Monday night, I attended a presentation about cybercrime. Our local police officer shared stories and tips on how to prevent sexting and cyberstalking. At the end, he asked parents to take an active role in their child’s digital life by educating, guiding and monitoring.
Determining the best way to monitor a child’s digital activity is not straightforward. With kids using more than one device and on multiple social networks, setting up individual controls on an Android phone, Apple iPad and Windows PC is daunting. When grappling with multiple devices and more than one child, parents may want to look at parental control software that allows them to oversee each child’s digital activity across all types of devices including PCs, tablets and smartphones.
Children and teens all use their devices differently. Before searching for parental control software, parents should think about their child’s age. Children are online primarily gaming, emailing, texting, and surfing. Teens are spending their time on social networks, messaging and gaming. Young kids typically use a PC or tablet while teens are mostly on their smartphones.
What to look for in a parental control package
Today, families have many choices when it comes to parental control software. A search online reveals companies that offer controls ranging from free web filters to robust subscription monitoring services. Given all these choices, families may find it challenging to choose which one works best for them.
Every parental control software is a bit different. When evaluating parental solutions, parents should consider these 8 areas.
- Ability to limit online searches and results
- Show photos and videos
- Block or Restrict Apps
- Review contacts
- Check social networks
- Monitor location
- Set time limits
- Receive timely notifications
Parental control software should offer a web filter that works on a variety of browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Bing, Safari) like Familoop's web filter or only allows its own child safe browser. These filters automatically block objectionable content such as pornography. Parents should look for software that allows them to customize the web content filter by choosing to ignore or allow keywords, categories or specific websites.
A picture is worth a 1000 words. Kids love taking pictures and filming videos. These are easy to share online in Instagram, Snapchat and many other popular apps. Few parental solutions available today allow parents review this content by storing every picture and video a child takes with their device. For teens, parents may also want the ability to check in on pictures shared within apps such as Instagram.
Families should check if the software allows parents to block or restrict the use of apps and other media. Ideally, the software should initially limit access based on age ratings. Families should also be able to adjust these restrictions and allow or block apps based on their individual children.
Parents will want to oversee whom their child is contacting via text or email. Families will want to look for packages that let parent manage contacts by allowing them to review communications and block contacts. For teens, parents may want the ability to review contacts within social networks.
Parents do not want to cut off their teens from their friends but they want some oversight into their teen’s social world. While younger kids text, teens are more likely to group message through Snapchat, Instagram or Kik. While most controls allow parents to see texts, parents of teens should look for ones that include popular apps.
Some software comes with ability to map where the phone or device is located. Families may find this useful to ensure a child is home from school or a when they leave the house. Some, like Familoop Safeguard, allow parents to create a geofence so they know when a child has left or entered a designated area.
A concern for families is the amount of time children and teens spend on their device. To help kids manage their time, parents should look for software that allows them to turn off the device at night and during screen free time. Especially for teens, parents may want the ability to turn off specific apps during homework time.
Parental control software should do most of the work for you. The software should identify inappropriate content and send an alert as well as provide a weekly report.
Educate - Guide - Monitor
Too often, parents crack down after a child makes a mistake. When teaching a teen how to drive, parents do not wait until after a car accident to take driver’s education.
Similarly, parents need to educate, guide and monitor as soon as their child is active online. Familoop can help parents on all 3 fronts:
- Educate - On Familoop’s Parenting Blog, families will find tips on screen time and online safety as well as information on the latest apps.
- Guide - On the child’s device, Familoop's parental app provides a contract outlining the guidelines for using the device.
- Monitor – With Familoop Safeguard, superior parental control software, concerned parents have oversight over online activities and can customize restrictions based on their family’s values and concerns.