Nov 1, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Accountable2You

Children's use of screens and the Internet is a pretty hotly debated topic these days. But whether you fall on the "No screens until marriage" extreme or the "My kids have free access to any screen any time day or night" extreme or just somewhere in the middle, you more than likely agree that safety is of primary concern.

My husband and I are certainly concerned about it, so we jumped at the chance to review the software program Accountable2You. They have four different plans from which to choose: Family Plan, Group Plan, Individual Plan or Small Business Plan. We chose the Family Plan.

Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}

First, let me tell you a little bit about our family and our needs. We have four kids, ages 13, 12, 10 and 9. We have both boys and girls. We give our kids screen time for several reasons. We believe that in our world today our kids need to be able to use technology. We also believe that they need to learn self control and restraint now instead of waiting until they are adults when it is a much harder habit to achieve. We have set boundaries for the kids regarding screens and we expect them to respect those boundaries and live within them.

This is easier for some of our kids than it is for others. Truth be told, we have three kids that have little trouble staying within the limits and one kid that really struggles. But even for the three that can take it or leave it, technology, especially the Internet, can be very dangerous.

We have talked extensively with the kids about the dangers of the Internet. They know not to give out personal details. They know they are not allowed to "talk" to anyone in cyberspace that they don't know in real life. And I haven't hidden from them the reasons why. Every time I read a story about a kid lured to their death by a stranger on the Internet I show my kids and we talk about it. Again.

Another rule we have is that the kids keep all the devices in the main living areas. No being on the computer/ phone/ iPad in their bedrooms away from parents. I don't hang over their shoulders, but the potential for me walking by is high. Also their siblings can see everything they do and my kids dearly love to tattle. We also talk about the reason for this. They know that there are icky places and icky people on the Internet that are way too easily accessed. They know that even adults have to be careful where they go and what they search for. They know it is easy for kids to see things that shouldn't be seen and get ensnared in bad places. They know this.

But the fact is, my kids are human and humans fail. We have had kids break our rules. I have caught my kids in the closet playing Minecraft when they weren't supposed to be on technology. I have caught them watching Youtube videos that made me cringe (even though they, in their innocence didn't understand why). I have caught them getting up at 3 am to get a "techno-fix" like an addict. And I know that even my tattle-tales don't tell me about the stuff that they are personally involved in.

So I am thrilled that we have Accountable2You. We chose the Family Plan because we could install up to 20 devices on our account. This means we could put it on three laptops, an iPad, two Kindles, two iPods, and an Android phone. They don't use all of those devices, but we are covered for every possibility and still have room to add more.

We also are able to put both of us parents as accountability partners so we both get notified of "suspicious" activity. If we wanted, we could put the software on our own computers and make each other accountability partners. We have unlimited options here. This program isn't just for kids, it can protect adults, too.

Accountable2You does not block objectionable sites. You need additional software for that. It simply lets the parent or partner know where the user has been on the Internet.

So this is basically how it works. All the places my kids go on the Internet is recorded. I can go to the site and view their history at any time. It tells me where they have been and at what time. If they visit a suspicious site, then I (and my husband) get an email. For example, Kaytie does art during school. Today she watched a how-video on Youtube and we got an email. It was totally ok, and I already knew what she was doing, but it was sure nice to know the program works!

In addition, I can input a list of Objectionable Words and I get an alert if that word is used on their devices. I can choose to rate each word as Questionable or Highly Questionable. So I can monitor if they are searching for or talking about subjects that should be off-limits for kids. If they try to add words to the Unobjectionable list, I will get a notification so they can't work the system that way. So far, none of them have used any of the words so that gives me some peace of mind!

I can also access a pie-chart that tells me which sites they go to and how much time they spend there. At this point, I really don't know what to do with this information, but I expect that as they grow up, it will be helpful to show them how much time they "waste" and how much time they are putting to good use when they are on the computer.

My favorite feature is that I can set up time limits on the devices. I set it up so that if any of the kids gets on one of their devices after 10:30 pm or before 9:30 am their dad and I both get a text message. This will keep them from getting up in the middle of the night to play. And that will keep them out of all sorts of trouble!

Using Accountable2You is a fairly simple process. My husband set up our account. He said it was not hard but it was a little fiddly. He had to go through several steps to set it up on each device, but the whole process, start to finish, took him less than half an hour. After that, we really haven't had to much of anything. I poked around and explored, played with the Objectionable Words, and have looked over the reports on a regular basis, but the program mostly runs itself.

So far, we are really loving Accountable2You. It's easy to use, it has given us great peace of mind, and we know that if our kids cross our boundaries again, we will know right away and be able to deal with it immediately.

Different members of the Crew reviewed different plans, so click on the banner below to see if the Individual, Group, Family, or Small Business plans are right for you!

Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}

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