Computers are an amazing resource for everyone to enjoy, but they often can lead to wrongdoing and open a portal to unknown and suspicious content. As a parent or even an employer, the unknown can be quite scary. Kids can be exposed to inappropriate adult content that they’re not ready for, or possibly even predators and scammers. Employers may face employees abusing company owned hardware or stealing company owned information. As such, there may be situations in which tracking another person’s computer may be necessary. If you fall into this category, here’s how you can go about it.
Before you begin, it’s worth noting that computer spyware can be illegal. However, there are a handful of very specific conditions in which you’re allowed to spy on another person’s computer. For example, an employer may keep track of and watch certain things that employees do, but only on hardware that the employer owns. Additionally, parents can monitor what their children do online because they are legally responsible for their kids. Beyond that, there aren’t many situations in which e-monitoring is possible.
Monitor and Restrict a Child’s Activity with Parental Control Tools
Both major computer platforms, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X have built in tools that can be a basic line of defense for your children and unwanted activity on the internet. The parental control functions offer basic abilities to monitor and filter your child’s activity. Both platforms have rudimentary but powerful features, which are listed as follows:
- Block certain websites or apps (Windows and OS X)
- Set screen time limits (Windows and OS X)
- Filter age inappropriate apps and games (Windows and OS X)
- Restrict access to hardware such as the built-in camera (OS X)
- Block communications from certain apps such as e-mail and messaging (OS X)
However, there are downsides to the built in controls on each platform. For starters, the built in controls can be easily defeated as they only apply to the built in browsers for each platforms. When you block websites using these controls, it only applies to the Windows Edge browser or OS X Safari. Children can use other independent browsers such as Google Chrome which will not be blocked.
Track Your Child’s Computer Activity with Third-Party Software like Symantec Norton Family Premier
Norton Family Premier is a third-party software that offers robust tracking and monitoring features that can help keep your child safe. Norton is one of the leading names in computer security, making it an extremely trustworthy service that will safeguard your private information. Here’s a quick rundown of the features that Norton Family Premier offers:
- Block and filter web content based on preset categories or specific sites
- Limit the amount of time a child can spend on the device or set times of day when the computer can be accessed.
- Monitor and block Facebook activity such as creating a fake age
- See what YouTube and Hulu videos your child watches
However, Norton’s Family Premier software faces a variety of shortcomings. It does not work on Mac OS X, so if you’re a Mac user you’ll want to cross this one off entirely. There isn’t a free version anymore, and the software only blocks HTTPS sites on a few browsers, meaning that your child can access blocked sites that use HTTPS on unsupported browsers. Also, the web extension can easily be disabled. Plus, the price tag of $49.99 for the first year is very steep. With this being said, Norton offers a decent child monitoring service but it has multiple weaknesses.
Track Your Employees Productivity with ActivTrak
As an employer, you may want to make sure that employees are on task and not abusing company hardware. With the software, you can monitor several employees computers at once and it gives you detailed reports on a user’s activity. Here are some of the key features:
- Record when and how often certain applications are used.
- Take periodic screenshots of user activity
- Provides graphs and visual data presentations on time spent in specific applications.
- Alerts when users engage in an unwanted activity.
- Can be installed remotely (paid version only)
Overall, ActivTrak offers an affordable and efficient way for employers to monitor their employees activity. However, if users are looking for a more in depth monitoring service, this is not for you. It does not log keystrokes, and the software tends to rely more on employee productivity and analytics. While the software starts as a free download, if you want to monitor more than 3 computers it will cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, making it a steep cost for larger companies.
When it comes to child and employee monitoring, there are many solid options out there. Windows and OS X parental controls, Norton Family Premier, and ActivTrak are three decent but uniquely flawed options that can help to bolster peace of mind for parents and employers. However, it is important to remember that when using monitoring software maintaining trust and confidence in children and employees is of utmost importance. There are many ethical and legal complications to monitoring, and you should make sure to maintain the trust and peace of mind of those being monitored.