Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Accountable2You: Group Plan (Review)

The TOS Homeschool Review Crew were recently asked to review a number of plans from Accountable2You, a computer and electronic device monitoring company. Options available were Individual Plan, Family Plan, Group Plan, and they also have a Small Business Plan. I was chosen to review the Group Plan as I am a local homeschool support group leader with about 50 families in our group.

As of this moment I haven't gotten anyone else to sign up with the plan (mostly due to busy schedules, and no opportune times to have a group discussion), however, I will discuss what it looks like on the administrative side, and also how we can use it in our own family.

As a Group Administrator, you set up the Group account, and from there you can set up your own own user account for your family, and send invitations to those in your group. Each member of the group receives the equivalent of an Individual account. The Group Administrator doesn't receive or access any of the Individual account reports, so each family's privacy is maintained.

Once a user account is created it is time to add devices. Each user account can add up to six devices, which can include desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and phones. A list of supported devices may be helpful as you determine which ones are the most important to set up. FYI, Android devices receive the greatest amount of monitoring.

Setting up each device
Each device must be set up separately (downloading the software), and can then be customized to that particular person's usage (the User can use their own computer to finish setting up the specific parameters for each device). Add accountability partners (unlimited for each device), and specify activity notifications. Choose to have reports sent daily, weekly, or instantly via text if you are monitoring a serious concern.

Setting Activity Notifications
For some families, there may be specific activities and communications that they would like to have monitored that can be summed up in a few different words. For this you can set those words as "objectionable words" and have them highlighted in the reports, or sent immediately via text. In our household, I am most interested in using this to monitor the amount of time spent on non-school-related activities, especially during school hours. For that purpose, I have input "Fishing" and "Gaming" as "objectionable words" simply so that I can tell when/how often my Middlest is not concentrating on his schoolwork when he is in another room. ;) Obviously, other families may have more serious concerns, and this could be an extremely helpful tool for them.

I was astonished the first time I received a report. I had set up the software on my son's phone (which isn't activated, but used like a tablet on wifi). There were over 400 notifications (all good "green" activity)! It records every tap and swipe of the finger. So some notifications were simply "Log in" or "Log out" others had to do with an app crashing and so on. If there was a chat message sent, it showed up. You can also search specific words inside the report. Turns out "fishing" only showed up when he logged into his email(part of his address), so that word can probably be removed...

I am thankful and blessed that the only major worry *I* have with my teen son is how much time he spends online doing non-productive things. I don't have to worry about them being "objectionable" activities. If anything should happen to show up in the report that was truly objectionable, just knowing about it would open up the doors of communication so we could talk about it, and try to safeguard against future problems. Peace of mind is a good thing. ;)

There are a few differences in the different plans. The Family Plan is probably one of the most useful for homeschooling families, as it allows the parent to set up specific "child accounts" and also set up time limits. It doesn't actually turn the device off, but sends an alert to the parent to let them know the device is being used during "off" hours. I think this is a great option, because it helps build integrity... not "I'm going to prevent you from doing wrong" but "I'm going to know if you do wrong." There's a big difference in those two, as the second teaches the child that they are responsible for their actions.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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