KidsWatch KidsWatch
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3 5stars

KidsWatch Review

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Rating:
Bottom Line:
Performs as expected for the most part; very buggy program causes more harm than good in many circumstances

Full Review:
KidsWatch is a comprehensive tool to help safeguard your family from inappropriate content on the Internet. The service features several tools and blockers designed to both track and block content through your computer, as well as manage your child's time spent online. Although the service seemed promising, our testing we found various bugs and issues with the product and a huge lack of customer support when help was needed.


Pricing

There are two pricing plans with KidsWatch: the Time Management plan and the Professional plan. The Time Management plan costs a one time fee of $29.95, giving you access to the time management tool which limits your child's time spent online by restricting Internet time and computer usage and provides customizable warning notifications. You can set different restrictions for different users as well as limit the time spent on specific categories, such as gaming or web chat and instant messaging. This plan does not include any features for Internet filters, chat monitoring, alerts or predator watch.

To upgrade to all of these other features, you will need the Professional plan, which costs a one time fee of $49.95. The Professional plan includes all of the time management features as well as keyword search filtering, content blockers (for sensitive content in ads on trusted websites), trusted and restricted lists, chat monitoring and alerts and automated alerts for its Predator Watch; this sends you automated email alerts when a registered offender moves into your neighborhood, complete with pictures, offenses and a current address.

Both the Time Management plan and the Professional plan offer free software upgrades and can cover up to three computers with a single license. If you want to cover more than three computers, you'll have to purchase an additional license. It's important to note that KidsWatch is only available on Windows laptops and computers. It will not work on Macs or any other Internet-enabled devices, such as tablets and smartphones. KidsWatch does offer a free 15-day trial that allows you to see how the whole service works before making a purchase.


Filters and Safe Searches

KidsWatch blocks thousands of websites and key phrases in search results. It has over 60 different categories to choose from when selecting which type of content you want to block access from (e.g. Adult, Porn, Hate Speech and Violence).You can block an entire category, allowing access to one or two sites that fall into that category and vice versa — meaning you can allow a category and block specific sites.

When testing this software, we found that it only worked in some circumstances. For example, when we visited some websites that seemed to be child safe, the service blocked us, but this was not the case with every time we tried to visit the same website; sometimes it would block us, sometimes it wouldn't, which can prove worrisome for parents concerned about their children's online activity. We also found that the software would cause issues with other parts of the computer that were not even associated with the parental control service, such as errors with the printer connection or access to files that were previously saved on the computer prior to installing KidsWatch.

With KidWatch's time management tool, setting time limits on computer usage is easy and effective. This tool allows you to to set specific blocks of time for when your child is able to access the computer, Internet usage, gaming websites or instant messaging. This will help you to keep track of homework and play time, limit excessive usage and even make sure that computer time is split evenly between all of your children. Through the use of specific logins and passwords, you can also make sure that the computer is not accessed when you're not around to supervise.

The time management feature is a nice addition, but we found that it can become sort of a nuisance. By restricting blocks of time for the computer, you are making it so that your children need to adhere to a strict schedule of computer access and as we all know, the computer may need to be accessed outside of its allotted time for certain school projects or homework assignments. Though there are ways to adjust this through the administrator's login, it can become extremely annoying and repetitive to consistently change these settings every time your child needs to use the computer outside of the scheduled time. It seems a lot more practical to keep tabs on the computer yourself, rather than setting hardline time limits. But if you're one for structure and schedules, this feature does work exactly the way it says it does.


Email, Chat and Social Network Monitoring

With the chat session monitor, you'll be able to monitor your child's chat or instant messenger conversations with anyone on Facebook, Myspace, Yahoo!, AOL Instant Messenger, MSN, ICQ and Jabber. If your child is using an instant messenger outside of these, KidsWatch won't monitor the conversations, but you do have the option to entirely block access to that service. The chat session monitor will keep track of conversations and monitor keywords or phrases that could cause concern for parents, such as the mention of drugs, alcohol, weapons and other profanity. It monitors hundreds of default keywords, and also allows you to add your own keywords to the list. If it finds any of these keywords in a chat conversation, you will be alerted via email.


Reports and Alerts

The chat monitoring alerts are sent directly to your email inbox and include both screen names of the parties involved as well as an excerpt of the messages, which we thought was especially helpful. The only drawback with these alerts was that they were a little too frequent — sending us reports of conversations that really didn't need to be monitored. If you're extremely concerned about what your kids are talking about and who they are talking to online, it works just fine, but if you only want updates occasionally, you will have to configure that within the administrator controls. You also have the option to enable email alerts in the event your child tries to access a restricted category online or a restricted website.


Supported Devices

This is one of the biggest drawbacks with KidsWatch. Not only does it not support other devices, such as smartphones or tablets, it also doesn't support any Mac devices. So if you want to use its service, you'll have to have a Windows computer or laptop with version 8, 7, XP or Vista. We found this extremely limiting when compared to other parental control software that we've reviewed.


Customer and Technical Support

Due to the frustrating issues we were facing with its service, we tried numerous times to contact the customer support of KidsWatch to fix our problems. Each time we called, we received no support even though our calls were during the service's reportedly open business hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET (Monday through Friday) and 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET on Saturday. Email support didn't really help us fix our problems either. As such, we were very displeased with the support.


Conclusion

Overall, we weren't thrilled with KidsWatch. Although it did its job, in many cases it also seemed overprotecting, causing major problems that it didn't need to. Along with its less-than-satisfactory customer service, we found the software from KidsWatch to be subpar at best. Though it did work, we felt that its problems weren't worth the cost.

Sign up for KidsWatch | Compare to Other Parental Control Software

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Service Details

Cost:$29.95 for Time Management plan

$49.95 for Professional plan

15-day free trial
Programs Monitored:Windows Internet browsers, Facebook, Myspace, Yahoo, AOL AIM, MSN, ICQ and Jabber
Special Features:Time management, instant message monitoring, block sites and programs, advanced admin settings
Social Network Monitoring:Facebook, Myspace, Yahoo, AIM, MSN, ICQ and Jabber
Reports/Alerts:Searchable web history email reports, messaging email alerts
Kid-Proof Rating:Ok: Does its job for the most part; however, very buggy program allows some sites that should be blocked to be accessed.

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