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What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

My 5th grader recently copped to looking at "naked pictures" on the web and was also told by a friend how to delete web browsing history. I don't want to be a total prude, keep my kids under constant surveillance, or force my kids away to phones or friends homes to use the internet. My kids ages range from 5 to 14, which makes this issue even more difficult. I have a Windows 8.1 desktop and Windows 7 laptop and a few Android tablets. Maybe just some piece of software that restores browsing history would be enough. Any advice on sensible (and preferably easy) ways to monitor and/or censor kids internet usage? Anyone have a good tried and true recipe they have used?

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All Answers

Best Answer chosen by mosteve

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Tools for monitoring/filtering the internet for kids

In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

I have 3 kids, ages 6 to 13, and this has been important in my home.

The first and most important thing is communication. You need to talk with your children about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate as well as what the household rules are for internet use.

In my home, I also have a rule that all devices are subject to "spot-checks"
at any time. I rarely do this, but the knowledge that I can and do check
on things serves as a deterrent to inappropriate internet use;
especially on social networking sites. For device specific controls, I recommend K9 Web Protection in conjunction with setting restriction on each device. Desktop computers need to be in public areas where anyone can see the screen; mobile devices are more difficult.

As there are multiple devices and platforms, controls on one device are often insufficient. I use router based tools to cover my entire home network. That does not mean you should not make use of device specific parental controls, but those can be inadequate.

For filtering, I use openDNS. This works at the level of the router to provide filtering across the entire network and is highly customizable. You can select from over 50 categories to block anything from pornography, drugs, weapons, and hate/discrimination, to more mundane topics such as blogs, photo sharing, etc. You can also fine tune this by adding sites to always block or never block if certain sites need to be blocked or allowed despite the filters.

To manage time restrictions, I use a set of excellent parental controls on my router. I have an ASUS RT-AC66U router, but there are other options for good parental controls on a router. With my router, I can manage time restrictions that are device specific, so all devices my kids use have no internet connectivity during "bedtime hours" as well as an hour after school set aside for reading and non-internet based homework. Device specific settings enables me to have different time-windows for the 13 year old and the 6 year old.

No single tool is bullet-proof, nor should you insulate children in ignorance. Children lack the experience and wisdom of adults and should therefore be educated about the potential dangers of the internet and also protected from inadvertently stumbling upon inappropriate material.

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My own experience

In reply to: Tools for monitoring/filtering the internet for kids

Would like to share my experience. I've been monitoring spy apps for a long time. Very jealous, and nothing can be done about it Happy Now then...there are lots of them in the internet, but the majority of them is a crap. Fortunately, found some outstanding apps. Spytomobile is my favourite. If you're interested, here's their website: spytomobile.com
It locates, makes tracks, retrieves sms, calls, contacts. But the main advantage to my mind is that you can read "victim's" whatsapp messages. I think many faced with problems in whatsapp messages retreiveing. Thank goodness didn't find such problems in spytomobile. Nice work.

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In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

Put the computer in a public area like a kitchen or den. It's a common cure for this one.

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Consider Norton ConnectSafe ...

In reply to: Easy.

You can change your DNS settings (Google "change DNS setting on Windows 8" without the quotes) and use one of three pairs offered here.

The first pair block malicious sites.

The second pair do that and block porn sites, as well.

The third pair do all that and, more aggressively, blocks sites that contain offensive language, hate themes, etc.


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I've seen that fail and then we have this.

In reply to: Consider Norton ConnectSafe ...

Read my 10 year old advice at http://tips.oncomputers.info/archives2004/0401/2004-Jan-11.htm and one of the uses is to boot up and bypass any installed restrictions.

Kids are smart and will get around any software solution fast. If you want to engage in a war of wits go ahead but the easy solution is to get the PC out into the open.

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Don't know if I'm on the right track

In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

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Parental Controls

In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

For your PC - do as others say and put it in the open. Get yourself a wireless security system (such as VueZone available at Costco) so you can check in every once in awhile if you're away from home.

