by Kristen A. Jenson, MA
With Christmas near, parents are wrapping up lots of mobile devices for excited kids this year. But wait! Before you hand over those new shiny wonders of technology that provide a portal to both good and bad content, you’ll want to do some prep work by setting up parental controls and installing filtering or monitoring software or apps.
1. Give the Gift of Access
I strongly advise parents to give the gift of access to a mobile device instead of allowing your child to “own” it. It’s your device, but you are allowing them to use it as long as they follow your rules. (See below for a link to free downloadable Online Safety Cards to include with kids’ technology gifts.)
2. Set up parental controls on devices
- Droid Lessons explains how to set up parental controls for Android devices.
- Apple Support explains how to set restrictions on iPads, iPhones, and the iPod Touch. You can also get a tutorial from Mary Kay Hoal’s website on How to Have a Safe iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad.
3. Install Filtering Software or Apps
The goal here is to block entry to porn sites and to control or manage the apps your child puts on the mobile device. Apple devices have more parental controls built in, so you’ll have to install additional apps on Android devices.
- List of filtering products to protect your child from unwanted content from PornHarms.com
- 2016 Internet Filter Software Review from Top Ten Reviews
- These apps control access to other apps as well as manage time spent on the device. Check out Five parental control apps for android devices. They include MM Guardian, Funamo, Kids Place, AppLock and Screen Time.
4. Monitor Devices
After they’ve been using it, periodically browse your child’s device, checking on the photos they’ve taken and shared and the apps that are installed. (Let them know beforehand that you’ll be checking their devices periodically.)
Make sure you understand what each app does. You may want to make a rule that all apps are approved by you. (Realize that some apps are designed to hide content. For example, Hide It Pro brags that “the app is cleverly disguised as ‘Audio Manager’ in the App Drawer… [and] is basically your secret vault of pics/videos/messages/apps etc.”)
Check out WebWatcher. It’s a stealth monitoring system for any computer or mobile device. It lets you see where your kids are going on the internet and what they are emailing or posting on social media. Winner of several awards, most recently from PC Magazine.
5. Use Low-Tech Strategies to Help Kids Protect Themselves
Before giving a gift of technology to kids, download these Online Safety Cards from Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI). They will help you set up rules in advance so your kids know how to stay safe.
Almost every article on installing filters and using hi-tech strategies to protect kids ends by saying this: You are your strongest tool! Talking with kids, regularly, is what will persuade them to protect themselves. This is the low-tech route, but in the end the most effective.
That’s why we encourage parents to start when their kids are young to explain the damage internet pornography and addiction can have on the brain. The best-selling book Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids is one way parents can begin to educate kids without scaring them, and to get them excited about protecting themselves with their own internal filter.