The internet can be a magical place, particularly for children, but the Internet can be inherently dangerous. It provides children with education and entertainment at, unfortunately, significant risk, The risks tend to reflect society at large. Child abuse, grooming, sexting, excessive levels of violence in online games and videos all present dangers to children, both online and in real life.
One aspect that is under increasing scrutiny is that of online security for children.
This is a great concern to parents, and they are seeking online security tools and techniques to manage their children’s access to the Internet, to social media and internet-based email.
The first thing to understand that online security is not just a technology issue and that technology alone will not provide the answer. Parental control is the first line of defence and asks a lot from parents in implementing it properly.
Before even considering the restrictions to be placed on a child’s online access, you need to understand what these restrictions are and why they are needed. Otherwise, you could throw the baby out with the bathwater and prevent their access to good and valuable content.
Further, restricting online access should not be considered in isolation. You need to discuss with your child the perils and dangers of growing up online and why they need to be safe. You need to provide positive and reassuring guidance and support on the various perils they will face and make them feel safe and secure in coming to you if they have any issues.
The next step is to decide when and how these restrictions are to be implemented:
Children need to have playdates, get outside, ride bikes, play and become covered in mud with their friends. If they spend all their free time with their heads buried in a smart device, they will miss all of that. Childhood obesity is on the rise worldwide.
Restrict online access to a known amount of time and a specific time of the day, perhaps just before bed-time.
There is content that is not meant for children, and that they should not see. Inappropriate and explicit content, pornography, sexting, gratuitous violence, profanity, racism are just some of the categories of items to be avoided.
There is a code of practice that rates websites in the same way as movies. However, that is not universally observed, and if observed, is not always accurate.
Restricting access by content is difficult for that very reason.
Oversight and Supervision
You need to see what your child is doing online. The apps they use and for how long, the sites they visit, their contact lists and call logs.
We discuss a couple of options below.
Google Family Link
Google has a parental control app called Family Link. It has two components that run on Android and IoS, on tablets, smartphones and Android or Apple Desktops. It may also work on Windows machines using an Android emulator like BlueStacks.
There is an app that runs on the child’s smart device and the control app that is operated by the parent. You as a parent can:
- Manage apps. Your child wants to download an app, you can approve or block it.
- Monitor usage. You get regular reports on the time your child spends on their apps. You can set screen time limits.
- Bedtime. You can remotely lock their device.
Well worth a look at Google Kids as an operating environment.
The MamaBear app lets you keep a close eye on your kids while they are out and about. It monitors their Social Media accounts so you can be aware of any potential dangers.
Startup by installing it on your smart device and create a family account. Next, put the app on your child’s device. Add their social media logins if you want to monitor them. Features include:
- Notification of important content like new friends;
- Your child’s current and recent locations;
- Receive automatic notifications about your child’s game times, snack duties and coach’s messages from your TeamSnap account built in the MamaBear app.
- Monitoring Social Media, Instagram, Tumblr and Tweet for instance.
In this day and age, monitoring your child’s online activity is an essential part of keeping them safe.