to take precautions that assume she is going to continue this pattern. Better safe than sorry you know?

    If I have her passwords (cause you know she'll access things from home as long as she thinks she isn't being monitored) then I can monitor her activity when she's away from home if I feel the need, especially her e-mail. Otherwise I have to be really heavy handed all the time and I think that will drive her into more and bigger acts of rebellion.

    I don't particularly like the idea of spying on my kids. On the other hand they can get into really bad trouble very quickly and my kids don't in my humble opinion have the judgement they need to be safe. Since my daughter has shown that she thinks she knows better than me and will flaunt our rules when it suits her I feel like she's left me no choice but to spy on her or give her no access at all.
     
  10. emotionallybankrupt

    emotionallybankrupt New Member

    I think you're going to have to choose whether you would rather control access and censor capabilities or know what they're up to.

    It's easy to find the software capable of both, but I doubt an intelligent difficult child would think you were savvy enough to figure out sophisticated controls but not enough to figure out how to monitor their activities. It's a one-time opportunity. If they get the drift that you are educating yourself on the subject, they'll never again believe you are clueless.

    As for gvcmom's monitoring of e-mails, please be careful. It's too easy to set up as many e-mail accounts as anybody wants to, through yahoo, hotmail, or many other providers. And the tight censorship of sites and capabilities? It just doesn't work anymore, unless your difficult child never leaves the house. Internet is too accessible at almost every household in America as well as most cellphones. Even if difficult child doesn't have a cellphone, they have many friends who do.

    I really think it's dangerous to believe you're protecting your difficult child by restricting what goes on with your own computer.

    My experience is that to have a false sense of security lands you much flatter on the pavement that to have none. A determined difficult child WILL work around your restrictions.
     
  11. emotionallybankrupt

    emotionallybankrupt New Member

    Exactly. "Kids" she met online? How could difficult child be so sure they were kids anyway? I never could get through to my difficult child that people could so easily misrepresent themselves online. And...I also explained to my difficult child repeatedly that to give our number is to also give our address. Reverse look-ups of phone numbers are extremely easy online. The whole family is suddenly at risk. It made no difference what I said. difficult child at one point even posted a bulletin on her myspace, giving our phone number and saying she was home alone and wanted to have some company. I was HORRIFIED!

    I felt especially vulnerable when my difficult child would do things like this, being a single mom with two daughters. It's not that I think families with males in the home are safe, but I DO believe that a predator would see my family as an easier target. And...to meet enough new random friends online is, in my opinion, virtually a guarantee to meet a predator eventually.
     
  12. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    The ONLY truly secure system is one that has a CMOS (bootup) password that is required BEFORE Windows will start to load.

    Add that in to direct adult supervision ANY time the kid is on the computer and you will be fully secure.

    Note to wise, if you forget your CMOS bootup password, you will have to take the easy child into the shop to have it reset.
     
  13. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    I use Web Watcher. It has a keystroke monitor. You can read e-mails and IM's through Facebook anyway. I think my daughter uses GMail and for some reason, I can't see those e-mails. I have signed in as her before,though, to look. You can set Web Watcher up to flag suspicious activity about meetings or key words.

    I haven't seen anything to be alarmed about with my daughter. She knows I can monitor what she is doing, but I don't think she realizes how much. If I saw anything suspicious, I would clamp down on her privileges pretty hard. I think it is impossible to fully monitor them because you would have to spend as much time as they do on the computer to see what they are doing.
     
  14. shawnb

    shawnb New Member

    I think I'm with gvcmom (post #6 in this thread). If you don't think they're mature enough for certain privileges, e.g., facebook or other chat sites, then restrict them and tell them. You don't want to be auditing AFTER the fact, because, frankly, that's too late, and you might miss things. As you already have.

    This will lead to tough discussions - no, not you, not yet - but I think they need to know that's where they are with you.

    In addition, I guess I have a problem with 'sneaky'. I'd rather have the discussions out in the open (possibly, to a fault...).

    My kid is probably the LAST in his class to play M rated games, the last to see R movies, etc., but I've been up front with him when I don't think he's ready.
     
  15. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I would go to download.com and check out the parental control software. See what all of them say they do. I know there are some that actually email you pictures of what is going on every so many minutes. I havent had to do this in years.

    I actually did put a keylogger on someones computer years ago but it wasnt my kids computer. It was a co-workers computer and he was going to gay chatrooms, gay sites and using msn messenger to chat with MY son. Yeah...I had the logs on my side to see it but I wanted to have his side too.

    Thats another thing...you can turn on archiving of most of the messengers to save the messages and they probably dont realize it.
     
  16. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    RLS--

    The "sneaky" games you describe are all too familiar! I feel as though we are constantly playing spy vs spy....

    The bottom line for us, though, is that difficult child simply cannot be trusted. We monitor phone calls and email and computer usage and STILL recognize that she is probably using other kids' computers and cell phones to send messages that she doesn't want us to see. It's all so ridiculous because all we really want is to protect her from herself--and she is so determined to engage in dangerous and inappropriate activites.

    If they are really determined to "get around" their parents--there are 1000 ways to do it.

    I wish I had the answer. I'd share it with you in a heartbeat!

    --DaisyFace
     
  17. emotionallybankrupt

    emotionallybankrupt New Member

    I absolutely agree with most of this. Having open discussions is a wonderful first step and even more wonderful when it works. Telling them certain sites/privileges are off-limits and why, is also the most appropriate first move. Maybe even appropriate for moves two, three, and four, when they mess up and you give another chance, another chance and another chance (after progressively more severe consequences, of course). But then what if that fails? I think that probably most who find themselves on this forum have also found that the typical, reasonable methods don't work with these kids.

    I have a tremendous problem with the concept of being so sneaky. I was raised to have a huge respect for personal privacy, and I would have been crushed if my parents had ever violated that for me. I never gave them reason, however, and that is the big difference. I believe that to spy, snoop, etc., without good reason is wrong, and it sounds to me like you have a similar value system. Just from an ethical standpoint, I think a parent should have some fairly strong evidence before resorting to such methods, but once there, I really think it's wrong not to use whatever means available to protect the family.

    I strongly disagree that it is "too late" to audit "after the fact," though. That's where the "good reason" part comes in, when your difficult child lets you know your rules mean nothing. Even though it is at that point too late to avoid SOME damage, I've learned over and over that things can ALWAYS get worse.
     
  18. Amilo

    Amilo New Member

    I use SpectorPro (http://www.spectorsoft.com/), sounds like you may also want their eBlaster program. I haven't tried eBlaster, but have been using SpectorPro for close to a year and am mostly happy with it.
     
  19. MICHL

    MICHL New Member

    i use Kidswatch... It also lets you set times for the access so it will turn off at the specified time. We've used it for several years.
     
  20. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    Thanks to everyone for their input. I really do appreciate the thoughtful and informative replies. It's given me a lot of food for thought as well as some helpful recommendations for software once we decide which way we want to go.

    Sigh ... while I really did not like being pregnant with twins, on bedrest for 14 weeks, throwing up the whole dang time and so swollen I lost 50 pounds the day I gave birth to these kids - in retrospect it was a blissful time.:hammer:
     
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