Thursday, October 28, 2010

Surfing the net, with a net

There are a lot of parenting issues that I call my own mom to get advice on.  But I'm starting to realize that I'm raising a generation of kids with issues that previous generations never had to deal with.
Right?  Most of our parents never even conceived of these issues.  We had a computer in our house by the time I was in high school, but it was for word-processing and accounting, not surfing.  The internet wasn't even a glimmer in Al Gore's eye (wink, wink) until I was already in college.

I think that keeping our kids safe online is something most parents want, but few know how to best achieve this goal.  There are plenty of options out there, and sorting through them can be overwhelming and intimidating.  To be honest, my main plan has always been (and continues to be) that the computer ONLY gets used in public areas of the house.  And even then, the child doesn't get to sit in a corner, surfing to his heart's content.  The computer screen faces the room, where anyone can see what's on it at any time, and the computer isn't on unless there is an adult in the room.

But what happens when I run out to the store?  Or have a doctor's appointment?  Or one of a dozen other scenarios where I leave home and my children are left alone (okay, quick disclaimer: my 13-year-old, who is a certified Safe Sitter, babysits when I go, and our next-door neighbor, who works at home, is available to help out, should help be needed).  I know that as much as I lay down rules and expect to be obeyed, there will be times when my children will break the rules.  Maybe someone will sneak the computer to their room after everyone is in bed.  Or sneak a little online time when mom is taking the little kids to the dentist.  So, for those times when I can't be looking over their shoulder, I'm so happy to have access to PG Key.

Looks too simple, doesn't it?  Just a USB plug-in?  That's going to protect your kids online?  Well...yeah.
It is simple.  Plug in, spend about 10 minutes setting up your controls, and walk away.  Well, don't walk away, but know that if you need to, PG Key will be monitoring what your kids are doing, and blocking questionable material.  When you set your account up, you have the option of blocking particular sites, or only allowing certain sites.  If there are only a few places you want your kids to go, the latter is a great option.  I can't imagine being able to figure out EVERY site you would want to block, because hopefully you don't know all the quesitonable sites out there.  You also have the option of setting each user a specific amount of computer time, which PG Key keeps track of, then the computer will be disabled when their time is up, requiring a password to continue.  Alternatively, you can remove the PG Key, which will disable the computer until the PG Key is reinserted.

The best part, in my opinion, is that PG Key actually SHOWS you exactly what your kids have been doing, by taking a quick screenshot every 5 seconds, with up to 60 hours of recording time on the key.  You play a short video to see what your kids have been doing, and get an immediate, accurate picture of what their activities have been.  

All this for a ONE-TIME fee of $49.99 plus shipping (also available through Amazon for a little less).  No upgrades, no yearly fee.  

The computer in our house will still be in the main living area, with the screen facing the middle of the room.  But the PG Key will be in place, for that little bit of peace of mind and extra protection.  Because I can't be there every second, and I can't guarantee that my kids will always follow the rules.  In a way, PG Key is like the safety net you hope you'll never need.  

Want to get some other opinions on the PG Key?  Check out the reviews from the rest of the homeschool crew, here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary PG Key in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.

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