By Ritika Jain
There are many apps empowering parents to track web history, view actual texts exchanged and know the exact GPS location of their child, considering that he or she physically carries the gadget the app is installed in. Net Nanny, SecureTeen or TeenSafe, for example, even let you block certain kinds of sites.
While some parents may have talked it over with their child and made them understand that these precautions are for their own safety, other domineering ones may have forced these conditions on the child. What they don’t know is that kids are smarter than them these days and will find ways to bypass the controls if they want to. wikiHow shows you just how to do that. So, when six-year-olds are showing new WhatsApp features to their parents and teens are taking screenshots of Snapchat messages that were meant to be deleted, parents definitely need to stay abreast of tech news and take whatever small measures they can. It’s like wearing a seatbelt to secure yourself, and hoping no mishap occurs.
What are the options available?
Installing anti-virus and firewall software like Norton Family Premier, PhoneSheriff or ESET can help protect your kids from online predators by showing you what your kids are doing online and identifying potential dangers. Some of these can be installed on multiple gadgets, some are for iOS and some for Android.
Subscribing to monitoring apps like Kidslox, Google Family Link, TeenShield or MamaBear can help enforce house rules besides masking profanity and blocking inappropriate content. Some apps like mSpy let you track Snapchat, mails or track locations while FlexiSpy gives you access to the user’s Facebook and Skype accounts, plus sends camera usage alerts. Some apps like MamaBear can share Instagram, Twitter or Tinder alerts with you.
Editing user settings on various gadgets or websites. For example, YouTube Kids lets you choose content according to age group and track viewing history. All you have to do is turn on the restricted mode at the bottom of the page and save. iPad gives you the screen recording option. By going into settings>restrictions>general>accessibility, you can also choose guided access and even set a limit on viewing time.
Using browser extension tools like eSafely or locking safe search on Google will ascertain that objectionable search words don’t yield results on popular web resources including Wikipedia.
Creating separate profiles on Netflix. You can manage the kids’ profile on the web and allow specific TV shows suited to their age.
Enabling passcodes so kids can’t access certain sites without your permission or without you around. On an iPhone, go to restrictions under settings and choose ‘enable passcode’. Make sure it’s not easy enough for the child to guess. Kindle Fire HD allows you to do the same.
Setting age restrictions on X Box or PS4 accounts. PS4 allows sub accounts based on date of birth to be created under a master account (which is linked to a primary mail account). Unfortunately, this only keeps a check on chats and spending. X Box lets you block certain content through a passkey, under privacy and online safety settings.
Changing preferences on your home WiFi router through the OpenDNS server instead of routing all information through your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will save you the trouble of changing settings on individual gadgets.
- Installing any of these will prove to be to your advantage only when the kid’s right to privacy has been discussed (in case of an older child). With younger kids, traditional methods of a caretaker watching over them, setting time limits and controlled viewing still works.
- Technology keeps changing fast and alluring new games and platforms keep popping up. Parental control apps may or may not be able to keep up. It’s best not to use them as a crutch but be vigilant yourself. Make surprise checks on your child’s friend list on social media or contacts on their phones. Reiterate ‘stranger danger’ time and again.
- It’s a good idea to be upfront and make up rules together so that they don’t feel spied on. The downside of it can see your relationship with the kids plummeting, with them taking their digital life underground. Open communication and two-way discussions can often avoid heartache and screaming matches later.
- Keep track of your own phones, so they don’t use them when you’re not looking. Unless you own an old-fashioned flip phone.
- Discuss what you’re comfortable with your kids watching with their friends’ parents too. It may just happen that they are blissfully unaware of their computers being misused. Also, don’t hesitate if a neighbour or relative needs to be told off for sharing sensitive links.
- Lend a hand to the moderators by reporting offensive or explicit content.
- Lastly, as a parent, you must demonstrate why it’s important not to behave obsessively, practice self-restraint and be aware of consequences when you make good or bad decisions. Sometimes, curious minds can get diverted towards darker things but people learn through mistakes too. Give them that chance to learn. If your child is taken up with hacking, for example, tell them about ethical hacking. Teach them to be good netizens, just like you’d want them to be good citizens.