The University of Oxford Internet Institute recently published a report showing how parental controls can fail to protect kids from adult websites. Predictably, the report was misinterpreted, and plenty of critics have come out to attack parental control programs.
According to the University of Oxford report, however, parental controls can’t prevent your child from viewing adult materials on one condition. If you or the people in your household makes it easy for minors to access adult content; parental controls will be ineffective.
That said, parental controls are a work in progressive. They are helpful in many ways but need to be used effectively. Below is an overview of how the software work and how you should use them to protect your kids.
- Limiting the websites and apps your Children Visit
Parental control programs have features to help you blacklist specific websites and apps. In an example, you can block social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat if you want your pre-teen kids to stay off social networks.
Apart from social networks, you can filter out pornographic websites, news channels, and gaming platforms in general or specific websites. When your child attempts to visit any of the sites, they’re prohibited. Again, you receive a notification that your child tried to visit a forbidden website.
- Limiting Screen time
The best parental control apps offer total control over your child’s screen time. If you’re worried about your child’s obsession with video games; controls can help you limit their gaming time.
If you don’t want your girls spending all day on YouTube, you can limit their screen time with one configuration on parental controls. What’s more, you can also configure the apps so that your kids have breaks for lunch or take a shower before they can resume gaming. You can also set their bedtime after which the control apps filter out gaming sites.
- Protection against Malware
Malware doesn’t spare kids. If your child visits a virus-ridden website by mistake, chances are their laptop or mobile devices will be affected. To protect them from the threats, many parental controls also feature anti-malware or anti-spamming features.
Spam protection is particularly crucial for young kids. With cybercriminals always spamming vulnerable Internet users; anti-spam protection ensures criminals don’t take advantage of your kids.
- Notifying you what your Kids do Online
As we mentioned above, some parental controls help you keep up with what your kids do online. They inform you when your child publishes a post on social networks. They update you about your child’s browsing history and the information they react to on social media. Essentially, parental controls help you monitor on your kids.
Of course, that could also be considered spying by your kids or other people. As such, it’s always essential to use parental control software in a way that doesn’t appear over-controlling. But how do you do that?
How to use Parental Controls Effectively
Because parental controls aren’t a replacement for your presence around kids, you should use them judiciously. Here’s how to protect your kids as they use the Internet without being overprotective.
- Teach your Kids about Online Safety
Instead of blocking every website you think is harmful to your kids, teach them how to protect themselves. Talk to them about spammers and how they can infiltrate malware to their computers. Teach about using social media responsibly, and you may not find the need to block social networks from their reach.
- Use Age-based Restrictions
Many parental control apps allow you to impose web access to your kids depending on their ages. For toddlers, you can restrict all but a few gaming or educative apps. For pre-teens, you can limit adult websites; you can limit their screen time and specific social networks.
With teens and young adults, using parental controls can be challenging, especially if they’re tech-savvy. That is why you must educate them about using the Internet responsibly as opposed to relying on parental controls for everything.
- Use Controls to Understand your Child
Many teens use social networks to express their feelings. At times, they may not think about talking to people close to them before posting something on YouTube or Instagram.
If you feel like your teenage daughter doesn’t open up to you; parental controls can help you understand her better. They’ll do that by showing you her posts and browsing history. You can then address her feelings or worries without necessarily revealing how you learned about them.
- To Limit Screen Time
Using parental controls to limit your kids’ screen time isn’t protrusive to their privacy, and it’s useful. All you need to do is to set a password on the controls and configure the number of hours you want your kids to spend playing video games.
Some apps also send alerts to your kids on what they should do after their screen time is over. That way, your kids can spend their free time more productively. Experts also suggest that you give out chores to your kids earlier on so that they stay prepared on things to do after watching films or playing games.
- Use Controls as Backup for your Parenting
The University of Oxford researchers who studied parental controls ineffective noted that parental controls are only flawed if parents don’t play their role. That means you should commit your time to educate your kids about online safety first before using the software.
You should teach them digital literacy skills and empower them so that they know how to defend themselves from online bullies. That way, you don’t have to over-rely on parental control software even on things they are not designed to handle.
Parental controls are adequate on what they are programmed to do. They can limit your kids’ screen time. They can block unwanted websites and prevent malware sites. However, no software can replace your presence as a parent. You need to be there for your children and teach them how to deal with online threats as much as you need parental controls.