I had the opportunity to interview Ken Shallcross on behalf of PCPandora about computer safety. The interview is below, and you can also check out their tips for safe surfing.
1) In a nutshell, what does PC Pandora do?
Simply put: PC Pandora is a DVR for your computer. It records all activity. It take snapshots of screen content, so parents can see first-hand EVERYTHING their child is doing, and also records all activity in data logs that are easy to read. IMs, Facebook chats, emails, P2P activity, programs used, web pages, web searches, etc… all of it is recorded. It even breaks data down into graphs and charts so you can see how your kids are spending their time online.
2) Why is this important?
Note: I could write 17 pages on this one… I’ll keep it short.
This software gives parents a clear and accurate picture of what their child is doing on the computer. Too many other programs offer either just a filtering service (which your child can circumnavigate) or they focus on monitoring just social network activity. Of course, the latter also fails to monitor any accounts the parents are unaware of. The truth and facto of the matter is that kids are going to take risks and do things they are not supposed to – we did when we were young but we didn’t have the Internet to amplify the potentially disastrous results. No matter how much you talk to your kids, they will still do that they are going to do. And chances are, when they are up to no good (like bullying others online or talking to strangers), they are not going to admit it and will hide it. Being able to see for sure, being able to verify, what your child is doing with that computer you just gave them – is not only essential and imperative, but it is the best and only way you will be able to keep them truly safe.
The debate between spying (which I detest and refer to as the “s-word”) and good parenting rages on. But I like to ask – since when did becoming a parent that is well-informed of what their child is doing become such a bad thing. Since when did what you do as a parent to keep your child safe become something that needs debate? This isn’t spying. This is 21st century parenting. The internet allows your child to be active on a global scale… your CHILD. Why in the world would you not want to know full-well what they are doing, who they are talking to, what sites and groups they are participating in, and how they are representing themselves?
3) Do you have advice for monitoring other devices, such as cell-phones and web-enabled game systems?
We do not make products for them, no. but there is a market for them – absolutely, and it is one we may try to break into soon.
4) Obviously, parents shouldn't watch a 6-year-old, a 13-year-old, and a 17-year-old the same way. How can parents tailor their watchfulness to the age of their kids?
Great question! As far as a 6-year-old goes… they shouldn’t be left alone on the machine and should only be going to specific websites. No exploring the internet for a 6-year-old.
13 and 17 are the big questions. At 13 a kid is starting to really surf the net and join social networks (actually that happens around 11 or 12, so I will address that age in general – middle school). This is the most important time for parents to watch what their kids are doing online. Remember, tweens don’t really have a good filter system in place yet (in their brains) and they may do things that they will regret later, like posting inappropriate pictures, sharing private info, talking to anyone that messages them, etc. it is also the age where cyberbullying seems to be rampant. My advice – treat a 12-year-old on the internet like a 16-year-old that is learning to drive. You don’t just hand them the keys… you educate, ride along, teach, encourage, etc. At this age is it a balancing act of keeping the bad away from them but also keeping them away from mistakes they will make on their own. It is absolutely essential to monitor this age group online.
The 17 age group all depends on how they have been so far. At this time monitoring software may not be as needed. Still a good idea, especially if the older teen starts falling in with the wrong crowd or meeting older guys online (yes, it does happen). But at this age, the raining wheels are off and by this time the teen has most likely proven that they can be trusted and are capable of (mostly) staying out of trouble… OR, you may find you really do need to watch them at this age (for whatever reason).
Whatever happened to earning the right to do something? Doesn’t it seem that kids are just given free access to anything nowadays without having to prove they can handle it? It’s, again, like driving. We make our kids go through driver’s ed, take a written test, take a road test, get a permit, take driving lessons, THEN get their license, on which there are heavy restrictions for the first year (or two) of use). Why do we seems to hand our kids the keys to the internet with no questions asked and this mythos of “they should have privacy online”? Parents have every right to monitor the online activity of their children to keep them safe, but also so the child can prove he/she is responsible enough to be on the Internet.
I could go on and on… this is one of those things where the answer is so simple, logical, and staring folks right in the face – yet no one wants to admit the truth. I’ve made it my mission to spread that truth and help parents open their eyes to the reality that they most-likely have no clue what their kids are really doing online… and even if they did know, why wouldn’t you want the reassurance?