The days of a parent’s biggest worry of their child being chosen last for the dodge ball team are a thing of the past. Parents are now bombarded with fears regarding their child’s safety and well-being spawning from the increase of Internet access, social media usage, and online gaming. Today’s overload of technology among adolescents is alarming in itself, but the scariest thing for parents may be the dangers lurking in the cyberworld shadows.
YouTube strikes fear
New threats now include rumored stories of online suicide and self-harm challenges embedded in seemingly harmless, kid-friendly YouTube videos. The scary truth behind this is that your child doesn’t even have to be intentionally partaking in irresponsible online activity, but can be exposed to this content while innocently surfing age-appropriate videos.
Social media too social?
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were designed to socialize with friends and share pictures enjoying hot dogs with colleagues at baseball games, but that, too, has become a distant memory. Parents are watching their children become antisocial at home, and too social on social media. Online predators use social media sites as avenues to prey on unsuspecting teens, often times acquiring personal information through private messages, photographs, and profile information. Snapchat is a photo/video sharing app in which the shared content will disappear after a certain amount of time. This fact alone emboldens teens to send risque photos of themselves, but the pictures can be screenshotted or even photographed by another phone on the recipient’s end. It is important that your child never connects with anyone on social media who isn’t a physically known friend.
It is nearly impossible to know what really goes on behind the screen of your child’s phone behind the closed bedroom door, but the key to protecting your child from the sometimes unexpected threats of the Internet is being informed about the many parental control options that do just that. Parental control apps and software offer parents the ability to monitor their child’s online activity, block racy sites, set Internet usage boundaries, and many other features that give parents a peace of mind rarely found in today’s technology-crazed definition of childhood.
It is important to remember that while parental control apps and software are overall quite effective in protecting your child from the potential dangers of the online world, nothing can replace the benefit of informing your child of those dangers and encouraging them to use good judgement when it comes to technology use.
Parental Control Tools to Protect your Children
CIRCLE HOME (ROUTER SOFTWARE FOR ALL DEVICES)
Circle with Disney works with your home WiFi and allows you to manage every connected device on your home network (wireless or wired). You can filter content individually for each device based on the user’s age and interests. Other features include time limits, setting a bedtime, pausing the Internet, and usage reports.
Circle Home is available for $59.99 at a number of retailers.
FAMILYTIME (ANDROID AND IOS)
FamilyTime allows you to customize the content your kids have access to, limit the overall time that your child spends on their device, track location, block or control on an app-by-app basis, apply internet filters, and monitor calls and texts.
The free version only gives access to some of the app’s features, but plans are available for premium features including a $27 per year plan for one device, or a $69 per year plan for five devices. Plans can be paid on a month-to-month basis.
QUSTODIO (ANDROID, IOS, KINDLE, NOOK)
Qustodio offers a dashboard that shows mobile activity, including time spent on social media apps. You can set time limits, track text messages, block racy websites and apps, and even install a panic button that your child can push in the event of an emergency.
A free version of this app is available with limited features, and all features can be accessed with the $55 annual plan up to five devices. Larger and smaller plans are available.
*All prices on apps/software subject to change.