How do I protect my kids while they are on their phones? This is a question I hear from a lot of parents in my friends and family circles.
Simple Answer: Parental Controls.
Increasingly at an alarming rate, kids tweens and teens are on multiple devices per day.
Parents: did you know you can report self harm photos and generally bad accounts on social media?! Instagram supposedly banned self harm and pro-suicide posts yet they are still EVERYWHERE on that platform. Anything you see that’s inappropriate or bullying you can click ‘report’ and leave a comment of why those posts need removed. Suicide is the 2nd highest leading cause of death in kids ages 10-24. Lets join together and and make the internet safer for our kiddos!
How do we protect them while they are not on the home WiFi or home network?
I’ve put together a standard trifecta education and training approach for working together to achieve ultimate safeguarding your kids on their devices, specifically mobile phones.
A balance of these three objectives: knowledge, training, and monitoring should do the trick!
Lets first start with knowledge. I strongly believe an open door of communication is key for this step. Do your kids feel comfortable talking to you about what they are doing online? Parents who talk to their kids about the scary stuff online have more knowledge of what to be watching for. Educating teens of what they may encounter online and how to handle each situation helps prevent bad online behaviors and online predators gaining access to your kids. We can’t filter or protect everything, so open communication and knowledge is key! Examples of scary stuff they might encounter online is what to do when they see or experience cyberbullying or what to do when they see non age-appropriate content, etc.
YouTube recently has been under investigation when a group discovered child predators were using the comments section to exploit teens and kids. They have begun removing comments section of underage kids. But with thousands of videos going uploaded daily, it’s hard to filter inappropriate content fully.
A friend recently just happen to overhear what her 8 year kid was watching late one night, and was completely shocked to hear what he had access to. It was a cartoon on YouTube where halfway in the show the main character was having “feelings” for her stepbrother and went into very inappropriate dialog about it! This is NOT something her kid needed to be consuming at such an early age.
Technology is ever changing so is the need to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and resources out there. Hints this blog! 🙂
Next comes training. One way to stay up to date on all the latest apps is to download and use the newest and popular apps yourself. Most importantly self education and training on the latest trends, newest apps and what dangers are lurking! This helps when you are explaining the dangers online and how you are working to protect your kids, so they will know what to watch for. I would recommend downloading Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram and the games they play to start and get a feel of what content your kids have access to and who has access to them. Also ask your kids what apps they use and check their iTunes and Google Play stores for app downloads to make sure you have a handle on what apps they use the most. Healthy online habits at a young age can prevent your kids from being the target of predators. I will go further into details of which parent controls are best for smartphones below.
Third comes monitoring. This step works differently based on the level of trust you and your kids have and also their age. I will show you several ways below to monitor your kids on their phones in order to protect them. Watching their App Store downloads and content that comes across their phones is a great place to start! Once while driving a van of teenagers for our youth group, my lead foot got the best of me while passing a semi and one of the kids spoke up and said “My mom just text me to tell the driver to slow down, you are speeding!” There are many levels of monitoring even the exact speed of the vehicle they are in! But it’s ultimately up to you the level or monitoring you control and see so you can keep them safe online. Tools like real time GPS tracking, inappropriate search words filter, alerts for anyone outside your approved list of contacts who request information from your teens, etc; are what monitoring is all about.
Did you know there’s this app, Secret Calculator Photo Album? This app “Hides Photos and Videos behind a hiding Calculator, browse the internet privately without a trace, download images and files, hide everything!” This app interface is made to look like the standard calculator app, even works like a calculator, but when you enter the right password it unlocked the hidden features! Check it out for your self. This is unfortunately one app of many that your kids have access to and are encouraged to use by predators.
When talking about teenagers and tweens, good judgment and rules are meant to be pushed out the window and tried the the edge. Keeping your children safe online shouldn’t end their freedoms. However, the start of open and continued conversations and communications about how to build safe and smart habits online. You can truly be smarter than your kids online, and ultimately keep your kids safe online.