Do you miss the days of simple, tangible safety measures like covering electrical outlets and securing cabinet latches? It can be difficult to navigate how to keep your kids safe in an increasingly digital world that is dominated by personal mobile devices with Internet access. Thanks to the technology boom, the young and vulnerable could be exposed to a sea of inappropriate content and extraordinary risks.
It’s not just the older kids. Children of all ages are using technology. Of children age 2 and younger, 38% have used a mobile device for media. Of age 8 and younger, 21% use smartphones. 56% of children ages 8 to 12 own cell phones. And in the age 13-17 bracket, 91% access the Internet on cell phones or other mobile devices.
Children depend on their parents and other adults for online safety and protection. Here is a breakdown of your parental control options.
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The Basics – Content Filtering
Content filtering is a way for parents to block access to inappropriate content. You can set it at the household level through your router or Internet provider. Alternatively, you can set it on individual devices or individual apps.
Access scheduling is how parents can set up schedules and time limits for Internet access. Look for availability in apps.
Good communication is not to be overlooked. An endless amount of tech protection will only go so far. Discussing online risks, concerns and privacy is just as important as any parental controls that are put in place.
Choosing a Phone/Tablet
iPhones and iOS devices have more parental controls than Android devices. Some settings on an iPhone include restricting adult content from loading on the Safari browser and limiting media streaming apps to only use Wi-Fi and not cellular data. Parents can also prevent in-app purchases and implement an approval option before the child can download an app.
Android devices include parental control settings such as restricting children from downloading an app with specific maturity ratings and preventing in-app purchases by requiring authentication. Although blocking adult content in the web browser is not possible, Google’s SafeSearch can prevent searches for adult content.
Parental Control Tools
There are many comprehensive parental control tools available on the market. Top-rated utilities include ContentWatch Net Nanny 7, Qustodio Parental Control and Symantec Norton Family Premier. Before implementing anything, it’s important to consider which operating system your family’s devices use and whether you’re looking for a whole-network system or a device-specific one.
Media Streaming Services
YouTube Kids: This kid-friendly app presents limited content that is safer for kids. Just set your child’s age to determine the content on the homepage. A built-in timer can limit how long your child spends with the screen. Search can be turned off to limit content to only selected videos on the home screen. Additionally, your child’s viewing history can be reviewed so you can monitor their activity.
Netflix: There are four maturity levels that can be applied to individual profiles: little kids, older kids, teens and adults. Access to parental controls are protected by a PIN.
Hulu: “Family” and “Kids” genres can help you find appropriate content to watch, but there are no customized parental controls available through Hulu. Mature content is only accessible to account holders who must be age 17 or older.
Amazon Video: Parents can block video content based on selected audience categories: general, family, teen or mature. Set different categories for different registered devices. Access to parental controls is protected by a PIN. Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick have parental control settings directly on the device.
Prime Music: There are no parental controls to block songs with explicit lyrics.
Spotify: There are no parental controls to block songs with explicit lyrics.
Apple Music: Parents can use iTunes to restrict access to music, videos and podcasts with explicit content.
Google Play: Explicit content can be blocked on the radio feature, but not with on-demand streaming.
Amazon Echo: While it may be a hit when the voice-activated device answers your kids’ homework questions, Amazon is not currently supporting children’s accounts on Alexa-based device (Echo, Tap and Dot). However, if you are playing games like “Simon Says,” the device will bleep out profanity rather than repeat it back to you. Parental controls can be set on the apps you connect to the device (if available).
Google Home: This artificial intelligence assistant is a competitor to the Amazon Echo, with many of the same voice-activated features. One of the known drawbacks of this first-generation device is that there is currently no functionality for multiple Google accounts. So everything from search histories to account settings will be aggregated across the family, and there is no way to isolate Mom and Dad’s functionality from what the child can access.
As your kids grow and technology changes, so too must the ways we establish technological safeguards. Start with an ongoing dialog about the role of technology. A two-way conversation is helpful to the whole family.
Services like Ooma Internet Security offer both preventative safeguards and monitoring capabilities:
- Block websites and links that contain malware, serve as phishing scams or are otherwise a threat.
- Safe search blocks inappropriate or explicit images from search engine results.
- Customize your child’s access by blocking or allowing specific websites.
- Further customization lets you block access to groups of websites based on 93 category filters.
- Hacking Defense protects all devices on your home network.
- Threat databases are updated real-time for the most up-to-date protection.