Sent to you by Chris Hunter via Google Reader:
Care4Teen is a free internet monitoring and censoring program that combines some principles of anti-virus recognition software with the standard online monitoring functions. Still in early stages, Care4Teen shows promise as a great bit of freeware in the future.
When I consider what program to use to protect my children online, I take a hard look at what is out there and try to determine which one is the best bet based on a number of factors. These consist, generally, of: ease of use, power and function, and price tag. Care4Teen is a fairly new program in this realm, but even so, it shows some great potential for the future by thinking outside the box and attempting to approach the subject from a slightly different angle.
As far as ease of use goes, Care4Teen gets full marks. The program essentially, acts as a configurable firewall between your computer and your ISP connection, filtering incoming data and pages, as well as recording them for later perusal. Each section of the program is intuitive in its use, as the title for each section pretty well explains what it is all about. Navigating between different sections is also easy, consisting of a simple click. Overall, Care4Teen is one of the easiest programs of its type that I have seen.
For power and function, Care4Teen shows more potential at the moment than actual solid value. The reason for this is as follows: Care4Teen relies on a database stored on their servers to help block out different sites that may have objectionable content. This database is built, over time, by the sites and programs that the users (parents) enter into their own monitoring page. So, if a parent decides to list "Pornusa.com" as a site that is forbidden to access on their computer, that same website will be added to the Care4Teen database and can now be recognized as a possible site containing unwanted content. Now, as you can imagine, there are so many sites out there that there's no way one user could possibly add them all to his or her list, which is why the database exists. This is the same kind of idea that many anti-virus programs use to identify possible threats to your system. When a new site or program is visited or activated, it is scanned into the database so that all users in the future can benefit from it. People who do not understand this method, and are expecting a more straightforward "pornblocking" program are going to be disappointed. People who can appreciate the underlying genius of this system will be happy.
Now, this does raise the question: What happens, then, if the site or program my kid tries to run isn't on the list yet? Well, first of all, there's tons of ways to discover what sites your kids have been visiting that you don't want them to see, and add those to your restricted list, but if they do happen across one you haven't caught yet, they may think they have gotten away with it because the program didn't block it. Nothing could be further from the truth, because Care4Teen also takes random screen shots and video clips every so often of what is happening on the account. That means that if you kid manages to find an objectionable site that you didn't know about and it isn't in the growing database, you can still see what they have done and act accordingly. You can add that site to your list, and it will go the database, to be detected by all other users of the program. Essentially, this means that your kid could actually be helping you to keep them safe, by showing 'chinks in the armor' so to speak. Once they understand what you're doing, they will most likely stop, but it's worth letting them know that big brother is everywhere, in my opinion. Given that Care4Teen is also accessible via mobile device, this isn't really hyperbole, it's literal.
The verdict: Care4Teen is a great program when you consider its cost combined with its innovative ideas. At the moment, the database still has some large holes in it, but that is changing on a daily basis, as you can see from the home page statistics listed there. It is certainly worth checking out the demo, if you're looking for a program to help keep the kids off sites and programs you don't want them using.
Until next time, my friends!
Check out Care4Teen here.