Software-Based Parental Controls Extend Your Digital Parenting Reach

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

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Your parents had it easy; parenting today is hard.  Not just because it will be awkward to explain to your child, as they get older, why everyone on every sports team gets a trophy at the end of the season. But because the world today is a very different place than when your parents raised you. After all, the iPhone just turned 10 years old; And yet many of us can’t imagine how we would function without a smartphone on us at all times. While the topic of this post is not technology addiction, the addictive nature of these devices is a pressing issue that you as a parent have to deal when it comes to your children and their technology use.

However, parents today are not alone. With organizations like Savvy Cyber Kids providing cyber ethics sessions and resources for students, teachers and parents, help does exist for today’s digital parent.

While the most important thing any adult caregiver can do for their child is to talk to them on a daily basis about what is happening in their lives (including their digital lives), we are all busy and could use some help when it comes to imparting our values on the next generation. The reality is that it is simply not possible to sit with your child every moment they are using their devices. Thankfully, you can look to software parental control options to provide some assistance.

The first software-based parental controls tools that came to market years ago were focused on providing website filtering. These tools would block a child (or anyone for that matter) from going to a specific site or a category of sites such as pornography, violence, gambling, or other sensitive topics. An example of such a tool that has evolved overtime from a filter-only solution to a more powersuite of software parental controls is Net Nanny.

A few months ago, PC Magazine reviewed a selection of parental control software solutions and selected ContentWatch Net Nanny 7, Symantec Norton Family Premier, and Qustodio Parental Control 2015 as their top picks. These full-suite software solutions, along with others in the market such as Boomerang, uKnowKids, and TeenSafe, provide cross-device controls that can provide insight into what your children are doing with their technology while also letting you set usage limits.

In addition to full software suites, there are specific tools that focus on one aspects of your child’s technology use. Do you just want to filter out specific websites? Try the SPIN Safe Browser. Do you want to just limit the amount of time your kids are on their device? Give UnGlue a try. Are you just curious about potential issues that may arise with social media usage? Give Bark a try.

There are a few important things to remember when using any technical parental control solution:

  1. Technology is never perfect. Sometimes your child will see, hear, and experience things you thought were being blocked.
  2. Technology, even if parental control solutions are used, should never be used as a digital babysitter. An adult should always be near (I didn’t say sit next to, but somewhere in earshot) the child when they are using their devices.
  3. Have some aspect of the Tech Talk every day with your kids. For conversation starters, download the free Savvy Cyber Kids Digital Parenting Guides.

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