Last week I shared with you about a lunch I had with an FBI agent who was picking my brain about kids in today’s culture, the dangers they face, etc. This guy has helped develop a piece of software that helps parents monitor their kids’ browsing habits online. Many of you jumped onto the site to sign up for their free beta-test.
I told you that I’d provide you with some stories of real moms and dads who tried out this software called Parental Options. Interesting stuff. Here’s a few:
1) My husband and I were attending a prayer vigil at our church. Our time slot was from 11:00 pm to midnight. At about 11:30 pm, my cell phone began to vibrate. Parental Options was sending me an alert that our son was on the computer. We set usage parameters for his computer until 10:00 pm, and he was on the computer while we were away from home. I sent a text home and the computer was turned off.
2) There are a number of times where the software has helped us to know just how much time was spent on Facebook and other interesting websites vs. getting homework done. We expect our kids will multi-task but it is an eye opener for us (and them) when you can take a look at something that is recording the frequency (and duration) of toggling between a word document and Facebook for example. Healthy conversations are a result. Parental Options software has facilitated our ability to talk about the content available via the internet just as we would about TV or movies. Our kids are not navigating this part of their lives alone.
3) My daughter was engaged in IM chat in Facebook around 2am with someone that she had just met at school. (She was up doing homework). The Parental Options program highlighted all of the words in the chat conversation that are “grooming” words (words that signal that a person is trying to get to know someone, and establish a trusted relationship with them). The program was teaching us what to look for when reviewing her activity.
4) I got the software just to check on my kids’ internet browsing from time to time. Unfortunately, I found that one of my boys had visited some pornographic sites. (Parental Options says that viewing browser history alone isn’t completely reliable because kids can use multiple browsers and erase some history while keeping the rest. I didn’t know that.)
5) My son was playing an online game and chatting there with a “friend” from school. This “friend” was bullying him and using language that would tear apart anyone’s self confidence. This was caught and addressed because the software highlighted some of the words that were used in the conversation. ( At this point, not all bullying language will be highlighted because people can be vicious in such diverse ways. But, with the software running, you always have the opportunity to scan the chat and ask your child about the person they were interacting with.)
Here’s the web site where you can read a little more about it: ParentalOptions.com …I’m pretty impressed with what I have seen so far.