One of the biggest parenting challenges that today’s generation of parents have to grapple with is how to control how much of the outside world their children are exposed to through the internet.
While it can be easy to monitor a toddler’s locked iPad that only has educational games installed, the older children get, the more tech savvy. Many know much more than their parents about getting around online and how to get past certain types of parental controls (and if they don’t know, their friends will surely tell them!).
Two-thirds of parents believe that parenting today is harder than it was 20 years ago, in large part due to technology.
With many kids having their own smartphones, it’s like having an open door to the outside world. No parent wants a child subject to online bullying via social media or to learn about the “birds and the bees” via an unsavory website.
There is also just the general concern of children spending too much time in front of screens and not enough time interacting with the “real world,” or as they call it online, IRL (in real life).
Many parents use web controls that can help filter certain websites, blocking ones that parents don’t want kids to see. Others use apps designed to give them more parental internet control, like Net Nanny, which can limit screen time, monitor online activity and send reports and alerts.
While these do offer certain protections, they’re also not infallible. The older children get, the easier it will be for them to figure out workarounds. They also might hit their teen years and feel their privacy is being violated.
When dealing with parental control of online activity for kids, it’s best to approach it in the same say companies approach cybersecurity, with a layered solution.
Taking a Layered Approach to Internet Use Monitoring
Nothing can replace good parenting and keeping an open dialog with your kids regarding the internet and its benefits and dangers. Automated control apps can definitely help, but they can’t keep your kids safe online by themselves.
How are parents currently handling their children’s online monitoring? According to Pew Research, they use both active and automated methods.
How parents of teens (13-17) monitor their online use:
- 61% check websites that teens have visited
- 60% check their child’s social media profile
- 48% Check their child’s smartphone call records & messages
- 39% Use parental control applications to filter/block/monitor activity
- 32% Use smartphone parental controls for restricting device use and tracking
Here’s how you can use a layered strategy to gain more control over how your child uses the internet and what they’re exposed to.
Talk to Kids Regularly About the Internet
There can be many great family conversations to be had on different types of internet topics. You don’t always have to bring a punitive tone to a conversation, and instead invite their feedback on a general discussion topic.
Discuss different topics like:
- Sites that shouldn’t be visited
- What to do if they’re bullied on social media
- How predators can pose as kids to strike up a conversation
- The danger of malware and spyware
- Password security
- Why blocking certain content is meant to protect them
- How being online has its time and place, but needs to be limited
When you regularly discuss topics related to online safety, you’re helping your child build the tools that can keep them safer online throughout their life.
Get Help from Parental Control Applications
Applications that block, monitor, and filter websites can give you some peace of mind and help with monitoring web activity. You can find a good history of parental control technology in one of our past blogs, and you’ll note that we mention it not being a “end all be all” of security for kids online, just one part of the equation.
Just understand that parental controls can be gotten around, especially by today’s teens that have grown up with technology. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t offer a layer of protection, especially for younger children.
Monitor Online Activity
The two most popular ways that parents kept tabs on their child’s online activity from the Pew Research poll was through active monitoring of website visits and social media.
Friend your child on Social Media and require they don’t block you from some of their content (which can be done). Take an active role monitoring both the sites they visit on their computer, tablet, and/or smartphone and the types of posts you see from them and their friends on social sites.
Set a Good Example
It’s difficult to tell your kids that they shouldn’t use their electronics after a certain time each night if they see you doing it all the time.
The best way to get kids to understand that it’s important to limit their online activities and engage in offline ones with their friends and family is if they see you doing this regularly.
If you say that devices should be put away by 7PM each night – then do that for your entire family. Kids are much more likely to do as you say if you’re modeling good behavior.
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Contact us today to learn more. Call 732-747-0020 or reach us online.