As a parent, I always want to know where my children are, who they’re hanging out with, and what they’re doing. I like to try and give them a balance between freedom and safety, let them grow and mature yet still make sure they don’t do anything that has the potential to harm them.
This idea perfectly describes the purpose behind ScreenRetriever, a monitoring program that allows parents to record and remotely view their children’s computer screen in real time. The program lets you “check-in” on your children from time to time without having to be right over their shoulder.
Overall, I found ScreenRetriever to be a well-rounded program; it does what it claims to do and I didn’t encounter any bugs or problems. A couple of things to note, though:
- The software needs to be installed on your computer and your child’s computer.
- The software only works when your computer and your child’s computer are on the same computer network (router).
During our testing with ScreenRetriever, we came across a few aspects of the setup process that some parents might find tricky, so we’ve included a how-to guide below that delves into both the installation process and the software’s user interface.
2. On the “Free Trial” page enter your email address in order to download the program. After you click the “Submit” button the program will download automatically.
3. Once the program is downloaded open it up and it will ask you to create a password and enter an email address. This password is for you to know, not your child. It grants access to the entire ScreenRetriever Control Panel. Meaning, if your child knows the password, they can disable the program on their computer.
4. ScreenRetriever will then ask if you want to “view” this computer from other computers on your wireless network. Before you proceed, know that ScreenRetriever needs to be installed on YOUR computer and YOUR CHILD’s computer in order for it to work properly.
When installing on your computer, choose No.
When installing on your child’s computer, choose Yes.
5. The same goes for the next pop up.
- On your computer, choose “Don’t allow viewing of this computer”
- On your child’s computer, choose one of the first two “Allow viewing of this computer”
6. The next pop up asks if you would like to record the computer’s activity. Whether you’re installing on your computer or your child’s, I recommend choosing “no” for now. You can always choose to record after ScreenRetriever has been installed on both computers. (guide below)
Now that you’re done with the installation, and assuming you’ve followed the same steps on your child’s computer, it’s time to get familiar with the Control Panel.
To start the remote viewing of your child’s computer click the “Screen Retriever Control Panel” icon on your desktop. Here, you can control all available functions, including screen recording and live viewing.
1. Click the “Allow/Disallow viewing on this computer” button that is outlined in red below.
This will take you to a menu where you can choose the computer(s) you want to view. Remember, you can only view computers that are on the same wireless network as your computer and have the software installed on them. This is the only way the ScreenRetriever software works.
2. Click the “Add” button on the lower left-hand corner of the menu.
3. On the next screen, choose the computer you wish to add. Then click the “View” button which is on the lower left-hand corner of the menu.
There should now be a small window that shows you exactly what your child is doing on their computer. You can choose to make the window larger or smaller by using the “S” and “L” buttons that are on the upper left hand corner of the window.
1. If you wish to record your child’s computer activity to view at a later date, you will need to go on your child’s computer, open the ScreenRetriever Control Panel there, and click the “Start/Stop recording this computer” button which is highlighted in yellow in the screenshot below.
2. This will take you to a menu that allows you to start, pause, and stop recording. To stop recording, either you can go back to your child’s computer and click the “Stop” button (shown below), or you can wait for the memory limit you set to be reached (also shown below).
To view the recording, you will need to go back to your computer, open up the Control Panel and choose the “Play recordings” button.
Though set up can be lengthy, ScreenRetriever is a great way to keep an eye on your child’s online activities. Issue with webcams can be avoided altogether if your child knows you can tune in whenever you want—an approach you might find useful if your son or daughter is fond of video-chatting sites TinyChat or Stickam. At the same time, ScreenRetriever shouldn’t be viewed by parents as spyware, because it’s really not. It’s simply another way to teach your child that, one, what they do online is never private, and two, that you’re there to help them make the right choices online.