Please advise as to what is the best parental control software and why it may be better than another. I’ve always monitored our 3 teenagers on our one PC, but now my high schooler will be getting her own laptop from the school. I am very anxious about how she might find this to be a great new toy instead of an educational tool. I want to have parental controls in place on our PC, so I can dedicate more attention to our high schooler who will have her own school owned laptop. Thanks!
Until my children were out of high school, I used SpectorSoft Pro to monitor and report/record all activity on all the household computers (5 desktops & 2 laptops). I haven’t used it since they went on to college, but 2 years ago it offered functions such as emailing YOU (the parent) a detailed list of all web activity which included sites visited, chat sessions, etc. It also took a snapshot of the computer monitor every few minutes (you set the time table) which allowed you to view screen shots of exactly what a child was viewing. All and all the program worked well and I had no complaints.
Occasionally, I install parental control software on my own computer (which is used by nobody but me) to keep me on task and to block any pornography that might try to come my way. This is a somewhat silly ritual, since the software doesn't really hold me accountable -- I have to hold me accountable, in the end -- but sometimes it's useful, because it forces me to think about the time I'm wasting before and after I waste it. More importantly, I've been able to observe control packages from quite a bit from both sides, as a user and an administrator.
I'm not willing to spend money on this little habit of mine, but, in the zero-cost market, I've had by far the most success with K9 Web Protection. It's blacklist is amazingly good, its categorizations surprisingly accurate, and, although it took some tweaking during my first week of usage (where it was blocking sites I needed to access and allowing access to time-wasting sites), a little bit of customization solved it, and K9 now runs very smoothly. It's notification system appears to be excellent, too.
More importantly, I found it pretty difficult to hack around. One day, see, I first accidentally blocked the entire internet, and then forgot my admin password. I work with computers -- I'm a software programmer -- so I thought this would be pretty easy to solve. But I soon discovered that K9 works on all my browsers, and the only way to get around it was either to uninstall it (which I needed an admin password to do) or to break into the password file and decrypt an MD5 hash -- which is possible, but time-consuming and difficult and far too technical for 99% of teens to attempt... especially without the Internet available.
So, if you're in the market for free software, K9 has been pretty good to me.
I was using Sentry Parental Controls, but we’ve had problems with them. It was overly “protective” as well.
Since the family PC has crashed again, I will be using something else.
I am currently trying Web Watcher on a laptop and finding it doesn’t do a complete job of blocking sites it should. While I didn’t like the overly sensitive filtering Sentry provided, Web Watcher sure should not have let adult games by.
I tried Specter Pro a while back and it froze the system during install. I will try it again, though.
I downloaded a trial version of “net nanny” but I had so much trouble setting it up I dropped it.
There are so many products out there, I don’t know how you pick. Seems Try and try is the best thing one can do. The “review” web sites seem to only rank those that they are paid to sell.
I certainly want to have email notification, reasonable blocking/filtering, chat recording, remote access and stealth mode operation. Many of the more popular ones that might be visible to a user have web sites dedicated to telling people how to uninstall them.
These are good things to have on your system if you have underage children. The web is a very interesting place. I do check up on my kid’s activities. Two teen boys (with friends) can keep your computer busy where it shouldn’t. You can’t be there all the time, but the software can be.
Bsecure is a great software package. Maybe that would work for you.
Thank you so much for this thread! My oldest is 12 and there are 4 more in the pipeline, so this is something I need to attend to soon.
If you're a computer novice, I've heard good things about Bsecure, a priest whom I greatly respect recommends it often. Personally, I have OpenDNS set up to prevent the visitation of sites that shouldn't be visited. The nice thing about OpenDNS is they have a free version, and also have a version you can install on your router so all computers in the home are affected.
Speaking of the router, some routers have parental controls that can be modified. For example, on my router I can go in and add individual web sites to a filter so they cannot be accessed. Web browsers have some parental controls as well.
The Operating System, if it is Windows, may have some features. 7 I believe has a few.
The way I'll be setting stuff up for my kids is going to be different, but so far everything that is mentioned will probably work for you. Just let them know they're being watched though!
There are two great (AND FREE !!) tools that are very complimentary and I believe are must have for anyone with kids using computers.
1. OpenDNS for blocking sites - to DETER issues
2. 8snaps.com for taking snaps of your kids screen - to DETECT issues
The first one works as a proactive filter to stop bad sites, the second one takes pictures of the screen and lets you see what is happening on the other computer. And it also stores the pictures so if you cant see it Live, you can play it back later.
