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Choosing best Parental Control Software

Posted on 2006-07-10
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Last Modified: 2013-12-04
I have been looking for a good Parental Control software and everytime I download one it turns out to be missing some feature that I want.  I am looking for the following features.

Set time of day and time limits for individual users to access the internet.
Log all AIM and chat sessions
Log internet activity
Log email activity
Email me complete logs of all activity, not just a summary.
Decide to just monitor or filter activity for users.

I can't seem to find all of this in one product and I would prefer not to have to pay yearly fee.
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Question by:waytron
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by:phototropic
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Parental Controls are always at best a blunt instrument
"...Decide to just monitor or filter activity for users." Filter what? How will you set the parameters? Keywords wont work; (The most popular kids TV show here in the UK is a BBC production called BLUE Peter!) Will you block sites? Which ones? Most kids these days are powerfully computer literate - they probably wouldn't have any trouble hacking past whatever barrier you set up. Indeed, they would most likely enjoy the challenge!
The best parental control is either to have one family computer in a communal place e.g. the living room of the family home. That way everyone knows what everyone is looking at.
Or go down the control freak route: a friend has built a server and administers internet access to his three kids in their bedrooms via a tight regime of keystroke logging and real-time access denial. His kids know that their Dad can see what they are viewing at any time, either in real time or after the event. I have no idea what the spec of his setup is, but if you really need to know I could ask him.
 But are you sure that you want to go down this route?
"...Set time of day and time limits for individual users to access the internet.
Log all AIM and chat sessions
Log internet activity
Log email activity
Email me complete logs of all activity, not just a summary"
Have you considered how your children will feel when faced with a regime like this?
I have three teenaged children who each have a computer in their bedrooms. I feel comfortable giving them this responsibility, and I believe they respect me for this. I trust them to use the internet sensibly, and they don't feel that they have to prove a point by accessing inappropriate material.
I think the best parental control is to show your kids that you trust them sufficiently to give them responsibility.
"...I can't seem to find all of this in one product and I would prefer not to have to pay yearly fee..."
What you want may not be available in a single software package, and you may have to build a fully locked-down network. Are you sure that is what you and your family want?
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by:waytron
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Hi Phototropic,

Thank you for your input.  The need is not for my family, I have been there and done that.  My kids are 25 and 22 and off on their own.  But rather, I have several customers that are looking for these products and the concern and need is ever growing.  I keep buying and downloading trials to try to find the ideal product and each one is missing something critical.  So far, I have found that Cybersitter is one of the best, however I can't seem to find a way to have different settings for each user as well as it is lacking total hours of use control.  You can control the time of day to access the internet but not the total time online.  Oh well, I will keep trying other products.

I agree with you to a certain extent but I have to tell you that everytime I have a customer that feels the way that you do and I end up working on their childrens computers, You would not believe the stuff that I find on their computers.  I don't care how good your children are or how much trust you have in them, they will go where they shouldn't, on purpose or by mistake.  And even if they don't, visiting friends will.  It seems that even if they are very responsible, they get addicted and end up staying up half the night playing games, on AIM or in chat rooms.

I don't have answer, but I feel there needs to be some control or accountability.
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by:waytron
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One other thought,  Not that I agree with it, but I have customers that have children that are 9, 10 and 12 that all have wireless laptops in their rooms.  I don't think they are old enough to be trusted and personally should not have their own computers, but they do and I really think they need some controls.
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by:phototropic
phototropic earned 400 total points
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"...I don't have answer, but I feel there needs to be some control or accountability..."
I like the sound of the word "accountability". I'm not so keen on the word "control".
I don't want to "control" my kids because I know that, in reality, I can't. They are 13, 15, and 18 and they do not want to be "controlled" any more than I do.  
What I tell my customers is that if they do not feel that they can trust their children with the responsibility of having internet access in their rooms, they should site the family computer in a family-accessible place - e.g. the living room. Net Nanny, Cybersitter and all the rest give your child a clear message: "We do not trust you. If we don't know what you are doing, you are bound to be doing something bad".  There is a willful naivety about parental control software which does not sit comfortabley with the reality of being a parent in 2006.
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by:phototropic
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And yes, I agree with you, I do not think a 9 year old can be trusted with the responsibility of having internet access in their room. Letting them have such access is a parental cop-out.
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Phil_Agcaoili earned 100 total points
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Cybersitter and Cyber Patrol are the best packages out there for content filtering and monitoring and both packages can be configured for multiple users and filtering profiles.

For limiting time online, Cyber Patrol can do this, but Cybersitter cannot.

Also have you thought about using Kiosk software inconjunction with Cybersitter? Many of the Kiosk software can limit online time and lock down many aspects of a system and can work with a content filtering such as Cybersitter.
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by:phototropic
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waytron,
I enjoyed the debate, but you need to close this question.
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