We live in an age of instant connection: with friends, with information, with media. All reached with a simple tap of a button, physical or digital. The world is in the palm of our smartphone beholden hands, and we have unfettered access to it, for good or worse. For adults, this is a new world, for children? It is the only one they have known. Children are given access to a, mostly, decidedly child unfriendly world, waiting for their inherent innocence to be taken advantage of by a myriad of online predators.
1 in 3 internet users are children as of 2015 – that’s roughly 1066666666 children who are exposed to abuse online from a predator, cyberbullying from peers and unsuitable adult content such as pornography. In fact, 1 in 7 youth users were the recipients of unwanted sexual solicitations, and from then about 1 in 25 youths were asked by online predators to meet in real life. That’s a whopping 42666666 children being abused by predators that could’ve been avoided through restrictions on their internet access.
So, how do we protect our children from online abuse and adult content? Parental control is a good start. Remember, sitting your child down and having a conversation about the dangers online, and which websites are banned is vital in protecting them as well.
Whilst 39% of parents have reported using parental controls for “blocking, filtering or monitoring their teen’s online activities” according to a Pew Research Center survey, the use of parental controls is essential for protecting children from online abuse and predatory behavior. So what are parental controls then? It is software that allows parents to restrict the access of content to their children, tools that come with many browsers such as Google, Internet Explorer, and Opera; on many consoles like PlayStation, XBox, and Nintendo; on phones and tablets like Apple iPhone, Samsung, and Sony.Parental control comes in four types:
- Content filters – self-explanatory
- Usage controls – a device can only be used during certain time periods
- Computer usage management tools – only certain software is available
- and Monitoring – texts, IMs, browser history, call log can be tracked
As I have already mentioned, most devices and browsers come up parental controls in their operating systems, so it is simple and free to set up content restrictions for your children via their settings. However, apps/software need to used to block programs, set a usage timer, or to monitor a mobile device/tablet. Norton Family Premier is a monthly subscription service that has web content filters, location tracking, and a time limit function. Another payable app is PhoneSheriff, which includes a panic button for alerting contacts to a child’s whereabouts. Net Nanny is a popular pay-by-device software that includes a profanity masking tool.
However, if you’re in the market for free parental control software then try out KidGuard for iOS, an online service that “equips any parent with the right tools” to protect your children from online predators by monitoring their social media, texts and calls, browser history, and allowing them to view their location, all without the need to jailbreak the device. Qustodio also offers a basic free version of their parental control service, which covers the basics like time schedules, and adult content blocking.
In order to protect children from abuse online – cyberbullying, sexual harassment – parental controls are a must. Youthful curiosity must be stemmed and diverted from places online that would hurt them, and this should be done through setting boundaries both through talking with your child and on their online access.