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Facebook Monitoring Solutions for Parents

| September 20, 2011 | Comments (10)
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Facebook-login-520x245 For parents who have made the conscious decision to allow their kids or tweens to use Facebook, there are several monitoring solutions out there that can help you keep an eye on their activity, and more importantly, keep them safe. Figuring out which one works best, however, can be a pain.

Below is an in-depth look at three Facebook monitoring solutions that the Yoursphere editorial team tested out. If you haven’t invested in a monitoring solution yet, trust that it’s a great tool to use in conjunction with the online safety discussions you have with your children.

Unlike Yoursphere, which was designed with your child’s best interests in mind, Facebook was created for adults. The age requirement to join is 13, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the social network is teen friendly let alone suitable for your pre-teen. It’s extremely easy to encounter the adult content and culture that a vast majority of Facebook users have created. So think of Facebook monitoring software as another tool on your Internet-safety belt; but keep in mind that software will never replace parental oversight and education. Parental involvement is, and always will be, the first line of defense when it comes to raising our kids to be responsible digital citizens.

GoGoStat Parental Guidance – Mobile app and website (Free)

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The Good:

The GoGoStat Parental Guidance mobile app (iPhone and iPod Touch) and website are very easy to use. The dashboard on both fronts is very user-friendly, and once everything is set up, checking your child’s profile is simple and convenient. From either the app or the website, you can see everything your child is posting on Facebook. Additionally, you’ll receive email alerts if they, or one of their friends, post concerning language. However, where GoGoStat falls short is in their set up process.

The Bad:

Set up is lengthy and requires your child’s approval since the app is directly tied to their Facebook account. When you sign up as a parent, you are required to provide the email address that your child uses to log into Facebook. Your child will then get an email that contains a link. That link sends them to Facebook where they are required to log in, grant the app permission to their profile, and confirm you as their parent. If your child decides they want to change their Facebook password or delete their account, this will completely stop all monitoring of their account. Even worse, there is zero notification about this to the parent.

UPDATE 09/27 – Though we did not receive a password-change email notification during our testing in the Yoursphere offices, we received the following revision from GoGoStat:

“While it is true that Parental Guidance is unable to provide the parent with notifications on their child’s Facebook activity when the child changes their password, the application does detect this and sends the parent an email notifying them of such, with directions on how their child can fix this from their Facebook account.”

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It’s also worth noting that your account only updates once every 24 hours, so you won’t know what your child posted today until tomorrow. In our test, we didn’t get an update for more than 24 hours. The issue was fixed upon contacting GoGoStat’s customer service department. Obviously, this is a huge drawback to parents. After all, the whole point of using a software solution is to be up-to-date 24/7.  

UPDATE 09/27 – GoGoStat informed us that the reason we didn’t receive an update for more than 24 hours was because we didn’t receive the password-change email (mentioned above), which contained necessary next-steps.

Eye Guardian – Website (Free in Beta)

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The Good:

Just like GoGoStat, Eye Guardian is very well designed and easy to use. Signing up is a cinch, and because the software is web-based, you can conveniently access it from any computer.

Once you’ve signed up and synced your child’s profile (more below), you can view any photos that they’ve sent or received; you can look at their messages, their friends list, their privacy settings, and even the groups/pages that they “like”. In addition, you’ll receive email notifications when concerning language is used on their profile or on the pages they like. In our testing, Eye Guardian didn’t miss a beat when it came to reporting. Also, if your child deletes a message or status update, it will still appear on Eye Guardian, which is always nice.

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The Bad:

You need to know your child’s Facebook email address AND password in order to sync their profile with your Eye Guardian account. If you were the one who created their Facebook profile to begin with, then this isn’t a problem for you. However, just like GoGoStat, if your child decides they want to change their Facebook password, Eye Guardian doesn’t let you know; the notifications just stop. The program can be a little unresponsive at times; however, the software is still in its beta phase so hopefully these issues are ironed out in the final product.


ZoneAlarm Social Guard – Software program ($19.99/yr)

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The Good:

Unlike GoGoStat and Eye Guardian, Social Guard is a software program that you must install on your computer. Once you’ve downloaded it, installed it and synced your child’s account, the software constantly runs in the background scanning your children’s profiles. (Note: Your child is not limited to accessing Facebook on that specific computer. Social Guard successfully monitors your child’s account no matter where or what device they access Facebook from.)