Tablets and other Android devices are another story....tablets can't be locked down in a common area. Same with any kind of smart phone. If you have an Apple device it's pretty easy. If you have a smart kid and an Android device, it gets very hard. I installed Funamo parental control software on our Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, and it took him 10 minutes to get around it (he rooted the device).

The best solution is to remove access. Tablets are always in the common room; when you leave the house, they go with you. Get an iPhone or iPad and set the restrictions. Pretty solid, even if it's jail broken.

Talk to your kids. Stay open with them. Good luck.

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What I did

In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

This works great: K-9 by Blue Coat (and it is free)

If you want to monitor what they do, use this:
SpectorSoft - A little pricey, but works very well. Especially if you have a network.

I agree with keeping the computer in the open. It helps, but is not foolproof either.
None of these are foolproof if you have a motivated kid. Mine set up a hidden video cam and then asked me to unblock a site for a school paper. After that he had the admin password. Discovered that with Spectorsoft. It became a game of cat and mouse throughout middle and high school. I'm not sure who won. In retrospect, I am not sure it mattered.

And don't forget - your kid can always surf at his friend's house.
Good Luck.

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Trust the enhanced anti-tampering, even children can't break

In reply to: What I did

Yes, we use Bluecoat (enterprise) at work. Unless the kids have administrator access, they probably can't mess with this one.

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And given kids can boot other OSes?

In reply to: Trust the enhanced anti-tampering, even children can't break

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That Can Be Dealt With Easily

In reply to: And given kids can boot other OSes?

Most computer cases can be locked. BIOSes can be locked with an administrator password. Boot sequence can be set to boot from hard drive and not CD/DVD/Thumb.

The point is that kids won't be easily able to do much without being caught. Also, if you just make it more difficult to boot from other OSes, especially if kids have no admin access, than they probably won't go where they are not supposed to. Unless they go over to a friend's house.

I still think talking to the kids is the right thing to do. I guess you can always block things at the router......

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My simplest fix was to move the PC to an open area.

In reply to: That Can Be Dealt With Easily

Otherwise you are in a battle of wits.

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BIOS password not really a solution

In reply to: That Can Be Dealt With Easily

Locking the bios may work for a while, but it's fairly easy to reset the password...

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Not if they can't open the case

In reply to: BIOS password not really a solution

The point is, the kids can't boot "other OSes" if you make it so they can't boot from anything but the hard drive (requires changing BIOS settings) and they can't reset the password if a) they don't know what it is to begin with and b) they can't open the case. The real issue is trying to get them to understand the dangers and issues that go along with hitting these sites.

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Thank you

In reply to: What I did

I just have to say, your kid is awesome! Thanks for the smile. And I'm hoping my kids don't read here- too many ideas for them Happy

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"Dat's my boy"

In reply to: What I did

You should give your kid a medal for ingenuity !

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Blocking porn/ bad language for young children.

In reply to: What I did

There are enough good answers for everyone on this topic.
I would choose a combination of suggestions. Altering the DNS of goolge or other search engines is one.
Or looking up the webpage history. Of a keystroke software.
Speaking about bad web sites with your children but saying do not go there will be like a red rag to a bull!
You also cannot monitor your children when they are away from home.
Also be willing to discuss and help your children if they come across upsetting pictures. Road traffic victims photos for example which can be more upsetting than porn.

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Many Things You Can Do

In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

As others pointed out, kids are pretty sophisticated these days so, before you BUY software, read the reviews and see how well the software works for others. First, of course, try free software but the best software may be one you need to pay for.

Next, change the BIOS administrator password. You may need help from a technical friend to help you do this for your specific model. It usually means that you need to hit a key during boot-up (F2? F12?) to get into the computer setup. The administrator stuff will be under "security" and please do NOT forget any password you set up here. You may also want to go into the boot options to set the boot order. Make sure the hard drive is the FIRST in the boot order and everything else is below that. This should take care of the kids trying to use a boot disk.

Your technical friend should enable you to change the Windows Administrator password. You should do this too. And make sure the childrens' accounts are NOT administrators.

