Do you trust your kids to responsibly use a computer at all times, without supervision? Do you trust them to responsibly use the Internet without restrictions? If you’re like most parents I talk to, you answered “No” to one or both of these questions. If you said the same, you’re interested in parental controls and monitoring.
SpyAgent is monitoring and Internet filtering software with some parental controls. In this review, I’ll tell you how SpyAgent can help you protect your kids online.
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In a hurry? In summary, SpyAgent is comprehensive monitoring software for Windows, with the ability to block/filter websites and Windows programs. Read on for more details.
When kids have their own devices, especially those with Internet access, there’s a good chance they’ll try to use them in ways that are against your wishes, or are outright dangerous. Here are just a few of the challenges you face:
- Your kids may visit websites that contain malware that could harm their device, and even other connected devices.
- Your kids may access illegal content, such as pirated music and movies, and illegal forms of porn.
- Your kids may communicate with people who mean them harm, such as cyberbullies and Internet predators.
- Your kids may use apps you don’t approve of.
- Your kids may view websites, images, videos, and other content you don’t approve of, such as porn.
- Your kids may send and receive messages you don’t approve of, such as sexual or hateful messages.
- Your kids may spend more time using their devices than you want them to.
- Your kids may use their devices without your supervision, whether at home or outside it.
- The parental controls built into devices and apps may not limit your kids as much as you’d like.
For these reasons, you should consider parental monitoring software such as SpyAgent.
How to Protect Your Kids
SpyAgent is monitoring and Internet filtering software with some parental control features. It doesn’t offer as many controls as other parental control software.
You can configure SpyAgent to record many activities, including keystrokes (typed text), applications used, windows opened, websites visited, and chat conversations. It can also block websites and Windows applications, including chat software.
Although SpyAgent can be run in “stealth” mode, making it invisible, I recommend that you be transparent with your kids about the monitoring, rather than spying on them. I recommend that parents and children communicate about family rules and expectations.
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1. What devices does SpyAgent work with?
It works on Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP, and even some older versions. You shouldn’t be running anything older than Windows 8.1, because Microsoft is no longer supporting older versions, and they’re a security risk.
SpyAgent not available for other devices. For devices that aren’t running Windows, you’ll need to use iOS’s Screen Time (for iPhone and iPad), Kaspersky Safe Kids, Norton Family Premier, or other parental control software.
Spytech, the company that sells SpyAgent, also sells SentryPC, which works on Macs and has similar functionality to SpyAgent.
2. What apps can SpyAgent monitor or control?
It can monitor, and block, the use of applications installed on Windows.
You can select any programs installed on the PC to have SpyAgent close them when someone opens them.
3. Will SpyAgent work outside my home network?
Yes. The software runs locally on the device, monitoring regardless of the network that’s used (whether your kids are on your home Wi-Fi, someone else’s Wi-Fi, or cellular data).
4. How granularly can SpyAgent filter content?
It filters based on how SpyAgent has categorized websites. It can also filter based on keywords that appear in the URL. It can also block websites based on their content, and you can set how sensitive this filter is.
There’s an Allow only the Above URLs option that will block all websites that you haven’t specifically allowed (whitelisted). This could be useful if your children are very young, and only need to visit a small number of websites.
You can choose what SpyAgent does when a disallowed website is opened; it can go back to the homepage, or close the browser.
When I tested, SpyAgent was somewhat slow to react to browsing. I was able to browse each site for a few seconds before SpyAgent reacted. Also, if more than one browser tab contained disallowed websites, the browser would ask if I wanted to close all tabs. If I chose not to, I could browse for a few more seconds before the browser would ask again.
5. What website categories can SpyAgent filter?
There are 10 categories. There are also 3 filters that filter based on site content:
- Adult Content
You can set how sensitive this filter is.
6. How will I monitor my kids’ activity with SpyAgent?
There are 5 ways to monitor activity:
- View logs in SpyAgent (on PC it’s installed on)
- Email alerts
- Text/SMS alerts
- FTP delivery of logs
- Web browser (if you use SpyAnywhere Cloud, a free companion service)
You can set up real-time activity alerts via email or text/SMS. Emails can contain screenshots as well as textual descriptions of the event.
You can receive a Daily Activity Report, which shows everything that monitored users did on a specific day, in chronological order.
You can receive Top 10 Reports, which allow you to view a ranked listing of the most-used applications and websites.
You can use the SmartLogging feature to have SpyAgent only start recording activity when certain keywords appear (when their typed, or included in the name of an application, window title, or URL).
You can search all SpyAgent logs for specific keywords or data. SpyAgent also includes cross-referencing abilities so you can quickly find related information across various SpyAgent logs.
The free SpyAnywhere Cloud companion service allows you to remotely view logs and reports, and suspend and resume monitoring. A premium (paid) subscription to SpyAnywhere adds other features, such as viewing screenshots in real-time.
SpyAgent will record the URLs of websites visited. You can also optionally enable Capture Content of Webmail Sites and Capture Content of ALL Sites. These cause SpyAgent to record the text of webpages visited.
7. Does SpyAgent use a whitelist or a blacklist?
First, a couple definitions (which you can also find in the Glossary):
- Whitelist: A list of approved items. A system that uses a whitelist blocks all items that are not on the whitelist.
