Recently, a young teen in my community was lured away from his loving home and family by an online predator intent on doing harm. Thankfully, the victim was rescued, and the perpetrator arrested. But the incident sparked conversations both locally and nationally about safe internet use for our kids.
As parents in today’s world, we have to be more vigilant than ever about our kids’ safety online. While the internet offers many benefits to the younger generation, it is also full of traps, dangers, and unsavory content. It’s our job, therefore, to use all the tools available to counter these negative drawbacks and protect our kids.
One tool for keeping our kids safe online—but certainly not the only solution—is parental control apps for your kids’ phones and other electronic devices. But what are parental control apps and how do they work? And equally important, what else can we do to keep our kids safe?
What are parental control apps?
Parental control apps are software programs, downloaded to one or more master devices (usually a parent’s phone) and one or more target devices (usually a child’s phone). Then, depending on the chosen software, the parental control app monitors a range of activities to keep young children and teens safe and keep you informed about what they are doing online. These apps can be used with or without a child’s knowledge.
How do parental control apps work?
According to one source, some of the features parental control apps might offer include:
· Filtering and blocking: Filters limit access to specified sites, words, or images. Blocks can deny access to destinations. These limitations can either be preset by the app or determined by parents. Depending on the software, these apps can filter or block anything from content on websites to content within emails, chats, and messaging.
· Blocking outgoing content: This software is especially helpful in preventing minors from sharing personal information online, in chatrooms, or through email.
· Limiting time: This software allows parents to determine how long their kids are online or even times of the day when internet access is limited or denied. This is especially useful for times when kids should be focused at school or on other important activities.
· Monitoring: This software can monitor sites your child visits, including sending warnings when flagged sites are visited. It can also record the addresses of visited sites.
How do I set parental control apps on my child’s phone?
The best way to set up parental control apps is to use a trusted phone service that takes the guesswork out of setup. Troomi offers phones, plans, and services that help parents monitor activity and go forward with confidence in their kids’ phone content and safety. And as your kids grow, Troomi grows with them, offering more content and services.
If you are interested in other parental control apps however, several sources have rated the top parental control apps for 2023. Here are a few to consider.
According to verywell family, the seven best apps for this year are:
· Best Overall: Qustodio
· Best for Budget: Google Family Link
· Best for Older Kids: Bark
· Best for Younger Kids: Canopy
· Best for Real-Time Monitoring: NetNanny
· Best for Time Monitoring: FamilyTime
· Best for Location Tracking: Life360
Tom’s Guide includes some of the suggestions listed above but adds the following.
Most of these apps come with varying price tags, services, advantages, and disadvantages. It’s worth doing your homework to learn how to set these apps up and what they offer before deciding which plans and apps are right for you and your kids.
How else can I protect my kids?
Parental control apps are a good first step to keeping your kids safe and protected. But they can’t do everything. In addition to a reliable phone plan (check out what Troomi has to offer) and good software, parents need to take additional precautions to keep their kids safe.
Here is what CNN suggests for keeping your kids safe.
- Be careful what you post. The internet is forever, and it may come back and be detrimental to your career, reputation, or both.
- Learn the lingo. Smishing is a blending of “SMS,” or short message services (better known as texting), and “phishing.” Understand what phishing and smishing scams are, plus read up on how to recognize and avoid them.
- Update regularly. Maintain all of your family’s devices’ updates and patches.
- Source your information carefully. Verify your research information sources as legitimate.
In addition, the Mayo Clinic suggests open, frequent conversations with your kids about online use and appropriate online behavior. Here are some of their suggestions.
- Set reasonable limits. Remind your kids to avoid letting online activity interfere with their activities, sleep, meals, or homework. Encourage a bedtime routine that keeps electronics out of bedrooms. Set an example by following these rules yourself.
- Monitor accounts. Communicate to your kids that you’ll be regularly checking their online use. You might aim to do so once a week or more. Make sure you follow through.
- Explain what’s not OK. Discourage your kids from gossiping, spreading rumors, bullying or damaging someone’s reputation — online or otherwise. Talk to your kids about what is appropriate and safe to share online.
- Encourage face-to-face contact with friends. This is particularly important for kids vulnerable to social anxiety disorder.
- Talk about social media. Talk about your own social media habits. Ask your kids how they are using social media and how it makes them feel. Remind them that social media is full of unrealistic images.
Keep your kids safe
No parent ever wants to go through the nightmare of having their child fall victim to an online predator. But even if the worst doesn’t happen, our kids can be taken advantage of online if we aren’t careful. The best solution is to be proactive when it comes to keeping our kids safe online. That can be done by openly communicating with your child, and then choosing the right phone, the right plan, and right parental control apps for ultimate safety and security.