Parents who use screen sharing can even take over the other computer, shutting down programs or launching other ones.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Here's a simple way to monitor what your kids do on the Internet

April 20, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   Apple's new Macs come with a cool way for parents to monitor what their kids are doing on their computers. Microsoft left this feature out of Windows, but Windows users can add it separately with a little extra effort.
   The feature is called Screen Sharing. It allows one computer to view everything on the screen of a second computer. Parents who use screen sharing can even take over the other computer, shutting down programs or launching other ones. Anything that can be done on a computer can also be done remotely.
   The computers sharing screens have to be on the same network. Many families already have a home network, especially if they use a high-speed Internet connection and have at least one modern laptop computer. Laptops typically come with wireless network capability.
   The basic idea of screen monitoring is nothing more than an extension of my long-held conviction that computers used by kids should be in plain sight. (See my article from 2004 at www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec121904.html.) But if the computer your kids use can't be put out into a hallway or in a corner of the living room, the next best thing is having the screen visible at any time.
   That's where screen sharing comes in. At any time, you can open a window that shows the screen of another computer on your home network. You can glance at what your kids are doing whenever you want. The fact that your kids KNOW you can do that is a powerful incentive
    to stick to the straight and narrow. In fact, the deterrent effect is just as great if you look now and then as it would be if you stared at their screen for hours. They know their computer is in plain sight, so to speak.
   But, you ask, can't kids get around this? No, they can't. Simply make sure you're the "administrator" of any computers your kids use (which gives you the right to install and configure software) and at the same time make sure your kids aren't administrators. (This is easy to do on Macs and Windows PCs.) This keeps your kids from disabling screen sharing. And if screen sharing DOES get disabled, you'll know it quickly anyway.
   Apple's current version of the Mac's main operating system software, called Leopard, handles screen sharing nicely.
   Microsoft makes rudimentary screen sharing available only for users of a test product called Microsoft Office Live. But Windows users can get both free and commercial screen-sharing software from many sources. Here are some of them:
   Bosco Screen Share, for Windows and Macs: www.componentx.com/ScreenShare/index.php.
   A variety of screen sharing methods: www.makeuseof.com. (Search for "screen sharing.")
   VNC, the great aunt of all modern screen sharing, from www.realvnc.com.
   Basic methods of screen sharing, from http://lifehacker.com. Search for "Windows VNC."