Protect Your Children Online with Qustodio

In today’s modern economy, no one wants to spend a dime more than they have to, and this is doubly true for those of us supporting a family. I have two children myself, and protecting them is the highest priority. Today’s average teenager has somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 or more social networking contacts, which means that the parent saying, “don’t talk to strangers” doesn’t have the impact it once did. Moreover, many parents admit to being baffled or at least ignorant as to what their kids spend most of their time online doing. Protecting our children while they are on the computer is just as important as protecting them in any other place, so why not do it for free?

Qustodio (pronounced Cust-oh-dee-oh) is a free program that allows you to protect and monitor your children online. You can see how they spend their internet time, set limits for them to be online, and protect them from the various online dangers like predators, un-suitable content, and other cyber-hazards.

There are, of course, other programs out there that offer online monitoring but many of them are cumbersome to install, cost a monthly subscription fee, or just plain don’t work. Qustodio offers a free way around these issues. Currently available for windows (Xp through 7), there is no official line on whether they will be producing a Mac version or not.

Q1aInstalling Qustodio was easy, a matter of a few clicks and waiting for the infamous ‘loading bar’ to complete it’s journey from one side of the window to the other. Once the installation is done, it invites you to sign up for a Qustodio account. This account is free and links you to what they call the “Family Protection Portal” , hereafter called the FPP. During the account creation process, you’ll create a profile for each of the children you wish to use Qustodio for. A nice feature that it offers at that point is to ‘hide’ Qustodio on your PC, so that no one can see that it is operating. This is an interesting option that keeps the kids from knowing they are being monitored. While I don’t approve of duplicity in general, it could be a good way to find out what they would be looking at if they think they are not being watched. While the cat’s assumed to be away, the mice are pretty sure they can play with impunity. The install process also requires that you create an account for each child to log on to windows itself. This can be a rather tedious process normally, but Qustodio pretty much does it for you so it’s painless. At the end of the process, it asks you to restart the computer, which will be important to activate the account(s) just created for them. It also sends a ‘welcome’ email to your account, with some basics on getting started.

When you get back to your desktop you’ll find a little Qustodio icon in the system tray. Clicking on this icon offers a configuration menu or the option to report a problem with the software. The Configuration menu is actually a web page that takes you to the FPP and once logged in you can change all kinds of settings here. You can change accounts, basic account info, the computers that your kids are running, and even set up different kinds of email notifications to tell you when the kids are up to something. Essentially, the way Qustodio works is to pass information through a specialized proxy program (called qproxy) and verify it’s level of safety based on the settings you choose in the FPP. Each child’s profile has a Summary of their activities and a Rules & Settings tab that lets you decide what and when and how they interact with the web. You can choose categories for them, to limit their options. You can also set up time limits for when they are allowed to use the internet. For example, you can set it up so that each child has a three hour block to use the internet, and during one child’s time block, another’s is disabled. This not only helps to keep the kids on task by creating a schedule and limiting their own usage, it also helps Q2bcut down on the “you’ve been on it forever! let me on it!” syndrome that any parent with more than one child and only one computer is far too familiar with. You can even set up specific site or domain exceptions to the standard categories. Additionally, Qustodio offers a fairly robust Safe Search option that will filter the children’s search results. Many search engines offer this same kind of filtering, but having it centralized and connected to the child’s windows account makes it far easier, and more reliable no matter what search engine they use.

During my testing, the only real downside I found to Qustodio is that the qproxy.exe can be slightly CPU intensive so I would recommend this program for anyone who has a mid-range to high-end system but those with slow, old machines may have some trouble running it. On the upside, having the children’s profiles available on the FPP via the web means you can monitor, check-in, and modify their settings and activity even when you are not at home. You could, for instance, log in and see what they are doing on the web while you are at work, or log in to the web from your smartphone and check to see what they are up to while you’re out on date night. So far, there is not an Android or iPhone app available for Qustodio but it’s probably only a matter of time.

