Unfortunately it's common knowledge that if you want to keep your browsing habits private, you need to delete your history -- and kids know this just as well (if not more so) than adults. If your child uses a browser that offers a privacy mode (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome all have optional private modes), you may not be able to track their activity without the use of third-party software or hardware.
- Skill level:
Check the cookies, if they haven't been deleted already. Exactly how you check for cookies depends on your browser. Internet Explorer users can go to "Tools > Internet Options," select "Settings" under Browser History and click "View Files." This will also show any Temporary Internet Files from websites the browser has visited. Firefox users should go to "Tools > Options > Privacy," select the "Cookies" tab and press "Show Cookies."
Check the Trash folder, just in case your kid forgot to cover his tracks. If these files are not in your trash folder, you can still use a program like "NTFS Undelete," which allows you to recover certain files even if they've been removed from the Trash (see Resources). This doesn't always work, as the disk spaces those files were stored on can be rapidly overwritten while the computer is in use, but it is a solution for immediately after the history was erased.
Enable your router's logging feature to keep track of all the websites that are being visited via that router. This can result in a lot of white noise, depending on how many users you have on the network and how often your household uses the network, but it cannot be beat by deleting history or cookies. Check your router's user manual or website for details on how to enable logging.
Install a keylogger on your computer. Keyloggers make a record of every single key stroke, typically saving this information as a text file. There are several different varieties of keylogger, some considered more stealthy than others, including Family Keylogger and Smart Keystroke Recorder (see Resources).
Tips and warnings
- Talking to your children about their browsing habits is sometimes more effective than sneaking around after them; don't be afraid to ask your child what they're doing on the Internet.
- Programs like Wallwatcher can help you analyse and filter your router logs for better understanding of your children's browsing habits.
- There are a number of programs and utilities that allow you to filter and block certain websites or content. These work better if you're certain of a particular website that you want to keep your children from visiting, and can typically be beaten by use of a proxy or a particularly clever child.
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