by Shikha Das Shankar ~ Jan 17, 2019
Take a big sigh of relief if your children are at an age where they don’t have a freehand on technology. I know I did when I saw a green colored flyer inviting parents of participating schools to attend a panel discussion on how to keep children safe from cyber threats in my son’s school folder. FBI law enforcements officers, health professionals, IT security specialist, and educators will be in attendance that night to discuss with parents everything they need to know to keep their children safe online.
“He’s still in first grade. I don’t need to worry yet,” were few of my first thoughts as I stashed away that washed-out looking paper into the mounting pile of art work, classwork and test papers that my children bring back home every day.
Thoughts surrounding the initiative being taken by our school district lingered on my mind, and were not easy to put aside like that poorly printed paper.
I knew sooner than later that I’ll be that mom in the audience, taking notes on health impacts of social media consumption, latest crimes to worry about on the internet and how to use technology to tackle technology-related parenting woes.
Establishing the purpose of parental control
Whether you have a PTSA (Parent Teacher Students Association) or a school district that is activity involved in keeping your children safe online or not, there is a good place to start if you want to keep your child safe from cyber threats.
With tweens and teenagers in the house, the questions, “what are they doing on their phone?” and “are they safe?” are forever in your thoughts. You lose your mind thinking about the kind of content your child is exposing himself to, the people he is interacting with virtually and his dwindling productivity due to excessive social media engagement.
A reliable solution is installing parental control on your child’s smartphones and other devices he uses.
A modern-day parenting necessity, Parental Control has found many takers amongst anxious parents and caregivers worried about the safety of their children in the digital space.
It serves two purposes, namely, guiding your kids to stay safe on the internet as they slowly mature in the digital world, and keeping parents informed about how their children are using the internet.
Setting parental control on your home devices is easy, cost-effective and comes in many options. Many parental control features are inbuilt into smartphones and devices, and available through internet service providers. Most internet browsers are equipped with options to block websites that you deem inappropriate for your children.
Apart from that, there is a plethora of free and paid parental control apps to choose from depending on your requirement. A parental control app will do the following or some of the following:
- Block websites, contact or other online content
- Call or text monitoring
- Track location
- Timer-based screen-lock
- Keyword tracker
What parental control does
Many children will successfully use the internet without being affected by much of the existing threats like cyberbullying, communicating with an online predator or in-personification. But the risk looms no matter how aware or careful your child might be.
Cybercrime: Children using the internet may not know how much information is too much, leading to risky online behavior that invites cybercrime. Poor habits on the internet are easy to exploit and lead to an increased risk of compromising the safety of the child.
Limit Screentime: Internet is addictive and it is necessary to limit screentime. Parental control apps help parents recognize the amount of time a child has spent on the internet and gives a breakdown of where he spent most of his screentime. This helps ensure that social media, video games or anything does not become a cause of distraction for the child.
Data Theft: Schools rely heavily on digital technologies to accomplish curriculum goals, which means a child is doing a good chunk of her assignments digitally. The risk of valuable data in the form of a child’s online work getting lost, hacked or deleted is ever-present.
Explicit Content: Access to chat rooms, pornography, and perpetrators put youngsters at very high risk of landing themselves in dangerous situations and of being negatively influenced by explicit content.
Family Time, Norton Family, Web Watcher, Net Nanny, Safe Eyes, MamaBear, Uknowkids, Qustodio, AVG, mSpy, KidGuard, K9 Web Protection, and Family Safety are some of the popular parental control apps. A parent using one of these apps can expect to get multiple notifications in a day starting from alerts about your child’s arrival or departure from school, after-school activity or a friend’s house, Facebook posts your child was tagged in, calls he received and made, keywords entered in a search engine, etc.
There are numerous possibilities to surveil our children. But in the name of keeping them safe, are we invading their privacy by hovering over their teenage life in undercover spy mode?
In the next part, we visit the debate of privacy versus safety while using parental control apps, stealth-mode monitoring and importance of parenting done years before your child makes his Instagram debut.
Shikha Das Shankar is a freelance storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she loves hiking with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.