4 Easy Steps to Protect Kids Online
In a recent study administered by Google before Covid, 70% of kids ages 3-6 were spending around 2.2H every day in front of screens and 2.6% were watching once a week. Today the story is much different, as 83% kids spend over 3.5H every day in front of screens.
There are many mitigating circumstances which we can think of such as no school (how can you call 2 zoom meetings a day school?!), parents need to work while kids are at home, no friends to go visit as they are in quarantine or lock down etc.
Although not everything is negative with the increased online activity, the risk of being exposed to some of the dangers that come with the increased time are immense. Cyberbullying, identity theft, sexual predators and hackers are among the leading dangers and parents must be aware of them and take the necessary protection steps.
We have created this article to help parents understand how to keep their child safe and mainly understand the options they have to mitigate the bad outcomes of the increased online activity. Read on and we will give you few tips on how to protect their kids and make sure they are not exposed to profanity, nudity, or other inappropriate content for their young eyes.
The addictive factor
One critical point that parents must understand is that all the devices, apps, social platforms and chatting apps that are around us are designed to get us hooked. Yes, just like casinos implement all the tricks in the book to get people to spend more money. As the apps fight for our attention most of them use all the techniques proven to be very successful at luring us in and manipulating our behavior. Just to name a few simple tricks; push notifications, never ending feed of content, various “streak” counts and imaginary leaderboards.
1. Turn Autoplay Off
Most platforms’ business model is commercials and the more they keep us on the platform the more views they get the higher revenue generated, this is why all of them have Autoplay that will keep showing clips that their algorithm decided to show.
Turning off the Autoplay is a 2 min task that does not require you to be a tech wizard.
For Netflix just follow this link, and for YouTube, if you use the app, you can find it in the settings>>Autoplay toggle.
For those parents that sit their kids in front of a desktop you should easily find the toggle on the right next to the suggested videos.
2. Set up age restriction
The filtering algorithms for the leading platforms still do not catch all the videos that contain violence, sexual or offensive language content. That said, parents can now take an extra measure of consciousness and make sure they turn on the right age restriction for each kid. The best way to control that is to have a different user, one for the kids and one for the adults.
Netflix lets parents choose between four groups of protection level – Little Kids (all), Older Kids (age group 7+, 13+ in some), Teens (age group 13+) and Adults (16+ and 18+). So you can easily configure it from the settings menu. Another option is to block specific shows that you want to make sure your kids do not get exposed to.
On YouTube you again need to go click on your little icon and scroll down to the bottom to the restricted mode toggle. Remember, the filtering algorithms are not 100% bullet proof.
3. Set up Time limits
To make it simple, screen time refers to the amount of time kids are spending around a device with a screen, including a smartphone, tablet, laptop, game console, TV or any other flickering device. It is already a well known fact through research that screen time is related to child development, including physical and mental health. Too much time spent in front of screens can result in problems like lack of sleep, anxiety, violence and obesity. Just by looking at the recent stats we shared above it is clear that we as parents must find the right balance between different activities and can not let the pendulum swing only towards the online activity. Parents should push their kids towards meeting and playing with friends in the “real” world.
In the next bullet we discuss how parental control apps can help monitor screen time and set limits but thankfully both Android and iPhone let parents manage screen time and more importantly be aware of the time spent on each app. Here is a quick and simple guide that you can follow on how to do that for both iOS and Android devices.
4. Use parental control Apps
One of the best things me and my husbands did was to install a parental control app. These apps have one mission in mind and it is to help parents protect their kids. They are packed with features that will let you go beyond limiting screen time as you can also monitor social media use, track location, and view message and call logs, among other things. If you only want to manage screen time you are probably better of with using the built in features of the platforms (read bullet point above) but if you feel that you are totally lost and you have no clue what your teenager is doing on his mobile device we suggest you continue reading and make sure to check our article on the most updated information on the leading parental control apps.
Social Networks and Chatting Apps Monitoring – Social apps are one of the main places kids spend their time online, although not all bad with these apps but it is increasingly becomes a place where kids encounter cyberbullying, nudity and profanity. The social networks and chatting apps are usually not set to the highest security levels and expose our children to online predators and scammers. Parental control apps can notify parents on images that where posted online and for other signs of harmful interactions and content. Grab a special extra 20% off with coupon code parental control for Mspy which is one of the leading apps in monitoring social accounts.
Filter Content – These apps let parents filter which websites their kids can visit and what apps are restricted either in time or in access. Most of the apps track and detect activity that may indicate online predators, adult content, sexting, cyberbullying, or even suicidal thoughts. Apps let parents to use a web filter function to select which categories of websites are allowed or should be blocked or set up specific URLs and domains to allow or block.
Location Tracking – I don’t remember if my parents worried so much when i played outside or they were just busy at work, but these days parents get extremely worried when they are not aware where their precious ones are or that their child is not where they are supposed to be. Similar to tracking your iPhone function, the parental control apps let parents use the parent portal to instantly find out where their child’s phone is on demand or at pre-set times during the day and week. Most apps let parents create a geofence and get immediate alerts once the phone is out of that virtual fence. Lastly parents can keep up with kids with location check-ins alerts once the child arrives at their destination.
From smartphones to tablets, mobile gadgets are lifesavers, we all use them for working, communicating, playing games, watching videos, and doing a plethora of other things. However, as mentioned above and as more and more research is being done, it can also be dangerous, especially among little ones. A recent research found that before we demand anything from our beloved ones, we all must understand that it starts with us, and the more parents demonstrate addictive behaviors with smartphones, the harder it gets in regulating their young children’s use of the devices.