The internet is a powerful thing. It can be powerfully good, or powerfully evil. Parents want to ensure their children experience the powerfully good part. This is easier said than done. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace it can be hard for a parent to keep up. The intention of this article is to provide a few steps and tips to help parents protect their children.
Access Control (Content Filtering) – Parents can protect their children by controlling the point devices access the internet. Most homes today have a local or Wi-Fi network connected to the internet through a cable or phone provider. For whatever reason, internet access providers have not made it easy for parents to control content available in their home. In default mode, providers have no limits to the sites accessible to your home. With a little work, parents can increase the protection on their home network. A content filter can be installed at the point of access to filter inappropriate content. Content filters can be downloaded/purchased separately, and are often provided available as part of a firewall. The linked article provides a good list of available content filters. Once the content filter is installed, parents can select the sites and/or categories of sites they want to block in their home. Some of these services are free and some require a subscription.
Device Control – While access control is important, it is not enough by itself. Your child will also leave home and have access to the internet from points not under parent control (friend’s house, school, public Wi-Fi, etc.). Even inside your home, kids likely have a phone or device with cellular access to the internet (which bypasses the home content filter). It’s a good idea for parents to have a contract with their child about the responsibilities that come with a device. To provide protections in these scenarios, parents should implement some “device controls.” To keep it simple, let’s use the iOS (iPhone/iPad) as an example. Other devices will have similar controls. When children are young, a parent should be the administrator of their child’s device. The iOS provides device controls for parents under the Restrictions settings (Settings\General\Restrictions). Below are a few of the restrictions parents should consider:
- Restricting Safari/Camera/App Store/Etc. – For very young children, or children who have already made bad choices on technology use, you can restrict their ability to even access these phone functions.
- Installing and Deleting Apps – It’s a good idea to limit your child’s apps. Parents should initially decide when their child is ready for an app (like Instagram or Snapchat). There are also apps out there are downright evil. Rather than leave it to chance, parents should thoughtfully decide when their child is ready for the responsibility of fully controlling the apps they download and use.
- Ratings – The iOS allows parent to set the content level for a device for all media (explicit, PG-13, TV-MA, etc.). The device will then disallow content rated as more mature than the device has been set to play.
- Location Reporting – Today’s devices use device location information to make our lives easier. From helping us navigate to tagging the location of photos to making a game more fun (i.e. Pokémon Go) a lot of location information is used and recorded on a device. It has been well reported that predators can use this location information to gain information on potential victims. Parents can limit the location information provided on a device or phone (Settings\General\Restrictions\Location Services).
Physical Control – Parents should control where devices are used. The linked cell phone contract has some good guidelines about places a child can and cannot use a device. In general, young children should only use a device in place the parent can continuously monitor. These controls will slacken as a child gets older and is more trained and mature about using devices.
Communicate and Educate – Perhaps most importantly, you must communicate and educate your child about the importance of internet safety. Let’s face it, children today are way more adept in the technical world than parents. They are likely capable of finding a way around whatever controls parents have in place. Furthermore, they will access technology outside parent control. Like training a child about the dangers of other risky behaviors (drugs, sex, tobacco, etc.), parents need to explain to children how certain internet site and information are bad for them.
Commit to be a Continuous Learners – Parents today must be continuous learners. The explosion of the internet and technology in our society is something you must keep up with to understand and protect your child from the dangers they face. While you do not need to be an expert, you need to have a basic understanding of the devices, sites and apps in use by children today. Only by understanding them, can you protect your child from possible dangerous uses.
Children today are growing up in a world vastly different from the world their parents grew up in. It’s safe to say parents have never raised children in a world more different than the one they grew up in. We hope you will find the information and tips in the article helpful to protecting your child. At The Tenney School, we implement Access Controls, Device Controls, and Physical Controls to protect our student internet use. Contact us today to hear more about how we protect our students and our one-to-one classrooms.