Monitoring Child Online Activity: A "Necessary Evil" of 21st Century Parenting

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Co-Founder of PC Pandora monitoring software looks at the bad stigma associated with monitoring computer activity and why it is an essential part of parenting in the Internet age.

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The idea that checking emails and chats of your kids is like eavesdropping on phone conversations or reading mail, well, my parents always knew who was on the other end of the phone and where the letters came from. So did I. Do you know for sure who is on the other end of an IM chat with your kids?

Online safety is a top family priority and concern today. And although parents seem to get the message that monitoring Internet activity of their children is essential, few seem to put it into physical practice. Manuel Coats, Co-Founder of Pandora Corp. says there's a bad stigma associated with parents playing big brother.

"Unfortunately, parents have a fear of invading their child's privacy," explains Coats. "I consider this to be irrational, and a poorly associated stigma. Parent job number one is to protect your child. How can you do that if you don't know what they are doing, where they are going or who they associate with?"

Many critics liken the use of monitoring software to reading a personal diary, or listening to a phone conversation, or even reading mail.

"Checking online activity of your kids couldn't be more different than any of those," says Coats. "The diary of generations past was a secret document, kept under lock-and-key, that usually no one but the author read. There is nothing with that level of privacy on the Internet, certainly not a social networking page."

And the elongated phone calls made by teens of the 1980s and '90s?

"The idea that checking emails and chats of your kids is like eavesdropping on phone conversations or reading mail, well, my parents always knew who was on the other end of the phone and where the letters came from. So did I. Do you know for sure who is on the other end of an IM chat with your kids?"

A lot of skeptics are quick to assume that the incredible knowledge parents can obtain from monitoring software, like Pandora Corp's flagship title PC Pandora, is a power that can quickly and easily be misused by parents. Some fear that innocent checking and monitoring will quickly turn to snooping and spying. But Coats quickly points out that it's up to the parent to be able to walk that line of being a parent and being intrusive.

"Parents are supposed to be the responsible caretakers of the house," explains Manuel Coats. "They need to set and enforce rules, but also use personal rules and keep themselves in check. You don't need to know who has a crush on whom in class or other random sordid teenage details. But you do need to know if your child is being bullied or talking to someone online with a suspicious screen name."

Coats recommends that all parents use monitoring software like PC Pandora 5.0, which works like a DVR for your computer. The program takes sequential snapshots of what is on the computer screen, providing parents with a detailed visual record of everything their children saw and did on and offline. In addition, further details of user activity, such as websites visited, emails sent and received, instant messenger chats, keystrokes logged, peer-2-peer files traded, programs accessed and more, can be seen in text-based files. It will even email a busy parent at work with updates on activity.

Though the threat of Internet predators seems to be the most publicized and talked about, chances are it's not the threat your kids will encounter first.

"Statistics show that kids are going to be involved - in some way - with cyberbullying before they are talking to strangers online. What's more, young Internet users aren't fully aware of the consequences of illegal file sharing or posting too much personal and private information online. Their own eagerness to participate and average youthful naiveté can cause them to fall easily into those traps."

So while some may feel monitoring computer activity of kids is "too much" and more like "spying", Manuel Coats asks parents to consider the idea thoroughly before dismissing it.

"We like to think of it more as 'appropriate' and 'necessary 21st century parenting.'"

A 2-hour trial of PC Pandora is available at the PC Pandora website.

About PC Pandora:
Pandora Corporation was formed with one goal - to help our customers monitor, control and protect their families and themselves online. First released in mid 2005, PC Pandora has been constantly upgraded to industry-leading specifications and has received accolades from users, reviewers and even school districts and law enforcement agencies, who use the program to help in the day-to-day supervision of the children and citizens they are charged with protecting. The company website devotes space to helping parents with 18 Tips to Safe Surfing and Pandora's Blog, where current news in the world of online safety is discussed regularly. PC Pandora has vaulted into a leadership position by boasting a combination of features that unparalleled in the monitoring industry. In February 2008, Version 5.0 was released, again widening the spectrum of coverage and protection offered by the program. In addition, through the company's SAFE SCHOOLS program, schools and school districts can receive up to $100,000 worth of software to aid in protecting their students and their PCs. PC Pandora is also now available through the Pandora Corp. store at

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Ken Shallcross
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