Software allows parents to track kids' online activities

October 21, 2011 4:07:08 PM PDT
Monitoring your kids' Internet activities used to be as easy as setting up the family desktop in the living room -- but not anymore. Now kids have smartphones, tablets, laptops and are online while on the go. But it does not mean parents are out of the loop.

Your kids have all sorts of electronic gadgets that can access the web, so how do you know they are staying safe? The answer is more technology.

With nine adopted kids, Roger Thompson's house is a high-tech hotspot.

"My kids will be on the Internet from all over the house, or perhaps in the backyard or in the bathroom. You can't, you can't possibly monitor it manually," Thompson said.

To make sure his kids are texting, chatting and surfing the web safely, Thompson is turning to new mobile monitoring software that allows parents to set Internet controls for almost any portable device.

Basic software can be bought from a mobile app store for just a few dollars, while more advanced protection can be found for under $70 online. Some companies offer a free mobile upgrade to existing subscribers, while others charge a monthly fee.

"You can monitor SMS messages, text messages. You can monitor emails, you can even monitor GPS location," malware researcher Tim Armstrong said.

Maybe you're concerned about cyberbullying. With monitoring software you can capture calls, emails, chats and texts to make sure your child isn't a target. You can also monitor websites visited and set up keyword alerts.

"If a child sends an email with the word "party" in it or "gambling" in it or "drinking" in it, the parent can get a special kind of instant alert so they know that there's something going on that they really want to address immediately," said Jeani Park with SpectorSoft.

You'll also be able to see all photos sent and received from your child's phone. The new software can even keep tabs on your child's location using GPS. By setting up a "geo-fence," if your child leaves the perimeter, you'll be alerted.

"We don't snoop, but the software is able to watch for trends that might be developing that we should be made aware of," Thompson said.

If you want to track all of your child's mobile habits, you have to buy the software then install it on your computer and the devices you wish to track.

Monitoring software can be found through your smart phone applications store. You can also find them online by typing "mobile monitoring software" in your search engine.

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