One of the most common questions we get asked by parents is: what are parental controls and do I need them?
Your kids may already have phones and/or tablets, or you may just be thinking of it, but either way, you’ve probably heard of parental controls.
Parental controls used to filter and manage your kids’ devices are more important now than ever before, in today’s connected world, where anything goes (and stays) online.
Teaching rather than spying
We firmly believe that teaching our kids how to use their devices safely is akin to teaching them how to drive – a structured learning process that involves giving them the knowledge, skills and confidence to go from a fledgling learner driver to an independent solo commuter, able to navigate busy highways and byways.
Common Sense Media says “Parental controls can support you in your efforts to keep your kids’ internet experiences safe, fun, and productive. They work best when used openly and honestly in partnership with your kids — not as a stealth spying method.”
Trust, responsibility and making smart choices are the building blocks of good digital citizenship, something we all want our kids to attain. But the truth is that every kid today is handed a device at a time in their life when their brain is not yet fully developed, whilst hormones are raging, and they are physiologically and psychologically not yet able to cope with the multitude of choices and consequences that come with its safe and proper use. Most of us adults still struggle at times!
Parental controls can and should be used as conversation starters, to boost rather than undermine the trust in your relationship with your children, and guide your children to make smart choices and to take responsibility for their actions.
Privacy or safety & sanity?
In case you are in any doubt, your child’s safety and mental health always outweigh any argument they might raise about their privacy being infringed by you, their parents! Firstly, there IS no privacy online, and secondly, it is your primary job as a parent to keep them safe until they are old enough to do that for themselves.
We often use this example for parents who are hesitant about getting involved with their kids’ online lives: if you suspect your child was taking drugs, would you respect their privacy or would you search their room and then sit down with the evidence, for a serious talk about the way forward and how you can help them through it?
The online world has brought a whole new complexity to our parenting role. Besides making sure that our kids eat, sleep, play, learn and generally grow up to be fully functioning adults in the offline world, we have to manage their ever-changing, interwoven online world too. It’s a complex job for any parent, and you are certainly not alone!
Which parental controls are best for your family?
|Block websites||To limit what your kids can search for on the internet, you’ll need to reset your browser.||Kiddle, Google SafeSearch|
|Block websites and filter content||To prevent access to specific websites and limit your kid’s exposure to inappropriate content, you’ll need to activate controls built into your devices and give each user their login profile.||iOS – Screentime, Android – Google Family Link Computer specific settings|
|Block websites, filter content, impose time limits, see what my kids are doing on their devices||To keep tabs on your tween or teen’s tablet or phone, you’ll need a third-party parental control app.||Bark, Circle, Qustodio, OurPact|
|Track my kid’s location||To check your child’s whereabouts, you can download GPS app trackers.||Find My Friends, FamiSafe, Life360|
|Manage all devices on your WiFi network as well as on the go – limit screen time, filter content, monitor app use and content, pause devices, track location.||You’ll need a third-party hardware and software solution combo, to control your home network, as well as devices on the go.||Bark Home Circle Home Plus|
|Manage all devices on your WiFi network as well as on the go – limit screen time, filter content, monitor app use and content, pause devices, track location, anti-virus, malware and ransomware protection.||You’ll need a third-party hardware and software solution combo, to protect and control devices connected to your home network, as well as devices on the go.||Bitdefender Box, Gryphon, Digimune|
Need some help with figuring out the settings and controls for the devices that your family uses? Get your personalised Family Digital Assessment – clear steps and tips for managing all your devices (phones, tablets, computers, TV’s and gaming consoles) as well as your WiFi, including:
- Privacy and security settings – changing default settings;
- Parental controls, filters & limits – choosing the best options for your family;
- Social media apps & games – insights into “real age” ratings, safety and privacy settings;
- Family digital habits – tips on managing “how much” and ‘’what”.
Take ownership of your “license to parent” – it is more important now than ever before, and is quite possibly one of the best gifts you can give your kids for their future!
Be In Touch is a passionate team of family digital wellness activists, working with schools, parents, learners, NGOs, corporates and the government. Collecting real data on what kids are doing and experiencing online (including online exposure to cyberbullying, stranger contact, pornography, violence, self-harm, drugs & alcohol), they use this to pinpoint practical and implementable solutions. They aim to simplify the complicated world of family digital wellness and online safety, with practical resources, products and solutions that parents and children need! Sign up for their newsletter and follow them on Facebook and Instagram for great tips that will help your whole family!
Contact Dial a Nerd if you need help setting up parental controls for your family.