Qustodio advertises itself as “Tamper-Proof” and says that no matter how technologically inclined your kids may be, they won’t be able to find a way around the limits you impose using Qustodio. Personally, I would take this particular boast with a grain of salt because I know first-hand just how smart and capable kids can be, but in general you probably don’t have to worry much about it unless your kids are teens and are computer gurus. I tried to find some ways around it and while I was successful, it did require a certain amount of expertise that it’s not likely most kids would have available. Just make sure you don’t give the child accounts any administration rights on the computer and you should be fine.

If you need help with Qustodio, they do offer a contact link on their home page, but other than that there isn’t much in the way of support. You can report a problem or give feedback on the site but there isn’t an available FAQ or user forum to answer any questions you might have. Nevertheless, because of the simplicity of the program, I didn’t have any questions I wasn’t able to figure out on my own.

Overall, I found Qustodio to be worth it’s weight in ones and zeros and I would suggest it to anyone who wants to monitor their kids online without spending the college fund on super fancy premium cost software to do so.

Tested on: Windows 32-Bit Home Premium and Chrome (5.0+)

Get it at: http://qustodio.com/


 
 
 
B.C. Tietjens

B.C. Tietjens

Born and raised overseas in a military family, B.C. Tietjens visited and lived in many places all over the world. He has worked on a number of publications and enjoys writing for different audiences, on such diverse subjects as relationships, technology, prestidigitation, self-improvement, entertaining children, and biographical stories. He currently writes primarily for Freewaregenius and enjoys the heck out of it.
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  • Luke Stav

    Hello,

    I had really bad experience using this service. Everything went fine on the installation part and setting up kids etc. But when i started using it, my internet connection completely froze. I even couldn’t uninstall the program from my computer cause it needs permission to uninstall from the cloud, which i couldn’t connect to!

    The cure came after stopping 2 services, the one that was bringing all the fuse was called qproxy. After i stopped-disabled those 2 services, i could connect to the internet and uninstall the program.

    Maybe i was unlucky and their proxy was down that time. But still i enabled the service for a specific user (kid) on my windows system, yet the service was still active on my Admin account somehow..

    Anyway, i had the worst experience i could have. I was even thinking to do a system restore before figuring out the disable service thing.

    Luke

    • Stuart Tavener

      Simliar to Luke, I was a bit concerned that it sets up a proxy for all my internet traffic on our shared PC. So even the unmonitored PC admin accounts have their traffic proxied, including my internet banking… not happy bout that bit. surely they do not need to proxy https as they are being `man-in-the middle` circumventing the whole SSL process of encrypting the client to server communications.

  • Michael

    I have tried Qustodio and it works like a charm. Best of all it’s free, what else can you ask for…7

  • Peter

    A good alternative (also freeware) that – in my experience – does not slow down my machine and that I use since many years is K9: http://www1.k9webprotection.com/

  • http://www.qustodio.com Josep

    @BC thanks a for your review, it really does helps us improving our product and building a better experience for our users. We´re definitely going to look into the issues you found while testing Qustodio.

    @Luke We’re very sorry to hear you have had such a bad experience testing Qustodio. We are working on a hotfix that will be released shortly which should help improving overall stability and resource consumption. In any case, we would love learn more about the problem Qustodio found with your computer. If you please could contact us at support@qustodio.com we would provide you with some simple instructions to gather a few technical details about your computer that may help us finding out what happened. Thanks a lot for your help.

    Josep
    Qustodio team

  • http://carbonize.co.uk Carbonize

    Personally I use Windows Live Family Safe ( http://explore.live.com/windows-live-family-safety ) which does everything I need with the exception of limiting their time online. It lets you see what websites they have visited as well as any blocked websites they tried to visit.

    I also have a secondary line of defence which is to use OpenDNS at the router so al DNS requests go to OpenDNS which is set to block adult websites and other stuff I wish to block.

  • http://www.freesoftwarefiles.co.uk martin

    wonderful review and i think i will be downloading Qustodio and giving it a try and thank you very much for sharing this valuable information .

  • B.C. Tietjens

    @Martin
    Glad we could help, friend. That’s what we do here. I hope it works well for you!

