As well as engaging with your child to educate and guide them through a safe digital life – and so that you fully understand the latest developments – it makes good sense to take advantage of the filters and controls which you can use to reduce the chance that they will come across inappropriate or offensive content.
Do remember, however, that parental control tools are just there to help, and are not a fail safe answer. Nor are they an online ‘babysitter’, you still need to know what your child is doing online.
Here are the different types of precautions you can put in place:
Parental controls on your computer or mobile device:
Almost without exception, computers and mobile devices sold for use by the public are equipped as standard with the means for you, as a parent, to filter content which you do not want your child (or for that matter any other account holder) to access.
These tools can be simply accessed via the computer’s control panel or other devices’ settings screen. If in doubt about how to access and set these up, refer to online help or ask your retailer.
Parental control software to buy or download:
There is a large number of different brands and types of parental control software available for both computers and mobile devices.
Typically, they enable you to filter out inappropriate content such as pornographic and violent material, reducing the chances of your child being exposed to it.
Some allow you to set different profiles for if you have children of different ages who will be accessing the computer or other device.
Sometimes, these filters can over or under-block, so your child may not be able to access some perfectly innocent sites, or may sometimes be able to view pages that are inappropriate for their age.
Most will let you block or unblock particular sites to give you more control.
Some parental control software lets you monitor your child’s online activity, so you can see which websites they have been viewing and how long they were online for.
Some even provide you with reports on your child’s social networking activity.
Some programs enable you to set time limits to your child’s online activities – restricting access to the internet, or to certain websites at certain times of the day. So you could block social networking or entertainment sites when your child is meant to be doing his or her homework.
You can access the software via a login at any time to modify the filters and blocked or unblocked sites, as your child gets older.
And as with all software, it is very important to perform updates when notified.
Internet Service Provider Parental Controls:
Many internet service providers (ISPs) also provide parental control software – which, like the software you buy, can block offensive content.
Other internet-connected devices such as games consoles normally feature parental control software that as a parent, you can set up and use.
What are the best parental controls if I want to:
Block websites. If you just want to limit what your kids can search for, your best option is to enable Google SafeSearch in whichever browser or browsers you use. First, you need to make sure your browsers use Google as their default search engine, and then you need to turn on SafeSearch. This is a good precaution to take as soon as your kids start going online and you want to make sure they don’t accidentally stumble across something yucky.
Block websites and filter content. If you want to prevent access to specific websites and limit your kid’s exposure to inappropriate content such as mature games or porn, you can use the parental controls that are built into your device’s operating system. Every major operating system — Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Mac OS, and even Amazon’s Fire — offers settings to keep kids from accessing stuff you don’t want them to see. To get the benefits, you need to use the most updated version of the operating system, and each user has to log in under his or her profile. The settings apply globally to everything the computer accesses. Each works differently and has its own pros and cons. This is the best solution if your kids are younger and are primarily using a home device. Check out each one’s features: Microsoft, Apple, Amazon.
Block websites, filter content, impose time limits, see what my kids are doing. A full-featured, third-party parental control service such as Bosco App, Bark, Qustodio or NetNanny will give you a lot of control over all of your kid’s devices (the ones they use at home as well as their phones). These can be pricey (especially if you have several kids to monitor), but the cost includes constant device monitoring, offering you visibility into how kids are using their devices. These parental controls can only keep track of accounts that they know your kid is using, and for some apps, you’ll need your kid’s password in order to monitor activity. If your kid creates a brand-new profile on Instagram using a friend’s computer without telling you, for example, the parental controls won’t cover that account.
Monitor my kid’s phone. To keep tabs on your tween or teen’s phone, your best bet is to download an app such as Bark, KidBridge (formerly TeenSafe),WebWatcher, and Bosco App (Indonesian language available) which monitor text messages, social networks, emails, and other mobile functions. These are especially helpful if you’re concerned about potentially risky conversations or iffy topics your kid might be engaging in.
Manage all devices on the network, limit screen time, filter content, turn off Wi-Fi. There are both hardware and software solutions to control your home network and your home Wi-Fi. To name a few popular ones: OpenDNS is a download that works with your existing router (the device that brings the internet into your home) to filter internet content. Circle Home Plus is a device and subscription service that pairs with your existing router and lets you pause access to the internet, create time limits, and add content filters to all devices on your home network (including Wi-Fi devices), plus manage phones and tablets outside the home. Network solutions can work for families with kids of different ages; however, mucking around in your network and Wi-Fi settings can be challenging, and the controls may not apply when kids are on a different network.
What are the best parental control options for iOS phones and tablets?
If you have an iPhone or iPad, Apple’s Screen Time settings let you manage nearly every aspect of your kid’s iOS device, including how much time kids spend in individual apps and games and what they download. You can even turn the phone off for specified periods, such as bedtime. There are two ways to enable Screen Time, either by setting it up on your kid’s device and password-protecting the settings or by setting up Family Sharing and managing the features from your phone.
What are the best parental control options for Android devices?
Android devices can vary a lot in what they offer, so check your device’s settings to see what options you have. If your kid is under 13, you can download Google’s Family Link to track and control online activity, including text messaging and social media, using your own phone. You can also use Android’s Digital Wellbeing settings, which are built into the latest version of the OS. These can help kids become more mindful of the time they’re spending online — and hopefully help them cut down. You’ll want to help your kid enable the settings that will be most useful on the road to self-regulation.
Can I set parental controls in specific apps, such as Snapchat and TikTok?
In addition to blocking specific people, most apps let you disable features that could pose some risks for kids. For example, you may be able to turn off chatting, restrict conversation to friends only, and hide your profile so that it won’t show up in search results. Some apps go a step further by letting users control their own use of the app. TikTok’s Digital Wellbeing features allow you to remotely manage your kid’s TikTok from your phone. YouTube lets you set a reminder to take a break. To find out if your kids’ favorite apps offer any types of restrictions, go to the app’s settings section (usually represented by the gear icon). Unless an app offers passcode-protection for its settings (and most don’t), your kid can easily reverse them.
Do I need to worry about my kid disabling parental controls?
Yes, kids can undo parental controls. In fact, the directions on how to get around them are easily available on the internet. Depending on your software, you may get a notification that the parental control was breached — or not. Kids can figure out all sorts of ingenious methods to keep doing what they want to be doing — talking to friends, staying up late playing Fortnite, and watching videos you don’t want them to see. If you notice something fishy such as a steep drop-off in your parental control notifications, Wi-Fi or data activity after you’ve turned off the network, or anything else that indicates the parental control isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, your kid may have figured out how to get around it. It could be for another reason, though, since parental controls can be affected by system updates, power outages, and other technical issues.
Source: Common Sense Media