Did you know there are over 1.1 billion websites on the internet? That’s a lot of places for kids to wander!
Many concerned parents try to limit inappropriate internet use by using parental controls and filters on their kid’s devices. Many tech savvy kids merely see filters as fences to climb over. Even if your child doesn’t seek a way to get past filters, their friends (or friends of friends) probably will.
I’m going to show you 10 ways young people can easily circumvent internet filters. Then I will reveal a powerful system parents can use that not only protects tweens and teens, but also teaches them to use technology well.
10 easy ways to beat internet filters
- Use a friend’s smartphone. How many Internet-enabled devices are available to your child at their friend’s house? Do those friends have older siblings? These are important questions to answer.
- Use mom or dad’s smartphone. Way too often, mom and dad’s phones don’t have the same protections or restrictions on them as the Internet-ready devices used by kids. Kids are very aware of this. It speaks volumes to a kid about trust and respect when he sees his parents trying to obey the same internet safety rules—even if it’s inconvenient.
- Use public Wi-Fi. It’s quite easy to stand in the parking lot of your local library and use their wireless signal, even after hours. If you have your own router filtered at home, this is great, but unfiltered Wi-Fi is everywhere.
- Download a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) creates encrypted peer-to-peer connections, thereby protecting all information shared over the VPN and circumventing most any filtering on the device. VPN’s are available for laptops or downloadable as apps for iPhone or Android devices.
- Use incognito or private browsing. Did you know that every major search engine has a private browsing mode? These settings cause the browser to stop tracking web history and are a nightmare for many parental control solutions. If your only internet safety strategy is monitoring search history, it’s possible you’re missing most of it.
- Go online through a hidden browser. Maybe your son or daughter has an iPhone and you’ve downloaded a filtered and monitored browser, so you think you’re covered. Did you know that you can still access an unfiltered Internet search through the Weather Channel app? The Bible App? And, many, many other hidden Internet doorways. Kids know about these.
- Use a free proxy website. On either a laptop or a mobile device, kids can access proxy websites through the browser and use a separate proxy to direct the data around the web filter, providing easy access.
- Download a different browser. If your kid has an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, chances are you’ve used Restrictions to “limit adult content” in Safari. But, if you forget to toggle off the iTunes App Store, there are 50+ other browsers to download in order to bypass Safari.
- Perform a factory reset. iPhones with restrictions enabled can be reset by connecting the phone to a computer and using iTunes. It’s not a popular thing to do, since it restores the phone to its factory settings, but for a kid trying to skirt the controls, it’s a viable option.
- Search through Google’s “related images.” Even with restrictions enabled on an iPhone, if you access a Google search bar through a hidden location (see #6 above), you can access inappropriate images through Google’s “related images” under an image that is clicked on. These “related images” don’t always obey the “safe search” rules as the original Google search.
What’s the solution?
Creating an internet-safer environment for your kids requires a multi-faceted approach. There’s no such thing as “set it and forget it” when it comes to parenting in the digital age! Unfortunately, this is often the message of filters and parental controls.
Here’s a more reliable defensive strategy to protect growing kids from online dangers:
filtering + monitoring + accountability (respectful conversations)
Covenant Eyes can help with all three strategies.
The three-fold purpose of Covenant Eyes technology
Filtering is simply trying to keep the junk out. Yes, Covenant Eyes does that, and we recommend using our filter for younger kids.
Monitoring means keeping track of the clicks. Where a person clicks says a lot about what’s going on inside of that person’s heart and head. When a parent monitors a child, it gives that parent the opportunity to see how that child is engaging with technology. Covenant Eyes captures web activity and even some of the activity on apps (our patent-pending TMS technology will be released soon, diving deeper into iPhone’s apps than anything on the market today).
Accountability is constructive, constant, loving conversation. Covenant Eyes’ service was built to leverage the power of accountable relationships. The monitoring described above is turned into summary reports that are sent to an accountability partner. For teens, this is likely one of their parents. For the parents who are using Covenant Eyes, this could be a close, trusted friend, or even a spouse.
An accountability partner is someone who can have constructive, constant, loving conversation with another person about how he/she is navigating their tech. It’s amazing how one’s behavior changes when there’s accountability.
Why do you need monitoring and accountability?
Simply put, filters and parental controls don’t teach kids how to use technology wisely. In fact, for some, filters are merely seen as an interesting obstacle to get around!
Unlike a filter, a culture of accountability can change behavior. Why? Because it gives kids responsibility and it lets them make some mistakes while parents have the opportunity to talk to them and guide them. Like giving kids a permit before a driver’s license, providing accountability for teens allows them time to be coached before they head into the world on their own.
Covenant Eyes is a perfect tool parents can use to teach their kids how to navigate technology. The end goal is to raise a child with understanding and skills to use technology in healthy and responsible ways. Covenant Eyes is also perfect for parents who are trying to model accountability and responsibility to their family.
The Data Supports Us
Covenant Eyes now has data that clearly shows the connection between accountability and passing on the parents’ good values to their kids.
The family that talks together walks together.
As part of the Barna study, we identified thousands of Covenant Eyes members who have used Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability for more than five years. That means their kids were raised in a home with accountability. Over 500 agreed to take the Barna survey. I’ll refer to them as accountable families.
So did internet accountability make a difference? Here are the facts.
One exercise was to have teens and young adults ages 13-24 rank 10 societal issues from “bad” to “least bad.”
- Teens and young adults in the general population rank “not recycling” as a worse moral issue than “watching pornography.” In fact, of a list of 10 societal issues, they rated “watching pornography” as the fifth worse issue and “not recycling” as fourth.
- Among accountable families, “viewing pornographic images” gets top billing, along with “Having a romantic relationship with someone other than a spouse.” “Not recycling” didn’t make their top five.
Another exercise involved giving respondents a list of types of images, asking whether or not certain types of images are “always wrong.”
In accountable families, over 80% of teens found images of ALL of the following to be “always wrong,” but less than half of the general population teens thought so:
- Images of sexual acts that may be forced or painful
- Images of someone being depicted in a demeaning way
- Images of sexual acts between two people of the same gender
- Images of sexual acts involving more than two people at once.
The data proves that accountable families who take the formation of their children seriously are successful in passing on their values to the next generation.
What devices can Covenant Eyes monitor?
Our service works on many of the devices family’s use today, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android, Kindle, Mac, PC, among others.
Covenant Eyes builds kids that don’t try to beat a filter
When I reflect back on the 10 ways to beat a filter presented above, it’s impossible to prevent all of those cases. But, by using the filtering, monitoring and accountability services offered by Covenant Eyes, you can give your child tools to prevent most of them.
Can we stop a child from using his friend’s phone? No, but if a parent is having constructive, constant, and loving conversations about online activity, then the chance of that being a pervasive behavior decreases significantly. The Barna study supports this.
Can we stop a kid from using public Wi-Fi? No, but if Covenant Eyes is installed, then the device-level controls that come with our service significantly limits that child’s ability to click in dark places. And, even if he or she did, our monitoring would create a scenario where mom and/or dad can have respectful conversations about the “why” behind the clicks.
Teach kids nothing is secret on the internet!
In summary, there is always a way to beat a filter. When your kid (and his/her friends) are showing signs of technical smarts (or at least by the time you give them a phone) you would be wise to begin monitoring their internet activities. Monitoring paves the way for discussion. This is not spying! Kids need to learn that nothing is really secret on the internet.
Using monitoring as a means for continuous conversations about online activities is a wonderful way for parents to remind kids of family values. Accountability helps kids solidify the internal filter that Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids helped you create within your child.