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Technology should make our lives easier
• Comprehensive time control features
• Records IM conversations
• Real-time reports sent by email
• Effective and kid-proof
• No text notifications
• Some bugs which make the system freeze
KidsWatch’s main selling point is its time control feature for controlling kids’ computer use. And not just internet time, you can control both internet and program use with the KidsWatch software.
KidsWatch is just behind Net Nanny in terms of its overall function and features. What makes this software worth spending money on?
When you install the KidsWatch software you can add it to a maximum of three computers. There’s also an annual fee that covers the web filtering services. If you stop paying your annual subscription you still get the time management parts of the software but not the parental web control features.
KidsWatch is compatible with most of the most popular Security Software Internet packages. There may be an installation issue if you also have F-Secure Internet Security.
Filtering & blocking
Websites – The KidsWatch software allows you to filter the websites you want to block by either individual website or by category. You can block and filter searches that use adult phrases and keywords. The technology works on a real-time basis to block access to websites that are deemed to be dangerous or of an adult nature. You can also pick and choose your blocked websites and override the restrictions placed on certain categories of websites.
Also, you are protected against adult and inappropriate content placed on websites that your child can access, for example adult dating adverts on movie sites. The filtering works whatever browser the kids are using.
IM & chat – You can’t block IM use for kids like with Net Nanny, you can just “listen in” to the conversations.
Other – Your KidsWatch technology also helps you by blocking infected sites, spyware, phishing and malicious viruses before the content is downloaded – good if kids aren’t reliable in clicking on virus software updates when they come up.
KidsWatch also prevents illegal downloads of music and videos, and stops kids from being able to install new software on your PC. If you want, you can block kids’ access to Windows files and applications.
Each child has their own user name and password but what’s to stop an older child from giving their password, and greater Internet privileges, to their younger sibling? We think you’ll still have to do a fair amount of monitoring to check your family isn’t abusing the system. But short of installing voice recognition or fingerprint login features (which KidsWatch doesn’t have), this problem is a common one with many parental control software packages. However, KidsWatch is robust and ingenious enough to stop kids getting around the system with renamed programs etc. If kids try to get around the time control feature by setting the clock back in order to grab extra time, it automatically resets to the right time in a few seconds.
Kids will obviously know there is a parental control system running when they first see a message saying their internet time is up. But, they won’t be able to get around the system or stop it from blocking websites and Instant Messaging, if that is what it has been set up to do.
KidsWatch is focused on getting your children to spend time efficiently on the Internet, not to spend hours on social networking and games at the expense of homework and school projects. You can set time controls per child, so everyone has a custom schedule for the week, meaning fewer arguments over who has the computer. If you’re keen on being completely in control you can set different schedules for different days of the week. With KidsWatch you can also block certain websites at certain times of the day – for example, social networking sites when they should be doing their homework.
When your child has extra homework or a school project to complete, you can set a one-time-use password to allow extra time on the computer. The one-time-use passwords can be a bit tricky to manage, because each password is for one specific use and you need to enter them, and save them, correctly in order for the override system to work. You can’t log-in remotely to issue these override passwords, which is difficult if you’re working late and your children are requesting extra time to finish a project due tomorrow.
You’re always in the know when you use this kind of parental control software. KidsWatch gives you full activity reports detailing which sites your children visit, which programs they are using and how long they spend online. When your child chats on Facebook, Yahoo, MSN or other social networking sites you receive the full text of what was said and when.
However, you have to set up your schedule of email reports – the system doesn’t send everything automatically. You must state which user you want to receive a report from, and which reports you want to see. This can be a little time consuming if you just want everything.
You receive real-time email alerts when your children types or receives a dangerous phrase or a suspect keyword in chats, which alerts you to possibly inappropriate conversations and themes. You can add your own keywords to watch out for, based on your own child’s experience and character. There’s no text notification, which is a shame because parents are not always online and reading emails when their children are on the Internet.
Ease of use
Controlling your restricted sites and maintaining the system is easy and straightforward. Many of the blocklists work with tick lists – you simply check or uncheck the sites and categories as you see fit.
You can customize the time limits for each of your children, but if you want to you can simply go with the pre-set limits for children based on their age (Young, Adolescent, Teen etc). Just don’t forget all your passwords if you are the administrator – these can be difficult to retrieve without resorting to specialist software.
Help & support
Access technical support over the phone from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Saturday. You can also email KidsWatch with questions 24 hours a day, although emails are generally responded to within 12 hours.
KidsWatch is an easy to use and effective time control system for your internet. It may lack some of the internet control features that Net Nanny has, but the package is good value and you can install it on up to three computers.
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