Parental Tools to Monitor and Protect Your Digital Family - dummies

Parental Tools to Monitor and Protect Your Digital Family

By Amy Lupold Bair

When deciding whether monitoring tools and protective software are right for you and your family, keep in mind the ways to help your children stay safe online without taking this next step:

  • Are you able to check the web browser history on your home’s computers?

  • Have you Friended your children on social media sites?

  • Have your children provided you with the passwords to their accounts?

  • Have you installed basic antivirus and anti-malware software on your devices to protect your family from dangerous sites, links, and pop-ups?

  • Have you activated privacy settings on the browsers, devices, and social media used by your children and teens?

  • Have you created a Digital Family Policy and gone over that policy with your children?

If you’ve taken these steps and would still like to implement additional safety measures, it’s time to monitor your child’s activity and deploy protective software to block and restrict use on your family’s devices.

Monitoring tools can help you watch social media activity and provide you information regarding what your child is doing publicly. Other tools, however, can be installed on devices to provide parents with reports about what they are doing privately in chat locations and e-mails.

Protective software can block or filter keywords and site names to prevent access to certain websites and content. Programs offer different levels of coverage. Some simply block content the program considers inappropriate; others let you customize filtering and include time limits for computer use.

If your children use multiple devices in your home to access the Internet, you can block inappropriate sites on all devices connected to the same Internet router, including PCs and game consoles. These hardware-based solutions can apply Internet content filtering and Internet time scheduling to every Internet-connected device in your home. These types of solutions are more difficult to customize than software and subscription-based filtering tools, though.

The following are some of the most popular monitoring tools and protective software:

  • Bsecure Online, Bsecure Family Safety features social media protection, online media filtering, parental alerts for web and social media networks, text and e-mail alerts, whole home–filtering options, and integrated mobile filtering apps for Android and iOS devices.

  • ChildwebGuardian screens page content for keywords and phrases, blocks blacklisted sites, allows for Internet use restrictions according to days and times, stores URLs of visited pages, sends reports via e-mail, restricts access to approved sites only, and allows gaming restrictions by day and time.

  • CyberPatrol provides parents with parental controls allowing for web filtering, online time limits, Internet activity monitors, chat and IM restrictions, and program blocking.

  • CYBERsitter includes remote monitoring, Facebook and Twitter activity recording, user-specific content filter controls, user-specific time schedules, different content filters for different members of the family/age groups, and the capability to block specific applications from accessing the Internet.

  • eBLASTER records e-mails, social media messages, chat and IM, keystrokes, web browsing activity, applications run, and log on activity.

  • McAfee safeeyes filters web, video, and music content; and also creates reports that include Internet search activity, IM activity, and social network use.

  • Net Nanny provides parents with the capability to filter Internet content, block adult content, set usage time limits, monitor social media activity, monitor IM and chat room use, mask inappropriate language, and receive cyberbullying alerts.

  • Norton Family provides families with smartphone monitoring; web monitoring and blocking; and capability to set time limits, monitor social network activity, track Internet searches, and receive e-mail alerts.

  • Avira Social Network Protection scans activity and alerts parents to contact from strangers, potential cyberbullying, inappropriate content, and reputation risk.

  • Windows Live Family Safety provides family safety filters, website preference settings, and Windows parental controls.

  • iboss Home Parental Control Router offers a wireless router with filter functionality that acts as a firewall for all devices connected to the Internet through that router.

  • Identity Guard offers a variety of identity-monitoring services along with Internet monitoring, public record monitoring, credit monitoring, and more. Identity Guard also offers kID Sure, a product designed for child identity–theft monitoring.

  • LifeLock provides identity theft monitoring, credit- and noncredit-related alerts, monitoring for exposure of personal information, and comprehensive identity theft recovery services.