Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PG Key

PG Key is a device that plugs into your USB port and offers parental controls for your computer. It is a very simple device but offers a lot of customizable protections. It is a $49 one time purchase with no annual fees.

 
The PG Key:

  
  • Blocks use of the computer when the Key is removed.

  • Enforces time limits on usage.

  • Blocks or allows specific websites.

  • Notifies the parent when searches are made for specific keywords.

Records everything done on the computer for the past 60 hours.

 
PG Key comes with a quick install guide and it really is very easy to install. Plug it in – create a password and you are done! The set up however takes a little more time and effort. There is nothing in the package to explain how to set up the PG Key. There is a tutorial online, but it really just explained the features not how to use them or set them up.

 
I chose to set up a kid’s user account and not use the PG Key on my administrator account. After creating the user account and registering my PG Key, I began to customize my PG Key.

 
First I set a time limit. I set it at 5 minutes per day (I just wanted to see how it would work!). Then, I allowed two websites that Kirk and Maggie like to access and also blocked one of Kirk’s favorite football sites. I set up to have a notification sent everytime a search was made for words they commonly type, like truck and football.

 
Then I turned the computer over to Kirk. Imagine my glee (and his disappointment) when, just as he found the classic cars section on autotrader.com the computer “locked” him out! (Hee hee – Moms should get the fun sometimes too!). His 5 minute time was up! I was able to use my password to allow him 5 more minutes. I had him attempt to enter sixmanfootball.com and it was not allowed (that was my blocked website).

 
Later I checked my notifications – which can be sent by email or text – and was notified that “football” and “truck” were typed . I also reviewed the recorded computer usage and was impressed. It was similar to a power point presentation with screen shots of each site visited, including my set up efforts!

 
Overall I think this could be an effective program. I used a very quick setup that I could test, but plan to take more time setting this up for actual effective usage.

 
Pros:

 
  • It must be physically present – the bright red key is clearly visible and a good deterrent. The obvious presence of the key is a visual reminder that someone may be seeing what you are doing on the computer.
  • The settings can be modified – sites can be added or removed from the blocked/allowed list as needed.
  • Unless you give your children the password they cannot override the features.
  • The record feature is unique and helpful from a school standpoint as well as a safety standpoint.

 
Cons:

 
  • I did not like the time feature* (except for the fun it afforded me!) and this is why: The time limit is per day and with four kids that eventually will use the computer I would have two choices: 
      • 1. Set a combined time limit – then manually be sure each child does not go over their portion of that time. (This I already do without the PG Key!
      • 2. Set an individual time limit and use my password to override it each time a new child needs to use the computer.
*(The time limit is optional – you do not have to use it when you install the PG Key)
  • There is so little instruction. My issue with this is that I am exactly the person this product was designed for: a parent with limited computer knowledge with children that are much more computer savvy. I would like to see more detailed instructions on the set-up and some suggestions for keywords to block. The tutorial did reference websites with information for parents about protecting their kids. But a quick list of keywords would have been nice so I didn’t have to start by searching other websites for warnings on what my kids might try looking for.
  • If there was really a problem, there is no way to know which child is the offender – unless you have a separate user for each child and each child protects his user password and never lets another child use his account. Since I only created one extra account for all of the kids, I don’t know if the screenshots recording would differentiate between users either.

 
Final thought: The best online safety feature comes from parental presence. But, since the day will come when they will have to control their own behavior online – the PG Key is a good training tool for online independence.

 
Read the reviews from other TOS Homeschool Crews here.

 
  
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**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

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