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Monday, March 26, 2012

Action Alert Review

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If you have children, and they have access to the computer at all, I'm here to tell you, you can NOT be over-protective enough!  We live in a day and age where so much information is available just at the click of a button that it's common for everyone, even children, to turn to the internet to gather any information they might need.  The problem is that one mis-typed web address or one query for an innocent word with a not-so-innocent alternate meaning and your child can get WAY more education than you expected.  Enter Action Alert!
Action Alert offers free Parental Control software and was designed to be very easy to use and provide maximum protection with a minimum amount of effort on your part.   Just download the program and you have several different tools at your disposal to monitor your children's computer usage.

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It's won a few awards and gotten lots of attention...
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But how does it work?  Action Alert is free to download.  Yes, that's right.  FREE!  You can get most of the features that Action Alert is capable of for free.  That's how seriously they take their mission to help parents to protect their kids.  Then, you can go in and adjust the level of monitoring by either blocking websites or creating a list of allowable websites.  Even if you don't do this, it has a preprogrammed list of offensive sites that are blocked.  There is an optional Action Alert search engine home page that you can set as the default for your child as well. 

Action Alert is available 2 ways- FREE or a paid "Maximum Protection" version.  If you are wondering what the difference is, here's what they have to say:

Free Version - Action Alert offers a 100% free version that many parents feel gives them the amount of protection and peace of mind they need - and for good reason!  Our free version offers more protection than you would otherwise pay $40 per year for or more with other products.  It includes a web filter to ensure safe searches, website blocking that prevents access to a constantly updated list of websites, time use controls – it even sends texts or e-mail alerts when dangers are detected.  All of this PLUS free tech support where calls are taken at our Arizona based support center by our friendly staff.    

Maximum Protection – Action Alert sends a message to your cell phone or e-mail when an event occurs that you should be aware of.  This message lets parents know they should take a look at the computer and probably have a talk with their young computer user.  

The Maximum Protection version simply gives parents a much more complete set of tools to see the details of the missteps their child or teen took online, or in some cases provides usable evidence of interactions when they were targeted by a wrong doer.  From the moment our 100% free version is installed, our technology goes to work recording the computer activity of your protected user.  If needed, you can activate Maximum Protection and watch everything that happened like watching a DVR.   

It’s our hope that kids never make mistakes online or that those that misuse technology to target kids fail in their efforts.  Fortunately most of the families that use Action Alert don’t find the need to upgrade – but whether it’s an innocent mistake by the user or the results of a wrong doer that results in an Alert, the Action Alert Maximum protection recording viewer provides a valuable tool to head off dangers and educate young computer users on responsible use of technology.

The Pros:  Hello, it's FREE!  I really appreciated that parents can see what your child has been doing by reviewing a log of all the keystrokes they have made.   It's also very helpful that you can set time allowances for internet usage by either the day/hour or by giving them an amount of minutes each day.  And since I have one child who has gotten into trouble visiting some sites that he's not supposed to, I loved the enhanced protection offered by the paid subscription.  I got e-mail notices every time he typed something Action Alert or I deemed inappropriate (although it was always fine-he plays on a lego-figure type game with military scenarios, so most of the time he was typing things like "stop killing me", but "killing" would be flagged and e-mailed to me).  And the ability to see exactly where he has been and what he's done was great.  I could even check up on his math that way since it saves screen shots and he uses Teaching Textbooks for math.  Oh, and if your computers are set up with multiple users, you can limit specific users and allow others to surf the web without Action Alert's restrictions.

The cons:  I don't love that their search "home page" has a huge ad for Kelloggs on it.  I'm sure that's how they make some money since the basic service is free, but I really don't want my kids to have ads on their homepage.  Also, you can still get to some "questionable" stuff even using their search engine, but I am very conservative, so my standards my be different than those of others.   I think creating a list of allowable sites would be the safest route if you really want protection.  And unfortunately, while I loved getting the messages about questionable words my son had typed, the link for me to click and disable his internet can have a lag time of 10 minutes, so if my son really was getting into things he shouldn't be, 10 minutes is quite a window, and he (or any of my children) could see an awful lot in 10 minutes that I wouldn't want them seeing.  He's complained about lag time in his favorite online game ever since this was installed, but it doesn't seem to make any non-internet functions slower on his computer. Finally, I wish the text log also told what website he was on when he typed that text and not just the day and time it was typed!  And I really, really wish I could view the logs of his activity from the comfort of my own computer instead of having to go log into his to see it.

The bottom line:  I think it's well worth it to check out the FREE version of Action Alert.  It's not perfect, but as a company they have expressed their willingness to keep improving their product, and it is still a good starting place to protect your kids.  And if you have a child who has had past issues online, I think the monitoring offered by the paid version is worth it.  At least, it's been very helpful to me to be able to see that my son really is making wise choices now about his internet usage.

To download the FREE version of Action Alert or to buy the paid version, go HERE  To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free download of the maximum protection software for the purpose of providing my honest review.  That download is the only compensation I received.
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