There are lots of software products to help you lock down the computer for each user name or group. It can even control when the computer and/or the Internet can be used and some keep a log that you can read to see what the kids use.

Also, as someone else suggested, you should move the computer to a more public area of the house. For example, move it near a place where you walk by and can see the screen.

ABOVE ALL: This is the time to have a serious conversation with your kids about proper surfing habits and "rules". Make sure that they know that computer access is a privledge that can be taken away. As someone pointed out, check out the Bluecoat website for help.

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Monitor Kid Behavior on the web.

In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

I am a man and will soon be 77. Like all young men I too would sneak peek nudies that gradually led to porn. After years of battling with feelings of guilt and trying to stop the temptation and trying to advise my own children against the problems that porn can cause, I finally found the answer in the Bible.
In the creation account.
God made all things and they were good. Adam and Eve were naked and they were made for each other. So sex is actually a beautiful gift of God for a man and a woman to be entwined not only physically but well beyond that.....spiritually as well.
My wife never actually experienced an orgasm (although she derived pleasure from the act) for ten years. It was only after we "grew spiritually" that we both had real highs.
All the tricks and gadgets you see in the sex sites can never match what God has given a man and woman.
Its good and beautiful.
We are not complete until we admit that we are more than physical. I hope this will help. Talk to your children about the beauty of sex and explain why porn sites give the wrong picture.
<script charset="UTF-8" src="chrome://hdv/content/hdv.js" type="application/javascript"></script>

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VNC is a great tool for monitoring...

There are a few tools out there that will send browsing data to a server, but this can be a bit of a problem in a home area because normally you don't keep a spare server in the home just to monitor internet usage and route all internet use through it - this is something normally only big businesses do - but the option is there.

I am in the scouts and in some of our IT suites we've run at camps we have gone down the route of installing a server to monitor their usage - but we have also used the following more realistic option....

There is a tool you can get for your PC called TightVNC - http://www.tightvnc.com/ if you install the server version on your kids PC, and then install the client/viewer version on your PC you can then login to their PC and see exactly what they are looking at. You need to know the hostname or ip address of the PC you want to connect to (the hostname is easier than the ip address because it doesn't change - to find the hostname open up a command prompt on your kids PC (in the start menu go into the search box and type CMD and press enter - if your still using XP then you need to click start and then run and enter cmd into the run box) then type hostname in the black box that appears and press enter)

If there is any firewall program on the PC or router you might need to configure them to allow VNC through them - to do this allow ports 5900 and 5800 (TCP&UDP) through the firewall and through the router.

Also when configuring VNC server on your kids PC it will ask if you want a password - your best setting a password so that only you can access the computer - you don't want anyone on the network (and possibly anyone on the internet to be able to login - the router should bounce requests back from the internet, but if you have port forwarding set up it might send the requests straight to the computer)

Once it's all set up you should be able to just go to your own PC, run the VNC client/viewer and type the hostname in and the password you set and click connect.

A screen will load up with the desktop on it and you'll be able to look at exactly what your kid can see. All he will see is a new icon in the bottom right corner near the clock (you can hide the tray icon - Open TightVNC configuration, choose Server tab, uncheck "Show icon in the notification area", press Ok.). There are also options to prevent shutdown of the VNC service.

When your in this screen try not to move the mouse because when you move the mouse across this screen it will also move the mouse on the other screen, you may have seen people in offices have their computers taken over in this manner and the mouse starts whizzing around the screen by the IT department.

If you notice that he is looking at something inappropriate you can if you want to open up something like notepad on his PC and type a message to him that you are watching his screen. He'll be really puzzled and worried - if you've hid the VNC icon as well and password protected the settings he won't even be able to remove it (even if he does it's proof that he's doing something he shouldn't be anyway).

The only problem with this method is that you need to occasionally keep checking up on him.

