In the real world, you can ensure your family's safety and wellbeing by keeping them away from strangers and questionable content, by locking the doors and by closing the curtains. However, your computer grants the cyber world access to your home, opening the doors to strangers, dangers and negative influences. That's why monitoring software is a must-have to defend your family and their computers from digital mischief.
Online predators, cyberbullies, pornography and violence lurk on the internet, but you can shield your family from unwanted exposure through computer-monitoring software. These programs show you what is going on during the times you can't be right there with a watchful eye.
The best monitoring software offer an array of options and tools to help safeguard your family. The top three products we reviewed – SpyAgent, WebWatcher and PC Pandora – have a long list of features you'll find useful to protect your family and give you peace of mind. You can learn more about computer monitoring in our featured articles. Continue reading below to find out what we looked at and what we think is important to consider before you make your purchase.
When choosing monitoring software, there are a few things to consider. Different programs offer different levels of protection and different options for recording activity, filtering content and blocking access. The following are the categories on which we focused:
The best monitoring software will include a variety of tools and features for monitoring, and they do it without the user having any idea. All of the services we reviewed silently log topics searched, websites visited and keystrokes entered. Not only does keystroke logging provide a glimpse at typed content, it in turn provides access to usernames and passwords.
Social media is a concern for many parents, and a number of programs offer social-media monitoring tools for websites like Facebook and Twitter. Screenshots will let you see if your child is posting inappropriate photos or chatting with a person he or she doesn't know. Further, many systems monitor instant messaging chats from online providers, web-based email services and email attachments.
Some website-monitoring systems also work as computer-monitoring software, tracking activity on your computer. They keep track of files opened and the duration of use. Document tracking follows files that were opened, edited and even relocated on the hard drive.
Blocking & Controls
While basic monitoring is a standard feature, not all internet usage monitor software allows you to block or filter content. If you want a preemptive strike against inappropriate use, you will want to make sure your choice also offers blocking options. Blocking entire websites is a common feature, and some programs go further to offer blocking based on keyword or categories, including options like pornography and gambling.
Some setups offer advanced blocking options, too. If different users require different levels of access, you'll want a software that allows you to control restrictions based on user. If you want to make sure no one is using the computer after midnight, an application with scheduled-blocking options would be a good choice.
With all of the screenshots, logs and information saved from website monitoring, you'll want to make sure the way in which the information is presented and accessed fits your needs. Many systems will email reports automatically to the administrator. With some programs, you can access information via the internet. Most spy software offers access to the dashboard and reports directly on the monitored computer.
Built-in reports that itemize content and users make scanning through information more efficient. For example, with some software you can view a list instant message chats and see who they were with and when they took place; you can even see if flagged keywords come up. This type of organization makes it easy to quickly find what you are looking for.
In addition to scheduled emailed reports, some applications also send email alerts if they detect certain keywords. For example, if a user types profanity into a search engine or status update, the administrator will automatically receive an email alert.
Help & Support
Manufacturers should offer solid help and support, and the company's website is a great resource, generally offering customer services by email, website form or live chat. Most websites have FAQs or customer forums for quick answers before contacting customer service. Many manufacturers also offer free demos to check out the software before you buy and upgrade options after your initial purchase.
With the increase of computer and internet use, increased protection is necessary to keep your family safe. Negative influences of all kinds are only a few keystrokes away, but computer-monitoring software offer protection and peace of mind when you can't be there. Options range from basic website monitoring to full control over websites, searches and applications. If you aren't sure which software fits your needs, use our reviews to determine how much protection and coverage each piece of software offers so that you can cater to your family's needs.