Recently, we were selected to try a new program that is guaranteed to result in meaningful conversations between parents and kids: Accountable2You‘s Family Plan. Homeschool Review Crew members reviewed a variety of plans from Accountable2You. Let me share with you about our experiences!
Accountable2You is a company which has built programs and apps which can enable families to monitor their own Internet and website use. It helps families–both parents and kids–to use their computers and devices with integrity and transparency, and encourage them to have honest conversations about that use. There are four plans which users can sign up for:
- The Individual Plan, for one person’s use. Up to 6 devices can be used with this plan.
- The Family Plan, for (obviously) families. Up to 20 devices (computers, cell phones, tablets) can be monitored with this plan. The members of one household can use this, even if a child or children are away at college.
- The Group Plan could be used by a group with various members who aren’t necessarily related but are part of group.
- The Small Business Plan is ideal for businesses whose employees might have online access.
The person in charge of the plan uses the Accountable2You website to set up accountability partners. They download the Accountable2You software onto computers, tablets, or cell phones. Then, the account holder can set up words which can flagged when the child or accountability partner searches for them or enters websites with those words. The account holder can get text alerts or daily emails which detail the computer use of all accountability partners. In addition, there is a GPS locator option for phones so that parents can see where their kids (if the kids have cell phones) are at a given time. Time limits for device use can also be set.
Why we felt this might be helpful for us
Does this sound a little Orwellian to you? As I was writing the paragraph above, that is sort of what I thought it might sound like! However, Accountable2You is not spyware. It’s rather a healthy way for parents to keep tabs on what types of websites their kids are using; how much time they’re spending online; and also a way to keep kids safe, by providing the kind of information sharing within a family where those sites can be viewed and discussed by a responsible parent to a child.
The Internet is an awesome tool. I think occasionally of how wonderful it would have been to access its enormous resources in previous years, or when I lived overseas and often did public speaking. At that time, I was limited to the study resources I had taken with me; while we all had email accounts there just wasn’t a lot of search engine capability with the Internet in those days. (It wasn’t as long ago as it sounds!)
However, as we all know, there is a dark side of the web. As parents, we know this. And we can personally avoid those sites with objectionable or even dangerous materials. But part of parenting is teaching our kids about that kind of safety. How can you know what sites your child is accessing—so that you can discuss that with them and set healthy and protective limits? Accountable2You enables you to do just that.
We downloaded the Accountable2You software on our family computer, which sits just off the family room in our dining room. It’s always located there so that anyone can see what the user is doing at the moment; this was a recommendation years ago from our pediatrician and we still follow it. Our family computer is the main place our son does his gaming, and he also visits the LEGO website via it.
Next, I set up the list of words that would flag me if sites containing them were accessed. I won’t be too specific and tell you exactly what I entered, but the list covered words that would likely lead to questionable websites as well as those related to gaming that I know already are frequently accessed. Accountable2You also has an automatic listing of words that could indicate unhealthy use.
I didn’t download the software onto my Kindle Fire for the reason that there just isn’t room. For the last 4-6 weeks or so, I keep getting a pop-up message that says, “Your Kindle is using 90% of available storage. Please click here to delete items.” But, everything I have on there is something I want there….so I ignore that. Anyway, it kept me from being able to install the Accountable2You software.
I set up our account to send us daily emails, called Activity Reports, of the sites which were accessed. You can see one of those above. It is completely thorough and lists everything that was visited on that day. You can also click through those emails to the Accountable2You website, which shows you a full report. (Those are kept for 15 days, by the way, but can be downloaded onto an Excel spreadsheet on your own PC.)
Overall, I give Accountable2You good grades (so to speak). I love the daily emails which help me see what my son has accessed over the past day. He and I talk about where he can go online already, but this tells me (and him) just how much time he’s actually spending online. That kind of record-keeping is useful; I’ve already seen him back off using a particular site just because the site informed him how much time he was already spending on it.
It is not a filter (although the company does have some recommendations for that sort of product). But it provides a way for parents and children to speak frankly and openly about the things they’re doing online, and how long they’re doing them. We have talked about my son’s website visits, but thus far they were already things I knew about and had approved. However, if something else ever came up, I could see it in the Activity Report and could engage my son in conversation if necessary. It could also provide ways for spouses to do the same thing with each other.
So for us, it wasn’t something I used for GPS locating or time monitoring (on that second one, simply because he’s always in the same room with me when he’s online). Rather, it was a way to provide conversation points and really just illumination for me about the ways my son’s heart is engaged when he is online. I appreciate that so much because that helps me to engage with him myself, even better.
If you’re looking for a way to monitor your child’s online activity, and a way to be able to talk with them about it and help set appropriate boundaries, you may just love Accountable2You.
You may sign up for the Family Plan and any of the other plans at Accountable2You. Currently, it’s priced at $9.99 per month. What a useful tool to help engage families about Internet safety and wise use!
You can also visit Accountable2You at their social media sites:
Other Homeschool Review Crew members reviewed the same plan that we did; and some used others. Click on the banner below to find out more about their experiences!