In a time when almost everyone has access to a computer, whether you want them to or not, parents are looking for newer and better ways to monitor their children online.
Oro Valley brothers Brian and Mark Lawson heard these plights from numerous parents. Brian, who has been in the technology business for twenty years, along with being an IT and security consultant, would give tips to parents on ways they could protect themselves and their family from certain aspects of the Internet.
“I put together a presentation, did the circuit to the rotary clubs, the parent groups and before I knew it, I became sort of an expert in the area because I had gathered so much information and talked about it so often,” Brian Lawson said. “I would do these seminars and instructional talks for parents, and every time I would get to the point in the conversation where I started giving them the actual technical tips that they needed to apply on their computers, theirs eyes would glaze over.”
So Mark and Brian put the ideas and concerns they had heard over the years and developed a product, which over the past four years has evolved into Action Alert, a parental control software.
The tool, which can be downloaded for free from the company’s website, www.actionalert.com, gives parents up to eight different safety tools they can use. If a parent signs up for the premium service for $29.99 a month, the user can use all of the tools.
The tools include site blocking, time allowance, keystroke logging, content filtering, chat and email logging, remote access control, activity notification alerts via email or a text message, and activity video recording, where the parent could watch exactly what their child saw for up to 60 hours of recorded time.
About a year and a half ago, John Rooney joined the brothers as the CEO of the company, which is when they changed the product’s name and the way parents received it. In the past, they would purchase a flash drive with the program on it. Now, it can be downloaded directly from the company’s site and installed within a few minutes.
“We were doing 10 to 20 new downloads a day and now we doing about 600 to 650 downloads a day,” Rooney said. “As of the end of March, we had just under 60,000 customers.”
Currently, the software is available for a PC platform. As the company progresses, it is looking at migrating its software onto mobile phones. So parents who have kids on an Android platform will soon be able to install the software on their child’s cellphone.
Brian said the software isn’t intended for parents to spy on their kids, but gives them the opportunity to intervene if, by chance, the child is doing something they shouldn’t be doing.
It helps parents enforce three basic rules that Brian feels are the most important. One, to set limits and let kids understand it is a privilege. This can be done without changing passwords all the time, or even going as far as to hide the power cable, which is something he had heard some parents were actually doing.
Secondly, he said the product helps put a child in a situation where they are not set up to fail.
“If you just take a computer right out of the box, fire it up, without any restrictions, you are going to run across bad stuff whether you like it or not,” Brian said. “You have to give the kid at least a fighting chance by doing the basics.”
The third thing he said Action Alert helps with, is it makes sure a parent knows when there has been a violation of the ground rules and parameters a parent set up. That way, they are able to enforce the rules and let the child know there are consequences.