Give your kids the freedom they want, with the security you need.
In this day and age it is nearly impossible to cut out all use of technology and social media, especially with your kids. As our children start to get older, we find ourselves wanting to give them room to take on more responsibility and prove they can handle it. With the unpredictability of the internet, it can be incredibly difficult to give this responsibility. There are constant questions: Who's contacting them? What are they doing online? Since tweens and teens often keep their lives to themselves, it can be tricky to get clear answers.
It is important to familiarize yourself with what your children are doing online and to have an open dialogue with your children about online safety. If you are still wary about giving your children full internet freedom, there are a few tools to keep track of what they are up to online.
- Bark: Similar to VISR (see below), kids and parents need to work together to hook up accounts to the service. Bark's watchdog engine uses advanced algorithms to look for a variety of potential issues, such as cyberbullying, sexting, drug-related content, and signs of depression. If a potential issue is detected, a text/email alert is sent to you to review the issue, along with recommended actions on how to handle the situation ($9/month).
- Circle Home and Circle Go: Circle pairs wirelessly with your home Wi-Fi and allows you to manage every device on your network. Using the Circle app, families can create unique profiles for each family member. From here, kids will have a connected experience that is designed just for them. You can create time limits on specific apps, filter content, set bedtimes, and restrict internet access for the whole house or for individuals. Circle Go will also let parents filter, limit, and track on networks outside the home Wi-Fi (the Circle device is $99, the Circle Home app is free, and the Circle Go service will be $9.95/month).
- Limitly: Limitly prevents your kids from wasting time on Android smartphones and tablets. Especially, when it is not allowed - at school, at bedtime, while doing homework, etc. This will help your children stay focused on important activities and lets you control kids’ screen time. It is essential considering that an average teen spends about 9 horrifying hours a day on a mobile device (free, Android-only).
- Pocket Guardian: Pocket Guardian helps parents monitor their kids’ iPhone & Android Smartphone plus social media accounts without invading their privacy. Parents receive notification when Cyberbullying or Sexting are detected, plus resources to start a conversation with their child. ($9.99–$12.99/month).
- Trackidz: With this program, you don't see specific content from your kid's device, but you can track app installations and use, block browsers and apps, manage time in apps and on the device, block out device-free time, grant bonus time, track location, get an alert when your kid's phone is turned off, and see your kid's contacts. It also claims to detect cyberbullying by tracking when your kid's device use drops dramatically, which can indicate avoidance. Setting up a geo-fence lets parents track a kid's location and alerts them when a kid has gone outside the boundaries, and a kid can tap the power button to send an emergency message to parents (currently free, but will be $6.99).
- VISR: For this one to work, a parent needs the kid's usernames and passwords, so be aware that it's easy for kids to set up dummy accounts. Once enabled, the tool analyzes posts and emails for bullying, profanity, nudity, violence, drugs, and late-night use and sends parents alerts when anything iffy is detected (currently free, but will be $5/month).
For added safety, you can install parental control software on your computer that will restrict access to unsuitable web pages and control how your kids can use the Internet. You should also install an anti-virus software and anti-spyware software before your kids start using the Internet. This will help to secure and protect your computer from online hacking. And ImOn Communications offers Tech Home Services that includes both desktop security and parental controls for your online protection and peace of mind. For more information on ImOn’s Tech Home services, visit http://www.MyImOn.com/TechHome.