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Products to help protect kids online

A safety expert outlines software available for parents to protect the privacy of the information on the computer and the identity of their children.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

During the show there were several pieces of software that were displayed. They each worked in a different manner to protect the privacy of the information on the computer and the identity of your child. Below is a brief description of each piece of software and where it can be found.

1. AOL Guardian Free with AOL-this software is specific to AOL customers and allows a parent to receive an email detailing their child's online activities. The email will list the websites that your child visited or attempted to visit. If the site contained content beyond the limit of the type of account you have setup for your child (say young teen) the software will block the site from being viewed by your child, but will let you know they tried to visit the site. The software works with chat rooms, websites and instant messaging.

2. AOL Internet Controls Free with AOL-this software is specific to AOL customers and will assist parents in preventing their child from using a connection to the Internet via AOL or another service provider (as long as you are an AOL member and have the software installed on the computer) to launch secondary programs or browsers. This software works to make it difficult for your child to install a free chat program, or access a website allowing chat via any computer using AOL software. With this software each user has to sign on at the startup of the computer, with their AOL screen name and password. The software then checks the type of account for the user and limits access beyond that type of account.

3. Watch Right $39.95 Monitor AOL and AIM and record the full chats and Instant Messages.
This software logs all chats and instant messages for the AOL and AIM clients. The logs are protected by the security in the software and does not allow for the logs to be edited or deleted by your child. The logging is done without the knowledge of your child. Any parent can then read the entire chat or instant message and decide what action is appropriate. With this software the entire chat can be printed out and turned over to law enforcement for follow up should your child be contacted by a predator.

4. Cyber Sentinel $39.95 Monitor any chat and instant message format and read the entire chat or IM session. Monitor online time and locations. This will also block websites according to content.

This software will read anything viewed, visited, any chat room or instant message, and email created on your computer and compare the content to the libraries within the software for violations. The software uses a Violence/Sex terms library to edit adult or hate related material. There is a Predator library that checks content against terms or phrases associated with predatory content. The final library is edited by the user. You can enter your home address, last name, telephone number, and the name of the school your child attends as prohibited speech. If your child accidentally enters such information, or is tricked online by a predator, the software steps in to prevent the information from leaving your computer. The software will also send an email to your workplace, in real time format, to inform the parent that some prohibited action occurred on the home computer. The software provides a screen capture, a snapshot, of the violations that can be printed out and turned over to law enforcement to aid in the identification of the predator.

5. Spector Pro 5.0 $69.95 Will log all activity on a computer including any passwords used by your child to allow you access to all their online conduct.

This software runs surreptitiously on your home computer and records all activity on the computer. It will allow you to view any activities of your child online including chat rooms, instant messages, or email. In one format it is like watching your VCR and works with the same type of play/rewind controls. The software will also capture and display any screen names/user names and the associated passwords. If your child does access a site to setup a chat client or email address you will be able to see the account and know the password. This will allow parents to know what content is being exchanged on programs your child has secretly installed on the computer.

For more details on any of the software mentioned please visit the appropriate web site.

Detective Mike Sullivan is author of "Safety Monitor, How To Protect Your Kids Online." A 23-year veteran of law enforcement, he is a member of the nationally-recognized Internet Crimes Unit of the Naperville (IL) Police Department. Sullivan also teamed with Microsoft to create the SAFEKIDS program, a national course for 4th to 6th grade students on the dangers of Internet predators.