The Internet has become an indispensable resource for the home and family, but every parent has grappled with properly managing and overseeing that resource. We all know the dangers that lurk out there, yet still believe in the value of maintaining access and the necessity of training our children to use it wisely. As the Internet matures, we are gaining some great new tools to help us.
Skydog is designed to help parents manage and oversee their family’s digital lifestyle. It is comprised of two complementary components: a wireless router (to replace your existing router) and an online app (accessible via computer or mobile devices). Between the two of them they offer a powerful and accessible suite of tools.
Here are some of Skydog’s most noteworthy features:
- Monitoring. Real time visibility into who is using the internet, and when, from the web or your mobile phone. Get a text—or send one to your kids—when they’ve exceeded their limits.
- Filtering. Skydog filters inappropriate content on your children’s devices, by user, by time of day which gives you peace of mind, knowing their Internet experience is safe.
- Visibility. Wherever you are, 24/7, you can see if your network is down and why, as well as who is using your internet, what they are doing, and even set limits on what they can do.
- Control. Create individual profiles for all users to ensure the best Internet connectivity experience for each. View per-user information that is easy to understand such as time spent on set web sites, data downloaded or uploaded, and web browsing history.
- Optimization. Set limits on bandwidth for certain users or devices, at any time, so you have the best quality for that streaming movie or important Skype video call.
- Protection. webRover, a brand new feature, allows parents to create a kid-friendly portal to websites that have been vetted and reviewed by Common Sense Media.
In short, Skydog offers a suite of tools for both management and monitoring. It is useful in prevention, useful in real-time, and useful in reporting. (Watch this video for an overview and learn more at their site.)
Perhaps the greatest strength of the Skydog solution is the ability to create user profiles and to then assign devices to those profiles. In this way I can create a profile for my son, decide when he can access the Internet and what level of filtering should be applied, and then assign his iPod and any of his other devices to that profile. I can also see reports of all he has accessed through any of his devices. (Note: this is also a weakness because a family computer can only be assigned to one profile, making it impossible to use multiple profiles on one machine. The Skydog team reports this as their number one feature request and is working on a solution.).
Skydog is also relatively simple to set up and manage. I say “relatively” because I have a background in both computer hardware and software and am able to orient myself quickly. Still, I think most parents will be able to do the setup and management with relative ease. This is all done through the online interface, making it as simple as it can be.
A short time ago I shared a Porn-Free Family Plan and, for sake of simplicity and cost-effectiveness, did not include Skydog. If you use the Porn-Free Family Plan or one like it, you may be wondering how Skydog fits in. Essentially, it can replace or supplement OpenDNS while adding a few extra functions. It will not replace Covenant Eyes. We use it Skydog my home and, while I do not regard it as an essential tool, I do find it a helpful add-on that offers an extra layer of protection.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When technology causes a problem, we tend to look to technology to fix our problem. The problems of pornography, cyber-bullying, and other online dangers need to be addressed primarily through the development of Christian character. For this reason a parent cannot expect that technology alone will cause a child to learn to do what’s right, and learn to love to do what’s right. However, Skydog, like other tools, can be very helpful in preventing sinful actions and can work hand-in-hand with parents as they train their children. I highly recommend it.
In North America, Skydog is sold through Amazon. Note that Amazon’s return policy allows you to buy it, try it, and return it if you don’t find it a helpful solution.