How do I track my kid's surfing?

Is there a way to keep children from deleting their Web browsing history?

Tammy Setzer wants a way to keep her children from deleting their Web browsing history.

The browsers, like Internet Explorer and Firefox, won't let you do that. In fact, they're going in the opposite direction. They're adding features to help users cover their tracks. (I discuss these tools in Selectively Delete Some of Your Browsing History.) That's wonderful for adults, but it's problematic if you need to protect your children.

What you need is child protection software--a program that will operate in the background, keeping track of what your kids are doing, blocking stuff you want blocked, and reporting back to you.

Before I recommend a program, I want to discuss the best way to use such software. I'm writing this not as a technical expert, but as a father with a grown son and two teenage daughters.

If you tell your children that you're going to monitor their Internet access, they're going to hate you for it (at least temporarily). But if you don't tell them, it will be far, far worse when they finally find out. It's best to be open with them, weather the storm, and seriously listen to their objections. Let them be part of the decision-making process about what will and will not be allowed, even though you, of course, must retain the last word.

And tracking their surfing habits makes more sense than blocking sites. If they know that you can see every site they visit, they'll learn to make wise choices, and isn't that what this is all about?

I recommend a brand-new program from Symantec called OnlineFamily.Norton, in large part because it encourages feedback between parents and children. It won't even let you hide the fact that you're spying on them. If they visit a site that falls into a category you object to (last I counted there were 47 categories), they will be told why they can't visit that site, and they'll get an opportunity to write you about it. You can block sites in the undesirable categories, merely monitor them, or have Online.Family warn the kids then allow them to proceed.

Online.Family can also block certain searches, monitor instant messaging, and control how much time your children spend on their computers. That last one is important. Too much time on a computer can be worse for a child than what they do on it.

The actual program is quite small, and runs in the background on your child's PC. You can monitor their activity from the Online.Family Web site, or be alerted to problems via e-mail.

OnlineFamily.Norton is free through the end of the year. Symantec isn't saying what it will cost after that. I suspect they'll charge for it as an ongoing service, rather than a one-time purchase.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags online safetyinternet privacy

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lincoln Spector

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?