This is a good method, there are some other utilities out there like net nanny that monitor usage on the PC but all of these can be bypassed if the kid knows what they're doing (or has friends helping them) - believe me we have tried these net nanny programs at scout camps and usually within 5-10 minutes the kids have worked out how to disable them! With VNC because it's two computers involved it makes it so much harder for him to stop you from monitoring his internet usage. Even that there are ways to stop VNC, but if he does do that you know then he must be up to something that he doesn't want you to see, because why else would he disable it (and at that point it's a quiet tip-toe up to his room to find out!

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Tough call

In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

My kids have all flown the coup and have kids almost the age when I did this, but I found a rather primitive key logger that at least let me check in on what they were typing. At least I had some specifics of what they were up to, I'm glad there wasn't anything dangerous going on, and I wasn't ever too surprised. They knew the rules and the consequences for breaking them. I doubt they'd have smartphones or tablets with data plans until they had jobs and could pay for them.

These days, I'd probably just have something overtly on the computers, which would be in public areas, let them know that I'll be checking and that they're not the only tech-savvy ones in the house so don't think you can delete without me figuring out something was going on, and that I "have people"...just like I did back in the "olden days." >:-) Some things you can't do much about, but they also knew quite definitely that if they did something really wrong, that I wasn't likely to do much to interfere with the consequences. They grew up with the knowledge that while some people are too big to say "I told you so," I am NOT one of those people! (They also knew that if something really dangerous was going on, I'd be quite fearless about protecting my own.)

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windows 8.1

In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

If you're using windows 8.1 it offers a choice of setting up a child's account that will block all adult content. Just go to control panel and in the upper right corner it has a set up a family user account option.

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In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

- If your kids are old enough to wander the streets by themselves don't monitor them.
- If they are really young, protect them by creating a computer environment in which they are very limited in what they can do.
- And above all educate them. They will certainly at one point come across these "horrible" and "explicit" sites. You better prepare them. - You even should show them at a certain age what is lurking in the dark. Take away the mystic and the feeling that they are doing something forbidden.

And above they age of ten, don't think you can outwit them. They are much more savvy then you will ever become, regarding the use of computers and the www.<div>
One last thing. Warn them not to show themselves in an indecent way. What is on the internet can not be undone. And this also counts for photo's, so easily made by today's smartphones.

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Best comment so far

In reply to: Don't

Best comment so far. Spying on your children in any way only creates distrust. As a parent, that is something you really should avoid. This is far more damaging for your children (and much more damaging for your relationship to your children) than looking at some inappropriate web pages.
Lee Koo's introductory remarks are also very sensible.

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You can't block kids

In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

If your children are young enough to not want to look for porn on the internet, blocking software works great. It keeps them from stumbling across it (which isn't that difficult to do).

On the other hand, your 5th grader is old enough to want to find it, as he admitted to. No matter what you put on that computer to lock it down, he'll find a way around it. He can boot from a CD (as has been mentioned here before), use a browser that's not detected by the blocking software, change the network settings to use a different DNS server, use a friend's computer or tablet, or even run a virtual machine.

On the other hand, if there is no blocking software on the computer, your children won't go looking for ways to get around it. That's where rules and consequences come into play. The problem, however, is enforcement. And, that is where a stealth method of monitoring comes into play.

Most home routers have a DHCP server to hand out an internal IP address to each computer, tablet, phone, TV, or any other wired or wireless device. This server also tells each device what DNS server to use. The DNS server is what tells the computer that www.cnet.com goes to To simplify things and help with reliability, the router normally tells each device to use the router as the DNS server, and the router forwards requests to your ISP's DNS server. This is where your monitoring comes into play.

A DNS server knows every URL requested by every device on your network, including tablets, phones, and video game consoles. The devices don't need any software installed, so there's no way to tell they're being monitored. Most DNS servers don't track all these requests, but there are some that do (like the OpenDNS VIP package, which isn't free, but is cheap). Once you sign up for this, you change your router's DNS settings to point to it. Their computer will ask your router for the address to something like www.random-internet-porn.com, your router will ask the OpenDNS server (or whatever service you use), and it will show up in the log. Erasing the browser history won't erase the DNS log. You can do all this without even touching their computers.

