WebWatcher

WebWatcher Review: Parental Control Software

Parental Control Software
 
Sign up for WebWatcher
Rating:
Bottom Line:
Blocklist is smart and monitoring is comprehensive, though site blocker and monitor are easy to get around
Full Review:
3 2015-01-27 15:26:24 [Editor's Note: Right now, Web Watcher is offering NextAdvisor users 38% off their services. Just follow any link to Web Watcher from NextAdvisor to automatically get this discount.]

WebWatcher is distinct in this category for a few reasons. One: it is not specifically aimed at the activities of children. Two: it's meant to run completely invisibly; the watched user will not even know they're being watched. When they hit a blocked site, they'll be met with an error page almost indistinguishable from a normal connection error.

Since WebWatcher is meant to be truly invisible, there is no system tray icon or other mark that the application is on the computer. Instead the WebWatcher is mostly administered via a web-based interface. You have to log in every time (and, annoyingly enough, accept the terms and conditions every time). However, there is a basic control panel that can be accessed via a hot-key sequence (and password), allowing you to start and stop the various monitoring modules. This hot-key sequence is changeable in the preferences too, so you can make it something less obvious than the default.

Like other parental control software, WebWatcher works in two ways: blocking and monitoring. It's pretty good at both, but we should point out right off the top that it has trouble with proxies. Big trouble. We were able to hit our set of proxy test sites with ease, and could access content that should have been blocked.

When you load WebWatcher's interface you won't find any categories blocked by default. You'll have to choose these. The categories are diverse, and allow a fair amount of drill-down so you can be truly selective about what you're blocking. This is one of the program's strong points: it doesn't over-block. We were, for instance, able to block pornography without blocking gray queries such as "chicken breasts," "The Gay Science," or "Sex linked differences." In fact we could block porn, but still still get Wikipedia articles on sex education topics (complete with pictures). Don't worry, you can disallow sex education too.

The monitoring is very good, almost creepy. It can record keystrokes, sites visited, searches performed, IM chats, emails, and can be set up to take screen shots of a web browser when certain alert words are entered. These alert words, which users add using the web interface, are crucial to the workings of WebWatcher because they not only trigger screen shots, but help you to more efficiently go through the massive amounts of data that can be returned from a day of web surfing. So, if you're concerned about your child, or another member of your household accessing content about "drugs", you can choose to just look at pages and emails that mention the word "drugs" (obviously, you'll want to add some variations on that theme). You get unlimited alert-word screenshots with the purchase price, though as with all data on WebWatcher it only stays online for 15 days (though an upgrade gets you more storage).

Your first purchase also comes with 1,000 free "Smart Camera" screen shots. These are continuous screen shots which can be triggered by virtually any program/keyword combination (though they're initially configured for web browsers). After you go through your free sample, you'll have to pay $17.00 for another 10,000 shots if you wish to continue using it. You can set the duration, however, so you can really stretch the value if you opt for less frequent screen shots.

It did well monitoring Yahoo! Messenger, Yahoo! Webmail, and Windows Mail. According to the literature, it can monitor AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Messenger, and MSN Messenger as well.

As we mentioned above, WebWatcher is easily stymied by proxies, allowing savvy users to surf pretty much invisibly. A further weakness is revealed in its inability to block sites appearing in the Google cache. Even when you specify that "proxies" should be blocked, it does little more than block web pages that explicitly mention proxies (but not, for instance, sites that mention cloaking). A bigger problem is that alert words that come up on sites accessed through proxies will not be detected, so no screen shots there. If you sift through the website reports you'll probably be able to find that something is up, but you may not know what (unless you continue to use the Smart Camera).

WebWatcher is a somewhat pricey solution. The initial purchase is $99.95. There's an additional $29.95 charge if you want to receive product updates throughout the year. Licensing after the initial purchase is $67.00 per year. We have mixed feelings about the product. On the one hand, it has one of the smartest and most accurate blocklists we've ever seen. On the other hand, it gives proxies a free pass, so its blocking techniques will not stop savvy kids. In fact, given its focus on monitoring, WebWatcher seems more geared towards catching cheating spouses and slacking employees than it is at keeping kids away from nasty content.

Sign up for WebWatcher | Compare to Other Parental Control Software


 
Service Details:

Cost:$99.95 for 1st year (after 38% discount)
$67.00/yr renewals
Programs Monitored:IE, Firefox, Chrome; Instant messaging on Yahoo!, AIM, MSN
Special Features:Triggered screen shots; key logger; runs invisibly
Social Network Monitoring:None, but keylogger can monitor text typed on Social Networking sites; optional Smart Camera can record activity
Reports/Alerts:Saves data on web for 15 days; no email or text alerts
Kid-Proof Rating:Poor: very open to circumvention

NextAdvisor Blog Headlines

Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus: How Do the Big 3 Compare?
With more and more Americans cutting the cord with their cable providers and opting to use an online video service to watch their favorite TV shows and movies, you may wonder which streaming service is the best one out there. To help you decide, we've taken a look at the three online video giants — [...]

Post-Tax Season Scams to Look Out for
Earlier in August, the IRS revealed that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has been informed of nearly 4,000 instances of tax scamming this year, which added up to over $20 million in losses. Tax season may be over, but for scammers it?s always the season to swindle taxpayers out of their hard-earned [...]

Geolocation: Beneficial or Dangerous?
Have you ever wondered how Facebook seems to know the exact city you?re posting from? Whether you're on a computer, a smartphone or some other type of electronic device, chances are it has geolocation functions built into it. Geolocation is the term for the identification of the exact location of an object, which can be [...]

New Research Finds More Teens Encounter Drama on Social Media
Parents often worry about how often their children go online, and what sort of interactions they may encounter on the web. According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, 92% of teens ages 13 to 17 report that they go online daily. More than half of teens in this report go online multiple times [...]

WebWatcher Forum Posts

  • WebWatcher Review
    Here is the NextAdvisor review of WebWatcher: http://www.nextadvisor.com/parental_con ... review.php

About UsBlogContact Us Forums Terms & Privacy PolicyAffiliate ProgramSite Map
NextAdvisor.com is a BBB Accredited Information Bureau in San Francisco, CA

Advertiser Disclosure: NextAdvisor.com is a consumer information site that offers free, independent reviews and ratings of online services. We receive advertising revenue from most but not all of the companies whose products and services we review. For credit cards, we review cards from all of the top 10 US issuers by purchase volume (according to Issue 1035 of The Nilson Report, Feb 2014) excluding issuers that require additional accounts to be a cardholder and private label issuers. We may also review cards from other issuers in select cases. We do not review all products in a given category. We are independently owned and operated and all opinions expressed on this site are our own.