Social Guard’s parental monitoring solution was the most comprehensive one we tested. Not only does it flag concerning language and tell you why it was flagged, but it checks for dangerous links, it looks for evidence of cyberbullying, and it even looks at the age gaps between your child and the people they’re talking to. Like the other products in this review, email notifications are sent to you when concerning language is detected.  In addition, you can add specific words that you want the software to flag.

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The Bad:

It seems like neither of these software solutions were able to get around the Facebook password requirement. So yes, during set up, Social Guard requires you to enter your child’s Facebook email and password in order to sync it with the program. On the other hand, if your child changes their Facebook password or deletes their account, you will be sent a notification. It’s also worth noting that, since Social Guard is a software program and not web-based, you can only access it from the computer you installed it on. Now that I think of it, it would be really nice to have a mobile version.

 

Category: Facebook, Privacy, Recommended Products, Reviews, Safety

Comments (10)

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  1. Mary Kay says:

    Hi Charles,
    In our testing, we received notifications for everything you mentioned EXCEPT a password change. Though your experiences may be different, this review is purely a reflection of our own experiences with the software.

  2. Charles says:

    GoGoStat Parental Guidance does provide notifications for several scenarios – when the child adds/removes friends on Facebook, when the child posts a text with unapproved content (e.g. drug, sex etc), when the child posts any photographs, when the child posts their real birthday or contact information and when the child changes their passwords or blocks the monitoring. So it is not true that there is no notification when the child changes the password. If there is an issue, you should contact their support – they do offer free support as well.

  3. Mary Kay says:

    Hi Cynthia – Thanks for reading!
    These are great tools to help you monitor, but keep in mind that Facebook was made for teens and adults, hence the 13-year-old requirement. If you have little ones, I recommend they check out Yoursphere.com. It’s made by kids and for kids, and there’s much more fun and positive things for them to do. I really think they’ll love it!

  4. Thanks for these reviews. EyeGuardian sound like the app of choice for this sort of thing – and just in time too. Because I hear all these awful news stories of how dangerous Facebook can be, especially for teens and tweens. Too bad we live in a world of online posers, but thankfully this will give me Facebook parental control and let me track what my kids are doing so I don’t end up as a statistic!

  5. KenS says:

    Of course, there are also computer monitoring programs (like our PC Pandora) that will not only show you what your kids are doing on Facebook, but will also show you maybe the secret Facebook accounts you don’t know about. Not to mention they will show you everything else your child does on the computer and the Internet, not just Facebook.
    http://www.pcpandora.com
    :-)

  6. GoGoStatPG says:

    We will be sure to let you know. Thanks again!

  7. Mary Kay says:

    Hi Shelby: There’s lots you can do, and we can help.
    I’m glad you reached out. I’ll message you privately.
    Best.
    Mary Kay

  8. Mary Kay says:

    Hi Michael,
    Thank you for the update! Please keep us informed of your premium application. We’d love to keep our parent audience in the loop!
    Best,
    Mary Kay

  9. GoGoStatPG says:

    Hello,
    My name is Michael, I do product marketing for the creators of GoGoStat Parental Guidance. Thanks so much for your review of our free application! We just wanted to clarify a few things, though. While it is true that Parental Guidance stops monitoring if the child changes their Facebook password, it is inaccurate to say there is zero notification to the parent. In this scenario, the parent receives an email notification after the child has changed their password. The email notification looks like this: http://i.imgur.com/RwyTL.jpg. Also, we found that the reason why it took over 24 hours for your parent to receive notifications on the child in your particular test was due to the child’s Facebook password change. In the future, we will have a premium version of the application that will keep parents notified of everything in less than 24 hours. Thanks for giving us a chance to clarify these things with your readers, and thanks again for taking the time to review GoGoStat Parental Guidance! Keep up the fantastic work you do.
    Thanks,
    Michael

  10. Shelby says:

    My daughter who is 10 years old, was about to “meet” someone she met through texting on a DSI chat room. The story she used to go outside was fishy and so her plan was stopped JUST IN TIME! (I didn’t see anyone outside thank goodness) But, Is there something I can place in that system which would prevent her from texting, or which I could monitor?
    Paniky in Seattle

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