- Blacklist: A list of disapproved items. A system that uses a blacklist allows all items that are not on the blacklist.
SpyAgent uses a blacklist approach for apps and websites. However, you can use the Allow only the Above URLs option to use a whitelist approach for websites.
8. Does SpyAgent control screen time? How granularly?
Yes, but the controls are quite basic. You can set it to lock your computer at certain times of day, in 1-hour intervals. It will follow the same schedule each day. There’s no way to set different schedules for different days.
Locking the computer with SpyAgent is an all-or-nothing deal; there’s no way to allow some programs and block others based on schedule.
9. What browsers does SpyAgent work with?
SpyAgent says it works with “All Popular Web-Browsers,” and shows icons for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. In my testing, it also worked with Edge.
You don’t want your kids to be tempted to use a different browser, so I recommend that you uninstall any browsers other than those that are supported. To prevent your child from installing other browsers, have them use a non-Administrator user account on Windows.
10. Can SpyAgent filter HTTPS traffic?
Yes, it can.
11. Can SpyAgent track my kid’s location?
No, it doesn’t have the ability to track location.
12. How can I manage the settings of SpyAgent?
You configure the settings on the PC that’s running SpyAgent. To do so, you must stop monitoring. When you finish your changes, you can start monitoring again.
The free SpyAnywhere Cloud companion service allows you to remotely change settings, suspend and resume monitoring, clear logs, and uninstall SpyAgent.
13. How frequently is SpyAgent updated?
Looking at the changelog, I see that the software has major updates 1-4 times each year.
I don’t know how often the database used for web filtering is updated.
14. How easily can my kid get around SpyAgent?
You set a password for SpyAgent, which is required to disable monitoring, change settings, or uninstall it.
15. How many devices or accounts does SpyAgent cover?
You can buy a 1-PC license or a 3-PC license. I’ll tell you about the pricing later.
16. What else do I need to know about SpyAgent?
There are a few other miscellaneous things I’d like you to know about SpyAgent.
Spytech, the company that sells SpyAgent, is quick to point out that its software isn’t spyware. It explains that spyware is usually installed without the knowledge of the owner of the PC, and the data it collects is usually sold to third parties. Spytech explains that SpyAgent is installed by the owner of the PC, and the collected data is only made available to the person who buys the SpyAgent software.
The company also notes that the software can be set to alert users that they’re being monitored, which is called the Splash Warning. I recommend that you enable this, to remind your kids that they’re being monitored. You can choose to have the software run in “stealth” mode, making it invisible, but I recommend that you be transparent with your kids about the monitoring, rather than spying on them.
Spytech says that “Our monitoring software is legal as long as the purchaser installs it on a computer they own themselves. If a purchaser installs the software on a computer they do not own then they may be violating state and federal laws.”
You can choose which PC users are monitored by SpyAgent, to prevent your account (or other adults’ accounts) from being monitored.
SpyAgent can be used as a keylogger; software that monitors everything typed on the device. So, it can record what’s typed into any software.
Because it’s a keylogger, some security software will flag SpyAgent as malware. That’s because keyloggers can be abused and used for secretly spying on people. If your security software flags SpyAgent, you’ll need to mark it as safe, or tell the security software to ignore it.
SpyAgent can record text chats in a variety of messengers (WhatsApp, Skype, etc.).
SpyAgent can record audio using a PC’s microphone.
It can also take photos using a PC’s camera, on a schedule you set.
SpyAgent includes a remote desktop client, which allows you to remotely control the PC.
The SpyAgent software has a dated design, even though the software itself isn’t old.
SpyAgent has extensive online documentation and an online helpdesk, and they offer remote assistance.
SpyAgent is developed by Spytech, which is based in Minnesota. The company was founded in 1998.
17. What does SpyAgent cost?
- $69.95 for 1 computer
- $89.95 for 3 computers
The license you buy covers the version that you buy for as long as you use it, though you may choose to pay to upgrade to a newer version of SpyAgent in the future.
If you choose to use the SpyAnywhere Cloud companion service, you can upgrade to a premium subscription for additional features, such as viewing screenshots in real-time. This is $19.95 per year per computer.
Who Is SpyAgent Best For?
SpyAgent is most useful if you want to keep a close watch on, and restrict, your kids’ activity on a Windows PC.
Because it doesn’t work on other devices, it can’t help you with any of those. If your kids use devices other than a Windows PC (which they almost certainly do!), you probably want more full-featured parental controls that work on more devices, such as Kaspersky Safe Kids, Norton Family Premier, or other parental control software. And even if your kids only use Windows, you’ll probably be happier using one of those options than SpyAgent.
What You Should Do
- Define what you want parental control and Internet filtering software to do. Start with what you’ve learned in this review.
- Decide if SpyAgent will work for you and your kids.
- If you choose SpyAgent, install and configure it. As you do, consider my advice throughout this review.
- Talk to your kids about the settings you configure. Talk when you first set up SpyAgent, as well as regularly after that. Technology is no substitute for parenting.
- Regularly evaluate how well the software is working for your family. Adjust the software, and your settings, as necessary.