Mossberg’s Mailbox

Monitoring Teens’ Facebook Activity

Published on January 21, 2009
by Walt Mossberg

What is the best way to monitor our teens’ Facebook activity?

To my mind, this is more a parenting issue than a technology one. The easiest method would be to join Facebook yourself and become one of your teens’ “friends” on each account they have. That might not sit well with your kids, but if you’re willing to be tough, you could make that a condition of their being on Facebook. You could also insist they use the network’s extensive privacy controls to guard their detailed information and activities from strangers.

There is a paid service called YouDiligence that claims it will notify you if certain words appear on a child’s Facebook page. But it requires that you be one of your child’s Facebook friends, so it is mainly a time-saver. Also, because it focuses on words, it doesn’t flag photos or other Facebook activity.

Another paid service, called imView, automatically takes pictures of the screen of the PC your child uses, at intervals you select, and allows you to view these screen shots at your leisure, from any Internet-connected PC. Its maker touts this as a way to monitor Facebook activity. I haven’t tested either of these two services.

I want to transfer my Mini DV taped videos from my video camera to my Mac. But my new MacBook has no Firewire port, which is the only port my camera includes — only USB ports. Am I stuck?

Maybe not. One option would be to see if you can borrow a Mac or Windows PC that does have a Firewire port, convert the videos to digital files on that borrowed machine, and then transfer the resulting files to your new Mac using an external hard disk or flash drive. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to have to do this often.

Another option: A company called Pixela (pixela-1.com) claims to have a Firewire-to-USB cable meant for exactly your situation. It is for Windows only, but might well work if you installed and ran Windows on your Mac. However, a glance at the company’s Web site shows it is out of the version of the cable that works with the North American, as opposed to European, video standard. If you are in North America, you might check with the company to see if and when the correct version will be available. One important caution: I haven’t tested it, so don’t know how well it works.

My computer crashed last fall, and I lost thousands of iTunes songs. I would like to copy all the songs to my new computer from my iPod, which still contains them. However, iTunes allows only purchased songs to be returned. Is there software that would help me?

Yes. There are several utility programs designed to copy the contents of an iPod back to a Windows or Mac computer. The one I usually recommend, because I have found it works well, is called Music Rescue. It costs 10 British pounds, or about $15 at current exchange rates. It can be purchased at kennettnet.co.uk.

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