I’ve used PC Pandora in the past, its brilliant. I also used it for monitoring my kids. I found it through this website which has user reviews on:
Parental controls are much more effective when the go the opposite direction - you have to give permission for websites rather than deny websites. Blacklists are always behind the inappropriate websites (someone has to view the website and report it before it’s blacklisted) and on many software, people can still jump through a proxy to access a blocked site.
I just installed Bsecure and I’m very impressed. I’m not happy that it does not have stealth capability but they said they would take the input. The product is almost too easy to install. There is some set up that might not be intuitive but it was not difficult for me. It carries tons of options. I’m contemplating using the “whole house” function which is something you can do to your modem that enable all units using the internet in your house to have a level of protection. It’s only been a day and I already get alerts, so I know it’s working. So far so great.
If you use a router for your Internet access, I think OpenDNS is the simplest way to apply filters for the whole house. The advantage is that you don’t have to install it on each individual computer, so it might be perfect for a school supplied laptop where you may not have the administrative rights to install a filter program. OpenDNS allows you to filter out adult content and some 60 other categories on a per category basis. You can also individually block or allow specific sites. It’s free. It also reports on what sites were visited and what sites were blocked – you have to turn reporting on to get this feature.
They also offer OpenDNS Deluxe for $10 a year which gives you a few extra features, including the the ability to shut everything down and use “white lists” – allowing only specific sites.
I’ve also discovered that most routers have a category for “access restrictions.” We’ve just started using it. After a certain time at night, the Internet goes down for everyone – until morning. We can also set up specific restriction schedules per computer. Again, this is done on the router, not the individual computers so there is no way to get around it (short of plugging in a different router).
At this point I’m very happy with OpenDNS.
We've also used BSecure and loved it. I would recommend that.
Well, I’ve discovered that Bsecure is absolutely worthless for Facebook monitoring.
I get repeated (redundant) alerts everytime my son accesses it. BSecure also can not record the IM function. The program will only give you a snippet of the “offending” word string. No way to tell who is using the foul, suggestive, or “stalking” language. So if your child uses Facebook, BSecure is worthless.
I’ve logged on to the account and done a search for the offending words and NOTHING shows up. So I’m not even sure they exist. It’s more trouble trying to figure out what is actually going on than the program is worth.
I’ve not had too much trouble with this group of users, on this computer in general, so I can’t really comment on the effectiveness of the filtering. However, the only alerts I’ve received is about Facebook content. No other alerts which means it’s either ineffective or my son isn’t going anywhere he shouldn’t. (A good problem to have.)
I DO like the user interface but wish the program was more stealthish.
The help responses so far have been very specific and polite, but typically, they are of the variety of “We will take your suggestion under advisement but do not have that capability at this time.”
I second the recommendation for K9 web protection. It is free, very robust, very user-friendly and un-hackable because your password is not stored on your computer. The only thing it has trouble blocking is YouTube videos unless you block that whole category. YouTube has its own safety mode but you can’t stop the kid from making their own account and getting around it.
I use SpectorPro as a stealth monitoring program, it is excellent for what it does. VERY stealthy, does not run in the Programs or Process list, etc. It does cost about $80 initially and that much a year for support (which is valuable to have, in case your anti-virus software picks it up as a trojan and deactivates it). I would not recommend that you start with this program unless you think you have a reason for it. I started monitoring our son’s computer use with SpectorPro because he was rebelling and had already made some very poor decisions on the internet. I felt that it was a good way to keep track of him before he got himself into real trouble. But once the child knows you are monitoring them, they can get very angry and rebellious because of the lack of trust. It is a double-edged sword. We did not feel we could totally restrict his internet access because he did need to use the computer for school. With the K9 web protection, you can limit the access to just the websites your kid needs for school (probably wouldn’t do this with a high schooler though).
I would install the K9 filter www1.k9webprotection.com/?vm=r and if you have reason to trust your daughter, then go no further. If you need it, SpectorPro is the best monitoring software on the market. ALL the Facebook chat, MySpace chat, etc. is logged. Screen shots every couple of seconds. Hell of a program.
Be aware that some schools lock the computers so that parents CANNOT install any software. You can check with the school to see if they already put controls on the computers (not likely) and cause a fuss until they let you install the programs you want.
[quote="bjj, post:1, topic:210369"]
but now my high schooler will be getting her own laptop from the school.
If it has a built in webcam, put tape over it. Remember that school district in PA that was activating the webcam on their computers "accidentally"?
Great reminder! That was horrifying to me. How dare they spy on our kids like that!!!