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Should I Use A Keylogger To Track My Teens Activities?
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Should I Use a Keylogger to Track My Teens Activities?

Not long after my daughter turned thirteen she approached me about creating a Facebook account. You can imagine all the thoughts that run through you're head about serial killers, creepers & snapshots of some of Chris Hansen's guest.

This prompted my wife and I to sit down & discuss the pro's and con's of granting our daughters wish by giving her a Facebook account. In the end we decided we trusted her and to go ahead and let her have the account under the following conditions;

  • We have to set it up.
  • The messages/notifications will be linked to our email account.
  • She can't approve someone she can't talk to on the phone or have met in person.
  • The password could never change unless we changed it.
  • She must add us as friends. No not because we're losers looking for friends either.

Now I know this isn't perfect but as long as we could see the messages we felt safe. However, months later as she's become much more Facebook savvy and we soon discovered she's found ways around the notifications. We had underestimated our teen.

Other things to consider monitor on Facebook by the way

  • Facebook Chat: Doesn't notify you via email.
  • Secondary Accounts: Most teens have a "parent" approved account and a not so parent approved account. It's easy to grab a gmail account and setup a new Facebook account

One day she stepped away from the computer and I just happened to be walking by when a chat screen popped up. I noticed it was from a boy, no big deal. My curiosity however caused me to pause just long enough to read the next message from the "boy" asking my daughter to send her a pic. I'm not talking about a photo with you're Grandma either.

I quickly sat down and read the whole conversation. It turned out that the be boy was trying very hard to get her to send a nude pic. Reading over her replies however I was a little proud (if you can be in a situation like this) that she avoided the requests by trying to change the subject then eventually it looked as though she ignored him. My blood pressure & my primal Marine urge to kill began to calm down.

While her response was good considering the topic. The message made me to peak behind the iron curtain of my precious teen and into her private life. I started with just flat out asking her what was going on and why this boy wanted pics of her? She replied with something to effect that she didn't like him and he was a loser etc.

That same night I started doing research on ways to monitor my teens digital activities. My first thought was to search for a keylogger because I know companies use these to monitor employee activity. I started with searches for "key logger", "keylogger", "teen monitoring", "web monitoring", "computer surveillance" and so on to find the best software out there to help get an idea of just what I was in for.

What's a keylogger?

A keylogger are software programs that usually capture key strokes on a computer and usually store them into some type of file to allow someone else to see what's being typed on a computer. A computer keylogger is generally a quick draw weapon for parents wanting to know what their teens are doing online in case you're concerned you're not getting the whole story for some reason.

Some of the different tools I looked at were;

  • The Perfect Keylogger
  • AllinOne Keylogger
  • Web Watcher
  • SoftActivity Keylogger
  • System Surviellence Pro

I didn't know how bad the situation was and was determined to find out. After all I always wanted to build a tower in my house so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. While I know a keylogger isn't a failsafe weapon I wanted to use it as a deterrent.

What to look for in keylogger monitoring software at bare minimum

  • Accessibility - You don't want to have to wait on you're teen to get off the PC to check what they are doing. Get something that you can monitor remotely or review reports on you're phone, email etc.
  • Keystroke Logging - This helps capture passwords, hidden mail box user names etc.
  • Instant Message Recording - Records all the chat conversations.
  • Screen captures - This is especially handy for popular video chat programs.
  • In the ended I ended up going with Web Watcher. It was very easy to get up and running in just a few minutes and seemed to do what I wanted.

How most keyloggers work

  • Download and install the keylogger software. You'll need to do this on the computer you're wanting to monitor. This takes about 5 to 10 minutes depending on you're expertise, the filesize and you're internet connection. Don't have you're teen do it for ya.
  • Most keyloggers will start recording immediately and send reports to you're account which you can check from anywhere.

Should you tell you're teen you're monitoring them?

While I understand everyone has a different opinion I chose to tell her to let her know. You may not want to tell you're teen however if you're actually trying to catch them in the act of something or perhaps find out who they've been talking to, but it's up to you. Here's why I told her.

  • Future Opportunities: It's not uncommon these days for colleges and employers to check popular social networks to gain background information on a person.
  • Lacking Impulse Control: You remember how it was when you were a teen. It's a documented fact that teens lack appropriate impulse control which could lead to bad decisions. Unfortunately in today's digital world that decision could pop up in search engines for the years to come.
  • Be Involved: Involved parents can intervene in risky teen behavior by knowing you're teens friends both online and offline. While there's no sure fire guarantee that being involved will curb all risky teen behaviour it's certainly better than not being involved. Make sure you're friends with you're teen on Facebook and other social networks. Listen to what they have to say. Teens are always finding new ways to communicate digitally so keep up to date on the latest trends.
  • Privacy. We're still in the early stages of digital privacy and there's no way to know how data we're putting on the web today will be available down the road or perhaps forever. You probably wouldn't want embarrassing pics from you're teen years popping up in a google image search years later from some shady company that's been scraping or buying personal data. I realize this would be digital blackmail, but you get the point.

I want a keylogger to monitor my teen but I'm broke, what do I do?

While not as feature rich there are free keyloggers out there. Here are a few to consider.

  • Actual Keylogger
  • Free Quick Keylogger by Widestep.
  • Refog Keylogger (free trial).

So is monitoring you're teen bad?

I don't think so, you may lose some cool points up front however but parents are designed to be cool anyways. If you're going to use a keylogger or monitoring software I recommend telling them up front and talking with them about any concerns you have. We live in a digital age now where everything you do online is out there forever so a keylogger can actually help deter risky online behavior. I don't even think we're at a point where we know how this will impact us later on so it's best to protect & and educate you're teen early on.

Jim Slusher is a father, husband & former Marine trying to raise a teenager in a digital world. Jim maintains a site about parenting a teen in a digital world.


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