Why ‘Parenting Technology’ is So Hard
The biggest problem when ‘Parenting Technology’ is there’s so much to think about. There’s the overwhelm of parental control options from Wifi, routers, and cellular, to web-filtering, content provider controls and those built-in to the devices themselves.
With so many points of access, you not only have to consider what’s happening inside your home, but also what happens when kids are on-the-go:
In this context, it’s easy to understand why ‘Parenting Technology’ today is so hard. It comes at us from all sides and hits us, and our children, from so many different directions. Unfortunately, there is no one, easy, or comprehensive solution. Parents can, however, cover their bases by focusing on these checkpoints:
The Parental Control Checkpoints
Typically, your cable and internet service are bundled together with both signals transmitting via a router supplied by your provider. The best Wifi parental control solutions offer the ability to:
- Pause or block the internet by device
- Control specific devices inside and outside the home.
- Filter web content based on user profile by device
Friend Favorite: Circle — it controls every device running on Wifi, including computers and Smart TVs.
2. Device Specific Parental Controls
Most devices that children access from Kindles to gaming consoles offer parental controls. These often take the form of:
- Setting up a separate user profile for your child
- Web-site filtering
- Time limits
- Content restrictions (e.g. which movies or games your child can access)
In addition to children’s devices, parents may want to consider blocking explicit content from the devices they use, or make sure they are password protected to prevent major mishaps.
Friend Favorites: Apple’s Screen Time (iOS 12) and OurPact. They both have their advantages — Screen Time allows you to set specific time limits for specific apps. OurPact‘s interface is far superior, and it allows you to manage every single app on flexible schedules.
3. Web Browsers
Safari restrictions enable parents to:
- Block specific websites
- Set up a group of approved websites a child can access
- Turn off private browsing
When parents want more visibility into where their kids are in spending their time online, or if they want an added layer of protection beyond Safari, parents can install advanced web filters.
Friend Favorite: Mobicip — its content filters more than do their job. You can even view which YouTube videos your child has watched from your phone.
4. Major Content Providers
Just when you think you’re done setting parental controls, you realize that web-filtering and browser restrictions have zero impact on what content your child can watch on Netflix or Prime Video. All the major content providers have their own parental controls which can involve separate user profiles for children and parental pincodes. If your child watches YouTube, be sure to set the Restricted mode for the web-browser version and the app. And keep in mind that these companies’ business models rely on keeping your child hooked, but there are ways to minimize its addictive qualities.
Considering the frequency of texting and the potential for miscommunication and hurt feelings, many parents like to monitor their kids’ text exchanges, especially in the early days. If you fall in this camp, you can spot check your child’s phone, or use another device to log into their iCloud account from the Messages app (e.g. a phone that is no longer in use or an iPad you don’t text off of).
If you prefer to be a little more hands off, you can subscribe to a text monitoring service such as Bark (see Our Guides).
Friend Favorite: Bark — its algorithms monitor your child’s accounts and only notifies you if it detects anything potentially concerning. Teens like it because they feel it gives them more privacy.
6. Social Media Monitoring
Given the importance of social media to most teens, parents are well-advised to keep an ongoing dialogue with their children about their social media activity. Parents can actively monitor their chid’s online life in a number of ways by:
- Friending/ following their child
- Logging into their child’s social media accounts
- Employing a monitoring tool such as Bark to identify any potential concerns
While social media has the potential to build connections up to a point, happy users usually max out at 30 minutes per social media and limit themselves to 1-2 platforms (see Our Roadmaps).
Friend Favorite: Bark — it not only monitors texting, but also social media on all the major platforms.
7. Cell Phone Carriers
Often we hear the major cell phone carriers touting their parental control offerings. We reviewed Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T, and came to the conclusion that because their solutions only work when a device is using cellular, the usefulness to a parent is fairly limited as most iPhones frequently access Wifi*. Even when it comes to texting, using Apple’s Screen Time and OurPact can be equally effective.
See Our Guides.
*The only exception is if you want to limit your child to communicating with a limited group of trusted contacts.