Keep an eye on your children’s internet usage
Standard parental control software works by preventing your computer from accessing inappropriate websites or using applications that have not been approved. When children (or others whose access you want to restrict) are using the computer they then can’t access those sites or programs.
Recently a new type of control software has appeared, which monitors your children’s internet usage and, rather than blocking anything, allows you to view what they've been up to. Spysure is one example, which is reviewed on the Computeractive website, and Checkstick does a similar job.
Unlike Spysure, which is supplied on a CD, Checkstick comes on a USB memory key. When it is plugged in, the user is prompted to start the program (a useful help sheet explains the process in Windows XP and Vista).
Once it’s loaded, you will see a list of users and whether or not they’ve been ‘scanned’ before. Fortunately the Help function includes a very informative video presentation that explains the process of setting up and using Checkstick.
The monitoring is limited to listing websites visited, and listing instant messenger conversations and emails. As with Spysure, though, emails are only shown if they are sent from a program such as Outlook Express.
One nice touch is that the program takes photo snapshots of the screen every few seconds, so you can see exactly what was happening on screen. You cannot search for on-screen text this way, but it can search for window titles, though.
The program continues to run even if you remove the USB device, and it is not easy for kids to remove it, as it operates in a hidden mode when the key is not plugged in.
Checkstick is a clever program, but it is limited to monitoring only parts of what children do online. Parenting with regard to the internet is a personal matter but we would prefer a combination of blocking and monitoring, something that requires extra software in addition to Checkstick – a one-stop program would have been more useful.
A good way to monitor your child’s internet usage, but monitoring was limited and some blocking software would have been a good addition. Good points Monitors web activity; can show some instant messenger conversations; snapshots provide a useful view of usage Bad points Can’t monitor web-based email or some chat programs; doesn’t include site-blocking features
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