We live in the digital era. Children pretty much grow up with a screen in hand. It’s normal for toddlers to watch videos on YouTube, tweens to play video games, and teens to interact with their peers on social media.
Technology is doubtlessly wonderful. But it isn’t always healthy for your children. Too much screen-time leads to internet addiction and mental disorders. And the internet is by no means a safe place for vulnerable kids.
As a parent, you need to be ever-aware of the dangers technology poses. Children don’t have the survival skills they need to operate in the virtual world alone. That’s where parental controls come in. They can be a lifesaver.
What are parental controls? Parental controls are in-built features – and sometimes specialized programs – that enable you to prevent your child from accessing age-inappropriate content. The goal is child safety.
Do you really need parental controls?
You may balk at the idea of policing your child’s every move. You don’t want to keep them from a beloved game or messaging app. Isn’t that overprotective, overzealous parenting?
If you think that way, you’re underestimating the dangers of unsupervised technology-use. Here are some sobering facts you need to sit up and take notice of:
- Kids and teens between 8-18 years spend 44.5 hours each week in front of a screen – the equivalent of holding a stressful full-time job.
- 70% of children have encountered online pornography.
- 1 in 5 teens is sexually solicited online.
- 50% of adolescents and teens are bullied online, and the other 50% were the ones doing the bullying.
- 23% of kids report feeling addicted to video games
Yes, the internet is really that dangerous. Internet addiction is also a concern. It can cause chronic mental problems in children, including social anxiety and depression.
Parental controls are, perhaps, the best way to shield your child from the threats they may encounter in the virtual world. They also allow you to limit screen-time.
Setting parental controls on iOS
Does your child have access to an iOS device? If they do, and assuming the device is running on iOS 12, you can use the Screen Time utility for parental control. Screen Time is painless to set up and is highly effective.
You’ll find Screen Time option in the Settings app. Here are the steps to follow to set it up:
- Open Settings
- Choose the Screen Time option
- Choose the Set up as Parent option
- Follow the prompts
- Tweak Downtime, App Limits, Content & Privacy, and Parent Passcode settings
The key settings here are Downtime, App Limits, Content & Privacy, and Parent Passcode. We’ll give you a brief explanation for each one:
- Downtime: Downtime makes the iOS device inaccessible for a set period every day. You can use this to limit your child’s screen-time – when it’s bedtime, for example.
- App Limits: With App Limits, you can keep your child from going overboard with gaming and social media use. App Limits makes chosen apps inaccessible after a set daily use quota is reached.
- Content & Privacy: This setting allows you to restrict the kind of apps, movies, music, and website content your child can access. You can block everything rated Teen and up, for example.
- Parent Passcode: A Parent Passcode is required to change Screen Time settings. It’s meant to stop kids from disabling parental controls.
Setting parental controls on Android
With Android, you can set up a separate account for your child. With this account, you can allow them access to only a handful of approved apps. Disable Google Play to prevent your child from downloading new apps.
To set up a new child-friendly account, follow these steps:
- Open Settings
- Tap Users
- Tap Add Users
- Follow the Prompts
- Choose Skip to not link a Google account to the device
By choosing Skip, you disable Google Play. If you think your child can handle the Google Play store, you can still restrict access to what they can see and download.
To set up parental controls on Google Play, follow these steps:
- Open the Google Play app
- Tap Settings
- Tap Parental Controls below
- Create a PIN
- Choose to Set Content Restrictions
The Android OS will, depending on your settings, filter out apps, games, movies, TV shows, books, and music. The filter works with ESRB, PEGI, and MPAA ratings. For kids younger than 10, the E filter is recommended.
Setting parental controls on Windows
To use parental control features on Windows 10, you need a Microsoft Account for your child. To set up a Microsoft Account for your child, follow these steps:
- Click Start
- Choose Settings
- Click Family & Other People in the pane on the left
- Choose to Add a Family Member
- Click Add Child
- Click The Person I Want to Add Doesn’t Have an Email Address (if they don’t)
- Follow the on-screen prompts to create the account
Windows turns on Family Safety features by default for Child accounts. You can reconfigure and change these settings manually. We recommend you take a look.
