DIGITAL PARENTAL CONTROLS
The Internet may be a risky place for kids, but there are lots of ways that parents can protect their kids. Parental controls allow parents to have some regulation over what their kids are exposed to online. Parental controls can be used on:
- Browser settings
- Search engine settings
- Operating system settings
You can also set controls directly with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and use security software to make things even safer.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Parental Controls
Almost all Internet Service Providers give customers the option to use parental controls that customize the Internet right at the source. These controls come free with your service so they are a great resource to take advantage of if you have kids. ISPs can help you:
- Block websites
- Block chat rooms
- Block services like instant messaging
- Filter out images and videos
- View user activity
- Allow kids to request access to sites and services
- Get alerts if someone tried to change the settings
- Managing settings
- Set time limits for Internet use
One of the most useful parental controls offered by ISPs like AT&T is the ability to set up user accounts. When you establish accounts for different users in your household you can create settings for each person so that kids are protected, but you have full access.
Check with your ISP to know which operating systems, devices and browsers are compatible with their parental controls. There are also hardware options like Bsecure that can set controls at the router level so that all the computers and devices in your home that use the Internet have the parental controls in place.
Security Software Controls
Security software allows you to block certain websites that contain adult content and are prone to carrying viruses. You can also block pop-ups with most software products. For San Antonio teacher and mom Lisa Marie Tellez this is a huge value add. "One of my biggest concerns about my kids using the Internet is pop-ups that have inappropriate content," says Mrs. Tellez. "They also let kids purchase things which is a serious issue."
Security experts like McAfee and Norton specialize in security software that can be installed on computers to protect you, your kids, your finances and your electronics from a number of threats. One of the biggest advantages of security software is its ability to detect malware and viruses. Hackers launch millions of viral attacks every year, and they have gotten so sophisticated you don't have to download anything to get the virus.
Another issue is that some malware is designed to go totally undetected. Your computer will run like normal while the hacker collects your information. However, security software can see what you do not, and alert you the moment malware is detected.
There is also specialized security software that can be used for a specific purpose such as blocking kids from sending out content and monitoring tools so you can know exactly when and what your kids are doing online. No matter what type of security software you use it's important to update it regularly so that all the features are fully functional.
Protecting and Monitoring Mobile Devices
One place experts say many parents forget to safeguard is mobile devices. Depending on the device, there can be parental controls built right in, and you can also download apps that help extend your capabilities.
One of the most important control features of any device is restricting app downloads. You can either remove a user's downloading capability all together or put filters in place to limit certain types of apps from being downloaded. One type of app you'll want to completely restrict are ones that feature self-destructing content. These allow the user to send a text, image, etc. that is automatically removed after a certain time period. It's important to establish clear rules for what can and can't be downloaded even after implementing these filters.
It's also important to put security measures in place that limit a person's ability to access your device. The best layer of protection is to establish a password for enabling the device. To set a password:
iOS (Apple Products) - You can use a four number pin or a fingerprint.
Android - You can use your face, a pin number or a pattern.
Windows - Enable the password feature then set a unique password.
Here are a few other security measures to take:
Turn off location services for all apps and features. These will tell others where a person is when an app is used or a picture is taken.
Take the time to discuss texting safety with your kids. Have a frank discussion with your kids about what is and isn't acceptable when they are texting. They should know not to text anyone they don't know personally and to never post their information online.
Use each app before allowing your kid to use it. If your kid wants to download an app give it a trial run first so that you know exactly what it does.
Install apps that add parental controls. Apps like NearParent and Norton Online Family To Go Free Beta allow you control even more on mobile devices.
There are many layers of security that can be put in place, but nothing substitutes monitoring your kid's Internet use and laying down rules that have to be followed. Being active rather than passive will help you to head off problems before they happen.
"1 IN 20 CHILDREN– HAS ARRANGED A SECRET MEETING WITH SOMEONE THEY MET ONLINE."
- NETMUMS SURVEY OF 825 KIDS
Teaching kids Internet safety is as important as teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street. Don't wait until their safety, your financial security or a family member's identity is compromised. Take action against cyber criminals that use the Internet to gain access into our lives and the lives of our children.