Monitoring Your Children’s Online Activity

The temptation and lure of the Internet is often a little too much for some people, especially young people who are repeatedly told not to look or go somewhere on it. Tell a young person not to open a box and most will lift the lid when you’re not around.

Eyes in the Back of Your Head

Human nature finds most of us sneaking a peek at something we shouldn’t and children and young people are certainly no different. Young children will most likely avoid those areas on the Internet the parent or guardian has told them to never go to; however, older children and teens may find it a little too tempting.

The tech-savvy youngsters of today will already have a better idea of how to circumvent technological restrictions that we’ve put in place. We’re not saying they’re hacking or do anything particularly bad, it’s just that sometimes we need to see what all the fuss is about ourselves, rather than take someone else’s word for it. Here then, are some of the tricks that the modern, digitally capable young person can do to hide what they look at on the internet.

Private Browsing

Private browsing, privacy mode or incognito mode is a feature built into every browser, regardless of the computer or device’s operating system. It is, as the title suggests, a privacy feature that will disable the browsing history and web cache; it stops any data from the browsing activities from being stored on the device or computer.

Monitoring What's Going On1

With private browsing mode enabled, which takes just a couple of clicks of the mouse, someone can effectively run a search for something they shouldn’t, view the content and close down the private browser window without anyone ever knowing they were on the site. There are ways and means in which you can check for private browsing but it’s often hit and miss and not entirely accurate, which is the whole point of private browsing in the first place.

Webmail

It’s easy enough for someone to create a webmail account, such as Yahoo or Gmail and use it without anyone knowing of its existence. Combine a webmail account with private browsing, for example, and a young person could have an entirely anonymous email account without there being any trace of it on your system, as nothing will be stored locally.

Monitoring What's Going On2

There are also plenty of fake email services available, so in effect a different persona could be created with relative ease, as we’ve seen in previous anonymous and privacy sections of this book. Either way, it’s certainly possible for a young person to have an email account you know nothing about.

Burner Phones

Whilst a burner phone is usually a phrase we hear on TV cop shows, the reality is startlingly close. It’s not unheard of for a young person, often a teen with a job, to purchase a second pay-as-you-go phone that they can use to contact someone or access the Internet and other apps without you knowing.

Monitoring What's Going On3

Never underestimate the resourcefulness of a young person. Just as with a cop show burner phone, it’s an easy enough device to hide from a parent or guardian. Naturally there’s a limit to what a young person can get away with but it’s something worth keeping in mind. Another of the many elements to look out for with a young person who’s being groomed, is a burner phone the groomer may give to them. This way, they’re able to contact the young person with a higher degree of anonymity.

Secret Social Media

When used with an unknown webmail address, and private browsing, it’s an easy task to create a secret social media account. Try it yourself and see how far you can get using Twitter and Facebook and the like.

Despite the fact that creating a fake social media account is against the social media platform’s rules, it’s not something they’re able to police with any great efficiency. Just like a secret email, it’s extremely difficult to see if a young person has set up a secret social media account.

OS on a stick

It’s possible to have an entire operating system on a USB stick and be able to boot into the OS outside the system that’s installed on the computer. This makes for an impressively anonymous and secure platform to browse from, as everything is done via the USB stick and the temporary session held in memory.

Naturally, the young person will need to reboot the computer and boot into the OS on the USB drive but that takes mere seconds these days. The end result is something you’ll never likely be aware of.

Monitoring What's Going On4

Of course, we’re not saying you should police your children like a prison warden. There will come a point where you simply have to have faith that you’ve taught them right from wrong and let them go and discover the world by themselves, however painful that may be. There’s a fine line between protection and controlling and its borders are ever shifting thanks to the technology available and the ever-growing curiosity of young people.

However, we can make sure that a young person is educated and Internet-wise enough to be able to make decisions for themselves; and, as you would expect, we also need to ensure that they’re not the victim of any digital attack. An open relationship is credited as being the key here, as often stated by professional bodies.


Top Ten Online Monitoring Tools

Monitoring tools usually come within a complete Parental Control package. These tools can be dedicated programs, or come as a part of a security suite. Either way, they’re excellent ways to help keep children and young people safe on the Internet.

We’ve collated ten of the better parental control and monitoring tools and software, in no particular order. Some offer their software for free, others you need to pay for.

Qustodio – We’ve mentioned Qustodio in the previous guide, so it’s a good example to kick of this top ten tools section with. Qustodio is a complete package that monitors, blocks, filters and controls times, games and apps across many different platforms. Pricing for up to five devices starts at £32.95 per year.

Ten monitoring tools to install and use1

OpenDNS – OpenDNS from Cisco offers both free and paid-for services to help block inappropriate content across virtually any Internet connected device. You need to set up DNS entries in your router to take advantage of it but full instructions are given via a helpful setup guide.

KidLogger – KidLogger is an interesting product that offers a basic, single device with nine days of history for free, moving up to five devices, then ten devices for increasing costs. You can monitor browser activities across Windows, Mac and Android; block apps, take screenshots and limit time, amongst other features.

Net Nanny – Without a doubt, one of the most respected parental control solutions available is Net Nanny. It’s been around since 1996 and offers unparalleled levels of filtering, protection, monitoring and parental controls. It’s cross-platform and prices vary depending on what you want, so it’s best to check out the latest offers available.

Ten monitoring tools to install and use4

Bitdefender Total Security – Bitdefender’s Total Security suite offers an excellent parental control and monitoring tool within it’s already impressive list of features. It’s cross-platform, can shield children and young people from inappropriate content and extends its use to mobile devices too. Pricing starts at just £34.99.

uKnowKids – uKnowKids provides a wealth of features for parents, including call logging on devices (with Facetime call logs), image reviews that children post, social media monitoring and web browsing history access and controls to block inappropriate content. Pricing varies, so it’s best to visit the uKnowKids site to see the latest offers available.

Mobicip – Mobicip is a cross-platform tool that offers app monitoring, web browsing monitoring, time limits and custom filters. The basic package is free but has some good features on offer, whilst the premium package costs $39.99 per year.

Ten monitoring tools to install and use7

Norton Family – Norton Family is a previously mentioned tool that offers both free and paid for services to help protect children and young people online. It’s cross-platform, provides protection for social media accounts, time supervision, activity monitoring and much more. Check the site for the latest features and pricing.

Kaspersky Total Security – Kaspersky Total Security, very much like Bitdefender, offers a parental control feature within its security suite. With it the parent or guardian can set time restrictions, block access to inappropriate content, monitor Internet activities and monitor communications on mobile devices. Prices start at just £31.99 per year for a single device.

K9 Web Protection – K9 Web Protection (nothing to do with protecting dogs from accessing the Internet) is a free, cloud-based Internet filter that blocks inappropriate content, sets time restrictions, forces safe search on all search engines and works on both Windows and Mac computers.

Find more guides like this in…

Russ Ware

Russ has been testing, reviewing and writing guides for tech since the heady days of Windows 95 and the Sega Saturn. A self-confessed (and proud) geek about all things tech, if it has LED's, a screen, beeps or has source code, Russ will want to master it (and very likely take it apart to see how it works...)

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close