If you want to get really fancy, you could install something like OpenWRT on your router and track DNS queries that way. This would let you trace it back to a specific device. However, that's much more complex to set up.

Now, it would still be possible for your children to get around this, but it's not something they'd do unless they know how you're monitoring them. The best solution to this is to find a creative way of "catching" them. Don't tell them that you're watching their DNS queries. Instead, tell them that you will be checking their computer periodically to make sure they're not visiting places they're not supposed to.

If you are worried that your children will get around it (and they have to know about it to want to bypass it in the first place), you can create a firewall rule to block all DNS queries (TCP and UDP port 53) unless the request is coming from the router's IP. This probably isn't a bad idea anyway, since it prevent a virus from hijacking your computer's DNS entries to send you to malicious sites.

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This sounds like what I would like to do.

In reply to: You can't block kids

"Silent" monitoring is what I really wanted to do as opposed to blocking or censoring. I am not sure I am tech savvy enough to do this. I don't know much about manipulating router settings. Can I find an idiots guide to accomplishing this? Also, does it matter that I use a rented router from Time Warner? I have an extra Belkin router that I could set up for wireless and only use the Time Warner equipment for modem purposes if it matters.

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In reply to: This sounds like what I would like to do.

....""Silent" monitoring is what I really wanted to do."....
Probably you also do not have second thoughts on what the NSA is doing. If you want to alienate your children from you, you are on the right track.

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In reply to: NSA


On the plus side, I guess I don't need to worry about their internet safety any more...

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HA!HA! Good one mosteve!

In reply to: OH NO!

I've played with some simple stuff on my own Windows PC, just to see if it works, and Vista came with Parental Controls and I used it to block many of the bad sites out there, and the application white list was one of the best anti-virus/malware tools I've ever used! Of course this post only covers PC desktop/laptop territory, you may be using other operating systems and hardware devices.

However the Browsers had fairly good parental controls built right in, and on limited or guest accounts they seemed to be turned on by default. If you have any of the Professional series of Windows operating systems, you can prevent browser settings changes by policy - but this is getting into heavy duty geek territory, and only some searching of sites will give you the screen shots and how to do it.

I figure some of these simple setups are usually good enough for most kids, and if they are just stubborn enough to try to bypass this kind of thing, at least they know you are concerned enough to make a good attempt at some kind of boundary. After that only a good relationship with the child, and some of the tips others have given here regarding that will be effective.

I'm sure as far as I would have been as a kid, just the fact that the Parental Control panel in the administrative account can reveal where I've been, would be enough for me to avoid things like that at home for good! It is getting harder NOT to bump into inappropriate content now days, however; and even misspelling a search or URL in the address bar can stumble upon bad sites. So accidents will happen. I've also found Web Of Trust (WOT) to be a good choice for blocking bad pages that have had a chance to be rated by enough people to react and block the page automatically. So we have now discussed three simple blocks for most of the junk on the web.

There again, if they go beyond that and they've been warned that monitoring is possible and they cannot change that tact short of pwning the device, maybe that will be discouraging enough. They will have to go to the library or somebody else's device to experiment with life!

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To the Parents

In reply to: What are some good ways to monitor kid behavior on the web?

Remember the old days before there were TV and Movies...

a] Our parents would give us rules whether we liked them or not.

b] They had certain consequences for failing to follow these rules.

As a parent you need to apply the principles of these rules.

The rules have NOT Changed ... the circumstances have changed.

It is up you to decide what is appropriate in your home ... I speak from experience from what happened when I separated from my wife and went home ... my father said to me you are welcome to stay here as LONG as you want as long as you abide by my rules.
You don't Like these rules ... you are free to leave.

While this particular consequence will not work with children and teenagers, the principle is important ...
You can try putting them on their honor ... of course you can set the parental control option on your computer after a general agreement is reached to make our teenagers agree to abide by that decision.

The key here is to get an agreement preferably signed by all parties and use the honor system... Your child needs to learn to keep his word. What he says is important ... [See Your Bible ].

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