How do I protect my kids while they are on their phones? This is a question I hear from a lot of parents in my friends and family circles.
Simple Answer: Parental Controls.
Increasingly at an alarming rate, kids tweens and teens are on multiple devices per day. How do you protect them while they are not on your router or home network? I’ve come up with a standard trifecta approach for working together to achieve ultimate safeguarding your kids on their devices, specifically mobile phones. A balance of these three objectives: knowledge, training, and monitoring should do the trick!
Lets first start with knowledge. An open door of communication is key for this step. Do your kids feel comfortable talking to you about what they are doing online? Parents who talk to their kids about the scary stuff they might encounter online might prevent bad online behaviors and online predators gaining access to your kids. We can’t filter or protect everything, so open communication and knowledge is key! Examples of scary stuff they might encounter online is what to do when they see or experience cyberbullying or what to do when they see non age-appropriate content, etc. Technology is ever changing so is the need to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and resources out there. Hints this blog! 🙂
Next comes training. One way to stay up to date on all the latest apps is to download and use the newest and popular apps yourself. Most importantly self education and training on the latest trends, newest apps and what dangers are lurking! This helps when you are explaining the dangers online and how you are working to protect your kids, so they will know what to watch for. Healthy online habits at a young age can prevent your kids from being the target of predators. I will go further into details of which parent controls are best for smartphones below.
Third comes monitoring. This step works differently based on the level of trust you and your kids have and also their age. I will show you several ways below to monitor your kids on their phones in order to protect them. Watching their App Store downloads and content that comes across their phones is a great place to start! Once while driving a van of teenagers for our youth group, my lead foot got the best of me while passing a semi and One of the kids spoke up and said “My mom just text me to tell the driver to slow down, you are speeding!” There are many levels of monitoring even the exact speed of the vehicle they are in! But it’s ultimately up to you the level or monitoring you control and see so you can keep them safe online.
Parent controls for an iPhone
Apple’s launch of iOS 12 has implemented its own built-in screen time tracking tools and parental controls. These help to track and teach good screen time habits. There are many third party option apps as well. I think a combination of controls is best; native OS parental controls for time management and third party for browsing history and location tracking. I will list a few options below and more to come later about how to set up these parental controls.
- “Designed to supervise, manage and protect your child’s device use on the go!” The small plan starts at $39.95/Year – For Small Families protect up to 3 devices with all premium features.
Pros: It is an easily configurable, easy-to-manage tool for keeping track of your kids’ activities. Support for Cross-platforms. Its browser-independent content filter handles HTTPS traffic. Main features: time scheduler for internet, device, application usage and location tracking.
Cons: The app is more on the pricey side compared to others. It has social monitoring, but only tracks Facebook. It has a dated web portal. Some iOS limitations.
- “Employs the award-winning Net Nanny® filter to block apps and dangerous Internet content.” The free plan – family feed & screen time limits.
Pros: Parents can get instant updates on online searches, instant alerts on porn, drugs, weapons and suicide, alerts on apps accessed. Parents can view location services with a family map. Internet usage control.
Cons: There’s no web portal, just the app. And there isn’t a call or text feature.
Parent controls for an Android
Although Andriod doesn’t come with any built-in parental controls, the below combination of two third-party apps will do a great job at protecting your kids on their mobile phones.
- “Manage your kids’ time spent online so you know when it’s time to encourage having some offline fun.” Their website says $49.99/year for this app and protection, with a free trial period.
Pros: Web, time, videos, search, social network, mobile app and location supervision. Web portal with personal information protection. Access request, Instant lock with detailed email alerts.
Cons: The Norton parent app is pretty clunky, and not the easiest to use.
GOOGLE FAMILY LINK APP
Family link enables you to block certain apps, disable google search, track location, and choose what apps can be installed from the android play store. It’s free to use and download.
Pros: Tracks time spent on apps, so you can teach healthy screen time. Set time limits and lock phone. Location services to track your kids.
Cons: Parents need to have a smartphone and use the app to set most controls. It doesn’t block inappropriate content or downloading apps from the play store.
When talking about teenagers and tweens, good judgment and rules are meant to be pushed out the window and tried the the edge. Keeping your children safe online shouldn’t end their freedoms. However, the start of open and continued conversations and communications about how to build safe and smart habits online. You can truly be smarter than your kids online, and ultimately keep your kids safe online.