Monday, March 26, 2012

Action Alert: A TOS Crew Review

This past month I was given the opportunity to try out and review a product called Action Alert.
The goal of Action Alert is to protect kids from online dangers (as shown above). They are so committed to this goal that they have created a FREE program for you to use on your computer that will assist you in this effort. They have also created a PREMIUM program that you can select, if you prefer, that provides even more options. Let me tell you more.

The Action Alert program works (with your individualized input) to:
  •  create a kid-safe PC, with web site blocking and filtering;
  • control computer use, with comprehensive time controls; and
  • alert you if there is any suspicious activity, and also allowing you to review activity.
Action Alert will send alerts to your cell phone OR your computer. I opted to have alerts sent to my computer. I think, at this point, that cell phone alerts might be a better option because my computer does not notify me every time a new email arrives in my inbox, so I didn't get the notifications quickly. And it was difficult, after the fact, to determine how much lag time there had been between my son's activity and the alert being received. 
Action alert provides for your computer:
Action Alert provides for your computer eight Internet safety tools in one:
  • Access control (shut down the PC remotely from your own computer or your cell phone);
  • Activity notification alerts to your email or texts to your cell phone;
  • Video recording of 60 hours of PC activity for you to review to understand exactly what your child did/where he/she went;
  • Time Allowance (set up in advance, for example, one hour usage a day, or no usage between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.);
  • Site Blocking (for my family, I completely blocked "YouTube", because of previous experiences);
  • Content Filtering, allowing only "safe search"es to be conducted (there is a key-word database that the program will not allow the user to attempt to search on);
  • Keystroke logging (logs user names and passwords, so you can more easily monitor your child's actions on line);
  • Chat and E-mail Logging, logging both sides of the conversation.
Boy, my life would have been so much different if I had had this program when my 25-year-old was in my home! She still firmly holds that a teenager should have "privacy" rights in the parents home, but a parent has to do what they can to protect their children as they grope their way through the murky teen years to adulthood.

The differences between the free protection and the maximum protection are... more protection. The website lays it out to make it appear that you really get almost all of the features from the free program, and I have the maximum program, and it is difficult for me to sort out what is not provided on the free program. But here are the main things it appears you get on the maximum program that don't come with the free:
  • You can set the program up for multiple users (each with different settings) on the Maximum Protection program;
  • The Maximum Protection program is more fully customizable. I assume this means there are certain pre-settings in the free program that are more customizable on the Maximum program.
  • The Maximum Protection gives full social network monitoring. Since my son does not yet have permission to participate in social network websites, I did not try this out and cannot tell you exactly what you would not get with the free program that you would get with the Maximum program.
No matter how I look at it,  having some sort of Internet safety tool on your child's computer is essential. We had some trouble a while back with my son going places he should not have gone. We researched out various programs and settled on one which we put on one of our computers, but I have not been satisfied with it. When I showed my husband only just part of Action Alert Maximum Protection provides, he was highly impressed. While my son knew the program was on the computer, he tested it various times, once by doing a You Tube search on a forbidden word (and then we blocked You Tube), once by going on the computer when he was supposed to be asleep (and then I adjusted the allowed times), and I can't remember the other one(s).

So, each time my son violated limits we had already set previously, we received a notification that he had done so. This was so immensely helpful, because previously we could have our suspicions, but without knowing for sure we could not bring consequences or changes. Now we knew for sure, and there were immediate consequences.

Action Alert has received some awards that you may appreciate being made aware of:
Child Safety Network Seal:
iParenting Award

 The were also featured on the Today Show!
I am so glad I have this program on his computer, and I will continue to use it. But here is where I let you know some difficulties we had with the program.

  • There does seem to be some lag time in the notification system. I received an email alert (which I read remotely on my smart phone) that my son had attempted to go to an inappropriate site). Just for fun, I decided to use the option to immediately disconnect him from the Internet, since he wasn't supposed to be on the Internet when I wasn't home anyway. Turned out he had gotten off of the computer hours before I pushed the button. I have no way of knowing how long the email  had been in my inbox before I got it, but there had to have been some lag time. I think my son had gotten off the Internet before I even left the house...
  •  I LOVE the time limit feature, as well as the time of day feature. When my son's time is up, it's up! There is no arguing. If he has been doing school work, I can give him an "Override", but it is not a complete override (like the other program we tried, which then gave him access to EVERYTHING with no limits! ::sheesh!::) -- after another hour, he's kicked off again.
  • I LOVE the monitoring. Once my son realized I could really track his activity, he really adjusted and shaped up his behavior, going only where he had agreed to go. 
  • I LOVE the web-site blocking. It is well done. It has done what I asked of it the way I wanted it to. 
  • Their tech support was very helpful when they were open. I learned it was not wise to have problems ...after hours... ::sigh::
  •  I highly recommend this program be used when you have a back-up computer. It can be very dicey when you get locked out of your own computer and can't find a way to get back in, especially if it happens during hours when tech support is not available.
  • Set the computer up with multiple users, with an "Administrator" as one option, with the Administrator having less restrictions.
Action Alert Free Protection is ... Free!
Action Alert Maximum Protection costs $29.99 per year. I will probably renew when I need to, because I like this program!

I received one year of Maximum Protection Action Alert in exchange for my honest review.

This has been a TOS Homeschool Crew Review.

To see more reviews of this product, go to the TOS Homeschool Review page for Action Alert.

I do highly recommend this product, but it is intensive and needs you to take time to understand it and set it up carefully. I saw some folks seemed to have problems with their computer with this product. I did not experience this. Maybe it was an available space issue. My son's computer does not have much on it.

Let me know what you think. Throw me a comment. Thanks!

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