- Click Start > Settings > Accounts > Family & Other People
- Select Manage Family Settings Online
In this window, there are several useful options for you to tweak. We’ll give you a quick overview of the most important ones:
- Set Limits For When My Child Can Use Device: This option allows you to control your child’s screen-time. When it’s bedtime, for example, you can set the account to lock down automatically.
- Web browsing: With this feature, you turn on Google’s Safe Search. Also, websites that are deemed to be inappropriate for kids will be turned off. You can customize these settings.
- Apps, Games, & Media: Here again you can block inappropriate content. You can further tweak the settings to your liking.
- Activity Reporting: Windows will record your child’s online activities for you if this feature is turned on. The child must use Edge or Internet Explorer. Disable other browsers to ensure they do.
DNS Filtering – Blocking Potentially Harmful Websites
While iOS, Android, and Windows all allow you to block inappropriate content, they aren’t perfect. Often, some harmful websites slip through the cracks. DNS filtering provides you with an extra safety net.
What is DNS filtering? To put it simply, the Domain Name Systems (DNS) service morphs website names into IP addresses. These IP addresses are used by your web browser to gain access to the website.
With DNS filtering, you can block some IP addresses. The browser won’t be able to access them anymore. This is a great way to prevent a too-curious child from straying into areas of the net they shouldn’t.
How do you set up DNS filtering? There are several free DNS programs available online. Choose one and follow the install prompts. The OpenDNS utility is one of the more popular ones. It’s easy to set up and is free.
If you’re using OpenDNS, navigate to their website and chose the OpenDNS Family Shield option.
Monitor Your Kids with a parental control app
Children are naturally curious. They are also rebellious. Even if your child has a heart of gold, they aren’t going to like being kept away from their favorite apps and games. Expect them to try and find a way around parental controls.
Is it possible for a child to disable parental controls? The answer is yes. In fact, it’s very easy. The internet is full of guides on how to do so. A tech-savvy child will manage it in a jiffy.
Also, note that parental controls don’t always work as advertised. Unless you keep your child under lock and key, far away from the internet, there is always going to be some measure of risk involved.
What, then, can you do? You could keep an eye on your kids’ online activities, just like you do in the real world. That way, even if they stumble upon a threat, you’ll always be able to bail them out in time.
Cocospy is a great way to look at what your kid is up to covertly. It’s a parental monitoring utility that works with iOS and Android devices. Cocospy is a highly trusted parent monitoring app is used by millions of parents in over 190 countries.
What does Cocospy do? It keeps track of your child’s web surfing, app use, call logs, chat messages, and current real-world location. It offers a convenient way to keep tabs on your child remotely. The app is 100% covert.
You don’t need to jailbreak an iOS device or root an Android device to install Cocospy. Interested in seeing Cocospy in action? Take a look at Cocospy official website here.
Recommendations for Concerned Parents
When it comes to setting parental controls, how much control is too much? You want to protect your child, not stifle them. Which parental control features are essential? Here are some recommendations that might help:
- OS controls provide a basic shield
The iOS, Android, and Windows OS settings we mentioned above provide basic protection to your child. We think they’re essential for non-teens. If you’re the parent of a teen, though, you could give them a little more leeway.
- DNS filtering is essential
DNS filtering is recommended for all families with children under 18. If your ISP doesn’t offer a family DNS filter, download free software that does. Set the DNS filter to block porn, gambling, and known dangerous sites.
- Parental monitoring software
Your child has a right to privacy. But sometimes privacy is a luxury you can’t afford to give them. Listen to your gut instinct, especially if you think your child is going through a rough patch but won’t ask for help.
- What internet sites should you block?
That depends on your parenting style. Some parents block just the most harmful sites and leave the child free to explore. Others block everything, including Wikipedia. We recommend a middle-of-the-road approach.
When everything is said and done, you won’t always be able to shield your kids from danger, as much as you’d like to. Parental controls will only take you so far. But you can help your kids develop the survival skills they need.
Assist your children in developing healthy internet habits. Educate them on the dangers they are likely to face. Be honest about the fact you’re monitoring them. And always let them know they can rely on you.