If you aren’t worried about your child’s safety online, you should be–statistics show that 69% of teens regularly receive personal messages online from strangers–and most of them don’t tell a trusted adult about it. Additionally, 64% post photos or videos of themselves, while more than half (58%) post info about where they live. Concerned about this kind of activity? Then read on about the four kinds of parental controls you should absolutely consider:
Kid-Friendly Internet Browser
If you want a blanket solution to your worries about your kids’ Internet activity, you may want to consider a kid-friendly Internet browser. Browsers like the popular (and free) KidZui for Firefox restrict the web to 600,000 approved sites; kids can share and tag videos and photos, but not any personal information. Kids also receive an Avatar, or “Zui” identity, they can engage in some limited social networking activity. It also contains a great number of fun, kid-safe games. In addition, anytime one of your children begins a new account or adds a friend, the parent receives an e-mail notification. The standalone software is available for download on Windows or Mac OS X platforms. Other similar sites include: Kido’z or Zoodles.
Smartphone Parental Control Apps
Concerned about your kids’ wireless Internet usage? Consider smartphone monitoring software like Phone Sheriff. It’s compatible with the most popular smartphones–Android, iPhone, and Blackberry–and allows administrators to record user activities (including SMS text messages and calls) as well as track location. Phone Sheriff also allows you to place time restrictions on your child’s phone and block certain websites and applications. My Mobile Watchdog and Mobile Nanny are other comparable apps that you may want to consider.
Separate Computer Accounts
Make sure that you have separate user accounts for the children and adults in your home. On a Mac computer, select “System Preferences” from the Apple menu and click on the accounts menu. Add a new account. In the new account window, fill out the name and password that you want for your child. In the New Account drop-down list, select “Managed with Parental Controls.” On a Windows computer, click on “Control Panel” and click “user accounts and family safety,” then “set up parental controls for any user” to open your settings. (You have to have a separate user account for your child in place already–if you don’t have one, click on “Create a new user account” and fill in the requisite information.)
Gaming Console Controls
New technological advances in console gaming make it easier and faster to access games online, but also makes the Playstation, Wii, or XBox a possibly dangerous place for your children. The Sony Playstation 3 has a default four-digit security password (0000). Go to settings, then security settings, and you’ll see restriction options for games listed under “Parental Control.” Pick a number–a low number indicates a high level of restriction. You can also set controls for the Web browser: select Internet Browser Start Control (you can select “on” or “off.”) On the Nintendo Wii, you can select Parental Control from the Wii Settings menu, which opens with a list of restrictions. (Once the Wii is connected to the Internet, you have the additional option of disabling the Web browser and limiting email exchanges.) For Xbox, you can select Family Settings, then Console Controls. Set your restrictions (based on the MPAA and ESRB ratings) and select a password.