Sunday, September 18, 2011

Software Apps: a Way to Keep an Eye on Your Children?

Eye Guardian
There have been several reports about Eye Guardian, a software application in service of parents, who want to know what their kids are up to on Facebook. In that sense, the name of this app is misleading – it does not involve eye protection, at least not literally. And of course, this app was developed in the US (Texas, to be exact), where censorship and content control are issues of epic proportion.

Eye Guardian in service of parents
The Eye Guardian app is tailored to fit the parent’s sensitivity and individual criteria. Basically, it works like this – you input words you deem inappropriate – killer, beer, weed, etc. – and if these words appear on your kid’s Facebook or phone, you get an alert, which can be sent to your email or cell phone. Then you log into Eye Guardian, where you can see the offensive words or pictures. The app also catches cyber bullying, cyber stalking, and sexual content you deem inappropriate. The company marketing Eye Guardian is also selling it to police departments to facilitate Internet-based preventive measures against sex offenders.

Is it too good to be true?
The reports on such apps are brief and seem like advertisements. Parents, apparently, are overjoyed at the prospect. It is not mentioned how kids feel about this and about content control software in general. Moreover, the system can be blocked by anyone who has the password. It is not impossible for kids to get it. How would they feel if they found out their parents were spying on them? This is just a modern-day version of getting your letters opened.

Too totalitarian?
Opponents of such systems term them “censorware” and warn that such repressive measures are typical of totalitarian countries, such as Cuba, where users of public Internet cannot type certain words, and if they do, their access is blocked at once, and they are reported to the authorities.  

Some believe, however, that this software could be useful for self-censorship by Internet addicts. These products are also known as accountability software. One would think this approach rather frustrating.

Other issues with spying
Is it moral to spy on your children in the name of their protection? If you filter words like “sex”, you could be blocking access to sites with medical information. You run the risk of over-blocking, which is filtering out important information. Some parents are willing to take this risk just so their kids will be safe. Under-blocking is also a possibility. This is when you fail to update your software (which naturally you have to do once in a while). Then new information is uploaded and the system misses it. This makes the software ineffective.

On the comic site, content-control software has been known to block access to the websites of Beaver College (before the inevitable name change) and Horniman Museum, among others. Take care that you are not too zealous about this.

In general, parents are supportive of such apps, while kids oppose them. Eventually your kids will grow up, move out, and access whatever sites they want.

Click Here to Download Eye Guardian!

Author: Melissa Dean writes about reward credit cards and other financial products in Credit Card Canada.

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