Have kids? Try a keylogger

I abhor programs that spy on users -- but Mom and Dad really need to know what's cooking online

It must be agonizing to have kids who use the Web. A friend called and asked what I'd recommend to keep an eye on the Internet access of her five kids. Four of the kids are girls; the oldest is about 16 and spending lots of time in chat rooms.

You've probably guessed I abhor programs that spy on users -- but Mom and Dad really need to know what's cooking online.

Philosophically, though, I'm okay with watching what people do on their PC provided they're fully aware that it's happening. I discussed this with Mom and Dad (remember, I'm a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) and they agreed: Trust with verification.

Hello Spector Pro

SpectorSoft's Spector Pro costs US$100 and I was stunned by how efficient it is at tracking everything -- and I mean everything -- a user does. It works in the background and unless you're really PC savvy, you won't even see it. Even if you do find it, you can't access the setup without a password.

I installed Spector Pro on my friend's computer, then logged in as each user, did a bunch of stuff -- opened applications, sent e-mail, sent instant messages, and chatted in a chat room. The program recorded everything I did on the computer, and even took snapshots of the screen. Afterwards, I could review everything.

Heck, I watched a video and Spector Pro recorded it, too -- I was able to see the desktop and media player showing the video. There's even a tab that reports on MySpace activity; with all those kids, it should be useful.

Another way to use Spector Pro is to see what Web sites users were on, and to review their actions to learn how and when they might have picked up spyware. The setup also lets you block access in a number of ways, including by time, application, and Web sites.

Spector Pro let me review the data from the activity for each of the kids. I could even use a filter to look at specific data for a particular type of activity.

Protecting children

Kids need protection, and there are other ways you can work towards keeping them safe online.

I always hope the government will come up with a magic wand. Unfortunately, it appears as if not much progress is being made on that front.

As you've probably guessed by now, though, I prefer the DIY method. Here are some how-tos and other ways your can take things into your own hands.

A friend of mine, Larry Magid, created SafeKids.com , a worthwhile site with ideas and tools for, as Larry says, keeping the Internet "fun, safe and productive."

The FBI's "A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety" is also useful, though I wish the site was a tad more reader friendly.

If you want in-depth help in making a child's online experience safe, you really need to look at iSafe and Staysafe.org ; and don't miss Scott Spanbauer's "Easy Ways to Keep the Internet Safe for All Ages".

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

Steve Bass

PC World
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

PC World Evaluation Team Review - MSI GT75 TITAN

"I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it."

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?