uKnowKids is a new web-based monitoring system for your child’s smartphone and social network accounts. For testing purposes, our team used the “Premier” subscription which provides comprehensive monitoring on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, as well as Android-powered smartphones and Blackberry devices. Subscription prices vary depending on how many children you want to monitor, extra features and technical support.
The Yoursphere Editorial Team tested the uKnowKids monitoring system with a Facebook profile, Twitter account, and Android-powered smartphone. Syncing the social networks requires you, the parent, to know your child’s usernames and passwords. Inputting this information is all you need to sync Facebook and MySpace to uKnowKids. For Twitter and Android/Blackberry smartphones, however, you will need to install an application called FamilyConnect. FamilyConnect establishes a link between the smartphone and/or Twitter account and the uKnowKids software. We delve a little more into this syncing process later in the review, but we’re fairly confident that parents won’t encounter any problems with this initial setup.
When you enter your child’s info during the setup process (name and birth date) uKnowKids does a great job of detecting any other social networks that they may be a part of. That said, with the exception of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, monitoring these other networks through the uKnowKids software isn’t an option. We’d like them, for instance, to add Yoursphere to their site monitoring mix.
uKnow’s monitoring capabilities are where the software really shines. Once accounts and phones are synced up, parents can view private messages, news feeds, texts and phone call history to see who their child is friends with and who they’re talking to. No need to worry if your child normally accesses Facebook, Twitter or MySpace from a mobile device – uKnowKids monitors their profile, regardless of the device they access it on.
Depending on how you filter the information using the Notifications toolbar (shown here on the right), parents can view communication exchanges that uKnow deems suspicious or inappropriate.
Furthermore, not only can parents view “possible adult contact” when there is communication with someone who has publically indicated that they are over 18, but uKnow gives parents the ability to monitor a specific contact as well as a full exchange of communication between their child and that contact.
Communication trends are displayed on the dashboard as well. And though these trends are a better representation of the most active users in the social networks that you’re tracking, it’s still a great way to see who your child’s Facebook or Twitter friends are, the type of conversations that they’re having, and ultimately, the conversations that your child is exposed to.
In the end, all of this information allows parents to have a fully-prepared conversation with their child about their online posts, the people they consider “friends”, or perhaps a specific exchange of text messages.
For the parents who don’t have time to log in every day, uKnow sends out a daily comprehensive overview of what their child or teen did that day.
Family Locator (GPS tracking) –
The GPS locator is just another layer of monitoring that uKnow offers parents. Granted you have the FamilyConnect app installed on your child’s smartphone and their GPS turned on, uKnow can track your child’s last known physical location. From what we could tell, uKnow updates Family Locator several times a day.
uKnowKids is, in a lot of ways, a very reliable monitoring system that can assist parents in their daily conversations with their child. However, there is one compromising imperfection that we feel parents should know about, and it has to do with the FamilyConnect app that was mentioned earlier. On Twitter and smartphones, this app can very easily be uninstalled by your child. On a smartphone, FamilyConnect is treated like any other app, right there on the phone’s interface or application list. On Twitter, you can see what it looks like in the screenshot below.
We uninstalled the apps on both Twitter and the smartphone hoping to receive some sort of email notification from uKnow, but we received nothing, even 24 hours later.
Please note: Hiding the FamilyConnect app on Twitter or the smartphone would make uKnowKids a spyware monitoring system, which it is not. That said, our review isn’t meant to imply that the folks at uKnow should make the apps invisible to your child. Our intention is only to make it clear to parents who read this review that, like with all monitoring software, a consistent dialogue with your children is absolutely necessary when using uKnowKids. If you notice that monitoring of their Twitter account of smartphone has stopped, you can directly address the matter with your child.