Review Parental Control Software [Advice Column]

Dear Vanessa

Sometimes you mention monitoring your kids online and on the computer. I am thinking about installing a parental control software on my computer, but there are thousands of choices. Do you have any recommendations?

-Laurie, Los Angeles, CA

I actually get this question a lot, especially when I speak and often get emails from my readers recommending or bashing products they have used. There are literally thousands of different softwares you can buy to monitor your kids and prevent them from visiting certain sites.

Here are my favorites with some short reviews:

SpectorSoft This one has lots of different plans to choose from and for all different kinds of computers. I like it because if you are not computer savvy then you can call them anytime. I put this on one of my clients computers and it worked well.
Excerpt from a few of their programs: (pretty crazy they can do this now!)

“The ONLY software that captures their incoming and outgoing emails, chat and instant messages – then IMMEDIATELY forwards them any email address you choose. Spector Pro captures and organizes ACTUAL Emails, Chat Conversations, and Instant Messages and includes the best Keystroke Logger available anywhere! PLUS – built in Intelligence will examine and analyze all PC activity to de termine if you should be NOTIFIED IMMEDIATELY.”

PC Tattletale This one is the most comprehensive one I have ever seen. It really covers everything your child could be doing everything from blocking keywords, to email monitoring, to MySpace monitoring to keystroke records, time usage…

“Only PC Tattletale offers a complete Internet Monitoring and Parental Control Software solution, that’s unmatched in the industry. Our special “Stealth Technology” –PC Tattletale is TOTALLY invisible to the user. Chat and Instant Message Recording which records all chat sessions & Instant messages – Captures both sides ANY Chat conversation or Instant Message. Screen Shots Captures – PC Tattletale’s “VCR like controls & playback” makes it as simple as clicking the “PLAY” button to watch EVERYTHING your child did when they were online! and more…”

Safe Eyes For PCs and Macs, this has been featured in a lot of media campaigns on Internet Safety.

“Safe Eyes Parental Controls Include:
1. Content Controls – Flexible content control allows you to select the types of website that are appropriate.
2. Program Controls – Control Instant Messengers, P2P File Sharing, and other harmful programs.
3. Time Controls – Control the amount of time spent online, and the times when the internet is available.
4. Usage Logging – Create and review logs of websites visited, pro grams used on the Internet, and Instant Messaging Chats.
5. Usage Alerts – Be notified instantly via email, text message, or phone call when someone visits inappropriate websites.”

Advanced Parental Control This is a very user friendly service. I like that they have time limits and makes it easier to keep the amount of usage down to a minimum.

“Are your kids abusing the computer? Advanced Parental Control enables you to control and supervise how they use the PC and Internet. Easily create an allowed schedule for each user. You can also setup a time allowance for each user by day or week. If they reach the specified amount of time then they can no longer login. Advanced Parental Control can block any application for any user and filter web sites based on keywords YOU specify. You can even record select activities including screenshots, keystrokes typed, web sites visited and more for complete activity monitoring. APC also includes System Restriction Tweaks ideal for limiting a child’s access.”

WebWatcher This has a lot of different features from checking email to reading IMs. I like how they view it as a tool, rather than just a software:

“Because we don’t think of WebWatcher as a product; instead, we consider it a “Parenting Tool” that allows you to level the playing field and protect your children against the dangers of the Internet. As parents, we struggle because we either do not have the computer skills of our kids, nor have good in sight into how our children use the Internet.”

Please let me know your thought or if you are familiar with any of these softwares in the comments!

Vanessa

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12 Responses to “Review Parental Control Software [Advice Column]”

  1. Tim
    May 17, 2008 at 7:04 pm #

    At the risk of sounding snarky, wouldn’t putting the PC in a public area of the house and doing something radical like… parenting make more sense? – Tim

  2. Vanessa Van Petten
    May 19, 2008 at 12:31 pm #

    Hi Tim

    This is our (kids) favorite advice parents get because it is so easy to sneak around. Many parents tell me and think oh if I put the computer in the public room, its fine! It is sort of a false sense of security because it is easy enough to hide the windows, we know you are not always in the room etc etc.

    Parenting is a nice idea, but many people just do not know where to start and we are very tricky…saying that I actually encourage this software as a last resort
    Vanessa

  3. Scott
    May 20, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    I can swear by the SpectorSoft products. My wife and I started using it several years ago and it has been a Godsend.

    No parent can truly know what their children are up to on the computer without use of monitoring software. It’s not only for ‘catching’ a child at something, it for the parents peace of mind.

    There is no better feeling than checking your children’s activity and finding they are NOT doing anything foolhardy or dangerous. I sleep a lot better at night because I know for certain instead of wondering.

    Spector Pro has worked great for us, it does exactly what it claims to and in completely hidden from the user.

  4. Craig
    May 21, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    I also found imView (www.imView.com) to be a very good software applications for this. It is completely hosted remotely so you can login and view your childs activity from any internet connection.

  5. Vanessa
    May 22, 2008 at 8:08 am #

    I just got a very insightful comment from a reader mentioning that parental controls can be a false security blanket and I totally agree and do not think I made this clear enough in my post.

    Parental controls can be great as long as they are a tool along with active parenting. No parental control software is teen proof, if your teen finds the box or realizes there is something in his/her computer they will find a way to sneak around it and parents need to be aware of this and constantly keeping communication open with their kids.

    thanks for that comment!
    Vanessa

  6. Luke Gilkerson
    June 12, 2008 at 12:14 pm #

    This concept may go a bit beyond the traditional filtering approaches, but have you ever heard of accountability software? Accountability software is specifically for adults who want to guard where they go online without any blocking or filtering. Combined with filtering, it’s a great Internet safety solution for the whole family. If you want more info about it check out my post “Is Filtering All There Is?” (http://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/2008/06/12/is-filtering-all-there-is-introducing-accountability-software/)

  7. MissSuzy
    August 27, 2008 at 8:56 am #

    Hi Vanessa. I just featured this post of yours in one of my blogs, http://www.parentaltech.com.

    This is not my forte, and it came up. I was glad to have found you! I’ll be sure to send people your way.

  8. jon
    October 18, 2008 at 3:16 pm #

    A few cool parental control software products are available from http://www.parentalfiltercontrol.com

  9. els
    November 6, 2008 at 1:48 pm #

    I would not recommend net nanny. My 13 yr old has figured out how to change the time and date to be able to access history. Luckily it still sending the emails to me but by then he is already off the computer with history deleted

  10. Vanessa
    November 7, 2008 at 2:57 pm #

    Els

    Thank you so much for telling me this, very helpful, other parents please take note

    V

  11. Sherry
    May 17, 2009 at 10:01 pm #

    Vista has some parental filtering controls too. Not sure if it’s as good, but worth checking out because it’s bundled with the OS.

  12. Jacinta
    July 27, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    Laurie,

    My favorite approach is to take action based on being well informed and having visibility into what is going on in your childs online life is the all important first step.

    I am a parent of two children. We have a free parental control service called 8snaps.com which takes screenshots and sends to the parents online account. Therefore you can see what your children are doing online and if they are falling prey to the sexual predators or cyber bullying at any time of the day even if your children are away from home.

    Jacinta

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