I have teenage and preteen boys in this house, and because it’s a subject that’s important to our family I jumped at the chance to review the Family Plan from the internet monitoring service Accountable2You. It’s not a filter, but truly a monitoring tool that can be useful on computers as well as mobile devices for the whole family. Set up the alerts to be texted and/or emailed as soon as the action happens, and keep your family accountable – and safe!
Internet monitoring works differently than a filter. This is not a filtering program; it’s not going to prevent access to any specific sites or content types. Quite simply, Accountable2You provides a way for a trusted individual to keep others accountable for their internet actions. For my family, that means that teens know that we as their parents are keeping tabs on what they do online, and that accountability alone helps them with any self-control weaknesses that may happen from time to time.
For my family, I set up time limits for each of my kids. That means if the internet is accessed between those two times, I get an alert. I set mine up to both email me AND text me immediately upon infraction. Our issue has largely been that kids get up before I do and start playing computer games instead of doing school work. The way I tracked that during our review period was to simply enter the name of the games and enter Facebook (where many of their games are located) as “questionable” words in the database. Then, if my kids get online and access those sites before I get up, my phone (which is right next to my bed) makes a text alert noise at me so that I can (first, get up, and second,) take care of the problem.
Setup and Devices
Setup isn’t difficult… but I didn’t realize at first that I hadn’t set it up all the way. I entered users for each person in our home. I set up time limits and questionable (and highly questionable – two notice classifications) words for each user. I entered my email as the accountability partner… and thought I was finished. I was not; I wondered how it would work, and it didn’t until I went back and actually downloaded the software! Oops!
It’s not a separate and specific browser like I’ve seen on a lot of monitoring services, at least not on the computer. There’s a separate browser for some of the mobile devices, but every device we own is too old to use any of the apps for Accountable2You. If I had one request, it would be that they would somehow figure out how to make some of their apps retroactive so that they can be used on older devices; we have some i-devices that are only using iOS6 and one that uses 7, and we are just out of luck on those and on our older model Kindle Fire.
It’s not a separate browser, but it seems to only monitor things which are IN a browser. I used three different browsers and it did pick up everything I (purposely) searched with those, but it did NOT pick up and alert when my kids were playing their games inside those specific programs. The kids play the popular squares/building game online, and I play a multi-player RPG game as well. During our review, I made sure that chat and typing included alert words, but the software didn’t pick it up while inside those gaming programs. This won’t monitor your game chat, and my guess would be the same on any mobile device; it has to be through the browsers.
Accountable to Whom?
I think this would best be used by a family, like mine, where parents are seeking to monitor children with known habits. You need to enter all of the keywords for which you want to be alerted. The site suggests that spouses could monitor one another, but I can tell you that it wouldn’t work that way in our situation. It might work okay for me to monitor my husband, but largely only if he doesn’t know the keywords that trigger an alert. Anyone who knows what the trigger words are can simply find a way to get to what they are looking for without those words; that said, this does trigger if the word is on the SITE, not necessarily just if it’s TYPED. For instance, if you use “video” as a trigger word, any time a search engine with a “videos” tab at the top is accessed, it will set off an alert. (Yes, I used video as one of my words! Also picture, and free.)
That said, it wouldn’t work here personally for my husband to monitor me in return. Why? Because I know the password to the website and can just turn off notifications to him for a period of time and then put it back in later. We can’t both have access to the same dashboard and still keep tabs on one another. I’ve dealt with enough things in the past to know that anyone who is seeking to deceive will find a way to do so… and with this program, it’d be easy to manipulate if both people have the same access.
All that said – I DO think this is a great option for any family who is having trouble with the times that the internet is accessed or if you are aware of specific issues that need to be monitored. If you have someone you trust who can access the dashboard without your being able to manipulate it (or even know the key words that trigger alerts), it would be a fantastic way to keep YOURSELF accountable. This is a tool that facilitates parents, and it facilitates SELF-accountability. Those are definitely needed things.