    @Luke
    Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with the program. I hope Qustodio’s hotfix will help you out if you decide to give it another chance.

    @Carbonize
    Sounds like you have a good handle on making sure your kids are protected online! Good for you, my friend! As always, your comments are welcomed and appreciated here.

    @Peter
    Thanks for the alternative suggestion, keep ‘em coming!

  • Azhari

    it’s a great software but the real disappointment is the qproxy. It takes 1-2 minutes for my pc to logout/shutdown. It also consume a big chuck of the CPU resources – currently about 85M. I’m running on P4 3.2 with XP Pro. If other users complain, I have to uninstall it.

  • Joe

    This app is terrible! It’s also HUGE! 45 megabytes for a simple monitor? This thing REQUIRES an account to be registered with the company, plus, if you do not set it up… qproxy shuts down your internet connection.

    Then add on this one…. The add remove program LIST is completely GONE!

    What a HUGE mistake to install this thing!

  • http://carbonize.co.uk Carbonize

    Just checked and Microsoft’s Family Safety now has time restriction options as well and, if the child is on Windows 7, it also lets you view their contacts as well as what programs they are using.

  • dan

    joe does your 1TB hard drive have any problem handling 45 megs nowadays ? how would you suggest to log in the admin portal without an account otherwise ?

    works for me, no problems for 2 weeks so far. using a core i3 pc with 2 gigs of ram and windows 7 home premium

  • Joe

    Yeah sure dan, go ahead and let all of your computer activity not only be monitored by your isp, but be especially controlled and monitored by a third party corp with no oversight? Lol. (Btw, I have a better keylogger that runs with under 5 megs overhead, and requires no third party account and another big brother monitor – as well as not having to run all your internet traffic through a proxy server, which is what Quostodio does).

    Btw, how to uninstall Qustodio:
    “C:\Program Files\Qustodio\qapp\qwelcomewzd.exe” -u

    Change C: to whatever drive your OS is on.

    Microsoft Reference:
    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2249920

    That will fix the registry problems that Quostodio introduces and allow your Installed Programs list to populate correctly!
    :-)

  • Rose

    I have been using Qustodio in my daughter’s computer ever since I read this review in October and so far I am very happy. Except for a few problems in the beginning my experience with Qustodio has been superb. They seem to update the product frequently adding new features, all for free. Their privacy policy says our data is automatically deleted from their systems past 15 days.

    @Joe can you enlighten us and explain the 5 most prominent differences you find between a key logger and a child protection software? that should be an easy one, even for you

  • Ron

    ** THEY PROVIDE NO SUPPORT **
    I tried using this as well. It has some real issues, but I think they could have been worked around if there was ANY type of support. When you click the help button and you’re sent to some university login screen. I have no idea why.

    Another issue is their installation process. I created an account and downloaded the software, but had a problem during the install. When I went to try the install again, it would not let me install because I already had an online account. Duh!! It should allow you to tie each of your children’s computers to your ONE online account, but it wont allow that.

    To get around this, I then created a new account and tied the computer to that one, but the software NEVER worked on my child’s computer.

    It has a lot of potential, but if they are unwilling to provide any support – or even allow feedback – it’s a waste of your time. There are too many other companies that want our business to mess with one that doesn’t.

  • Alice

    My experience with Qustodio has been wonderful to say the least. Right from installation to configuration, and then use, everything has gone smoothly. Yes, it consumes some space but I didn’t find it intrusive or a burden on the CPU. My kids usually run several programs at the same time and it has never ever slowed down the machine (an intel i3 with Win 7). I also love the fact that its features are hard to tamper with. most of my earlier attempts at installing a decent parental control utility failed because kids found a way around them.

    • Samer

      @ Alice: music to my ears!

  • Amy

    I have a teen. . Pretty computer savvy.. who is also the administrator of his computer. Iwas trying to be dicreet yet aware, but van Qustodiobe removed in any other way outside of having the password for the account? Can he go under control panel and remove it by uninstalling the program?? I don’t want it removed, just wanting updates so I can bring it up in disscussion even though we have already talked excessively on the matter. Help??