Protecting Your Children
I hope you have benefited from this year’s
Consumer Checkpoint columns. We greatly enjoyed reading or hearing
the many reader comments received, and I addressed a number
of them in this monthly column. As I look back at 2006, few
issues seem more important to readers than the concerns they
have regarding the vulnerability of their children or grandchildren
when they are on the Internet. We discussed this issue twice
before—in the April and May editions of the magazine (see
archived articles HERE). However,
a number of readers have asked me to take those discussions
First is a troubling statistic. According
to Forrester Research and the Wall Street Journal, only 32 percent
of online parents with teenaged children protect their computers
with parental controls. More parents would likely protect their
children online if they new what could be done and how to install
Fortunately, a wide variety of tracking software
is available to parents, although I must acknowledge that I
have not tried any of the software at home yet. You will want
to do additional background research on the software before
Some programs not only record where your child
might be going on the Web but also note the content of their
e-mails and instant messages. Other software may also include
a feature where it will send you a flagging e-mail message if
your child or his or her pen pal is engaging in potentially
IMSafer offers free software at www.imsafer.com
that you can download to your computer to determine if your
child is instant messaging, and it will log suspicious phrases
and conversations for your review.
Solid Oak Software offers a $39.95 CYBERsitter
web-filtering tool that is available at www.cybersitter.com.
The software blocks access to undesirable sites, records and
allows a view of all websites that were visited, records both
sides of instant messaging, sets time restrictions for Internet
usage, and allows parents to block networking sites such as
MySpace and FaceBook.
Makers of BeNetSafe, available at www.benetsafe.com,
advertise the software as “your automated Internet chaperone.”
BeNetSafe offers an $80- per-year program that profiles social
networking to determine if there are potential problems. The
site also discreetly notifies you if your child has given out
a phone number, e-mail address, home address, school information,
or your child is linked in any way to a “dangerous or
illegal activity.” Furthermore, the site tracks all of
the social-networking sites your child might use as well as
any alias names he or she uses.
SearchHelp, available at www.searchhelp.com,
markets“Sentry at Home” for $49.95. It too allows
you to block certain websites and look (from a separate computer)
at what your children are doing on the Internet in real time,
and it will notify you when your children type or search using
certain keywords or phrases. The software also allows you to
automatically shut down instant messaging or chat sessions when
inappropriate words, questionable phrases, or slang references
I hope you might find these tools to be helpful.
Again, check them out carefully before you buy.
Have a safe Holiday Season!