FSPro Lab's "Access Boss" software helps parents regulate their children's use of the home computer. Parents can set daily time limits for use of the computer and block its use during specified times of the day. The program's interface (shown below) is visual and straightforward. However, a bit more complexity -- such as the ability to set different time limits of use for a number of applications -- would be a welcome addition.
Here are other ways parents are using technology to monitor their kids' activities. What do you use? Visit the Technobabble blog (www.startribune.com/blogs/technobabble) to share your comments.
School lunches: MealpayPlus (www.mealpayplus.com) lets parents manage their kids' school-lunch spending, see what they're buying and even block certain food purchases. So long, Mountain Dew; hello, skim milk. Eight Minnesota school districts use the service, including Orono, Chaska and West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan.
Cell phones: More cellular providers are offering kid-friendly phones with GPS technology that allows parents to see exactly where their loved ones are at any given time.
Video games: Microsoft recently added a Family Timer to its Xbox Live service (www.xbox.com) that lets parents control how much time kids spend playing games on the Xbox 360.
Driving: Several auto-insurance companies, such as American Family Insurance (www.teensafedriver.com), are experimenting with devices that allow parents to monitor their teens' driving.