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!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags internet privacyonline safety

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

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?