It’s internet safety month and we are talking about parental controls.

Mum’s and Dad’s need to realise that while parental controls are useful in limiting the risks posed at your children while they are online, they can’t stop all the risks.

No doubt, it’s hard for parents and adults to keep up with the changing trends of children and adolescents especially when it comes to social media. And that’s because once adults start signing up for the platform, it becomes less appealing. In other words, once you’ve almost mastered it (ha-ha), your kids have probably moved on.

Furthermore, we can’t forget the skills the young ones have when it comes to navigating online. Certainly, they know so much more than what we did at their age in the world of “cyber”.

So as parents we can feel a bit lost when it comes to controlling what our kids do and see online. Afterall, we want to make sure they’re safe.

Here are five things to expect from parental controls:

Blocking bad sites

As we all know the internet is rife with fake news, misinformation, and scams and not every site is suitable for children, safe or a pleasant place to visit. Children need to understand that they need to be careful.

Firstly, you’re best off creating a blocklist as your first line of defence. This will prevent your kids from visiting known unwanted sites. And when you’re looking for anti-malware many solutions include some type of web protection, you’ll discover. But you’ll need a more extensive solution for web protection for kids. Certainly, there are websites suitable for adults but not for kids and if these can be blocked, well that’s another layer of protection.

Secondly, most Internet Service Providers give parents the ability to initiate parental controls at no extra cost or for a little bit extra. These controls filter the Internet right at the source. So, each user will need an account set up in your household. One for the kids and one for the parents so you can have full access but theirs is limited.

However, teenagers are good with technology and can find ways around blocklists. Chances are they are familiar with your home setup servers, VPNs etc and possibly already know how to access your account.

Keeping track

If you are planning to implement parental controls talk to your kids first, especially if you’re going to track them online. Their privacy is important and should be taken seriously. If they know up front, it may act as a deterrent. And after all, if you catch them up to no good it isn’t an easy conversation if they didn’t know they were being tracked.

Access scheduling

Another way to control kids’ usage is to utilise access scheduling offered by some services. This tool allows parents to set time of the day or week for device usage. While other access scheduling can restrict the amount for time your kids can be on the internet. But keep in mind that they do need to complete their homework. So, allow them time for both. Otherwise, they might skip homework, so they can play their game online.

Social media monitoring

As we said earlier, it is hard to keep up with social media trends for kids and teenagers. And social media monitoring doesn’t have any strong leaders in parental control software. In addition to this many of the social platforms have private messaging that is end-to-end encrypted. In other words, you’re unable to get a copy of the messages. And this is popular as people value their privacy and security especially since there is censorship and oppression from government bodies. But this doesn’t make it easy for parents who just want to ensure their kids are not talking to predators.

But there is always another response when we can’t rely on technology. So, the next approach we recommend would be to teach your children about appropriate conversation, and to recognise the warning signs or unsafe language from strangers.

Education trumps all

Rather than micro-managing or getting your children anxious about going online, you can expect the best result from education. If kids understand the “why” something is off limits it tends to work better than blocking. Giving your child the freedom to use their own judgement helps them to navigate in the future. And you maybe surprised at how well they do. Parents who micro-manage become exhausted and children often switch off. So, it defeats the purpose. Certainly, a site that is suitable for children can still be a place predators hang out especially if there is messaging available. Predators can always convince kids to move to another platform or worse still meet them in person.

A child needs to develop their own skills of critical thinking and resilience, rather than you lurking over their shoulder.  You want them to recognize and steer away from the danger so they know what do if they encounter risk.

For a more information on how to protect your children, and their devices and what they see online, please read: Internet safety tips for kids and teens: A comprehensive guide for the modern parent.

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