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Keeping your kids safe online can be a full-time job. But it's one that's made a lot easier with AVG Family Safety ($20, buy-only; temporarily available for a $1 Red Cross Donation), a comprehensive parental control solution that works well in multi-computer homes.
AVG Family Safety lets you set up a profile for each of your children, and will suggest security settings based on their age range. For children between the ages of 0 and 8, for example, Family Safety suggests that you ban them from visiting sites in 61 categories such as Mature Content R-Rated, Social Networking, and Violence and Gore, among others. You can customize the settings to your liking, which is helpful as AVG's age ranges are quite wide; for example, you may not mind having a teenager study sites in the Art Nudes category as much as you'd mind having them visit the ones categorized as Pornography. Additional parental controls include the ability to block media by MPAA or FCC rating, block and allow certain sites, and set access times for Internet use. You also can block access to certain programs in categories such as Email, Games, IM, and P2P/Torrent Programs.
Family Safety also offers activity monitoring, which presents you with an easy-to-read graphic summary of the user's Web activity. You also can see search terms they've entered, programs they've accessed, and can reach transcripts of their chat histories on instant messaging programs. The app is nicely laid out and all of the information is easy to access, but, for the most part, you have to go looking for the information you want: AVG doesn't always notify you when potentially dangerous behavior is occurring. You don't, for example, get alerts when certain words are used in chat messages, which would be a nice touch. You will, however, be alerted if someone attempts to access a site that is blocked.
AVG Family Safety also offers alerts when it detects inappropriate words in social network posts, which is a nice feature. It doesn't actually block the language. It also warns users who log into social networking sites that their activity will be monitored, and stores their login credentials so that parents then have full access to their account. I prefer the more open approach of ZoneAlarm SocialGuard, which alerts parents to potentially dangerous activity on Facebook while still allowing the child to have some privacy. SocialGuard only works with Facebook, though, and is not a complete parental control solution like AVG Family Safety. It is possible to use the two programs in combination.
A $20 annual license allows you to use AVG Family Safety on three PCs. You setup the app on one PC, and its restrictions will be enforced on each PC that your children use. (You will need to install a local client on each PC.) You do have to assign each of the AVG profiles that you create to a specific user login, however. If your children share a login or can login using an older sibling's credentials, they could bypass some of AVG's security settings.
AVG Family Safety offers a strong set of parental controls and useful activity monitoring tools. I do wish it offered more in the way of real-time alerts, but Family Safety still offers plenty of safeguards for your children.