As a parent, it’s hard to know which limits to set with your children when it comes to internet usage. You can’t monitor your kids 24/7, so it’s crucial you prepare them to safely use the internet on their own.
When it comes to your children using the internet alone, should you be worried? It doesn’t hurt. At least 56% of tweens and teens aged 11-16 have seen explicit material online.
Now that you’re aware of the stats, you can use our in-depth guide to learn how to better keep an eye out and warn your children about internet hazards. But first, some quick tips to get started.
You should always set some ground rules on where and when kids can use their devices. For instance, determine whether they’re allowed to have their phones in their rooms at night.
As always, communicate these rules with your children and explain why they’re in place. Help them understand why internet safety rules are necessary. The more aware they are, the better able they can recognize something dangerous when they come across it and come to you for help.
Now that you know that you know the basics, here’s the nitty-gritty on where you should start when it comes to internet safety.
Your router creates a private internet connection in your home. The more secure you are on the frontline, the less likely your child will cross paths with inappropriate material.
One way to limit your kids’ exposure to explicit things is by controlling what they can search. Routers manage both your home’s network and the websites it can access. Here’s what you can control through your internet router:
Customize your router so it enables app or internet restrictions during certain times of the day. For instance, if your youngster is home alone between 3 and 5 p.m. each weekday, that’s two hours you can’t protect your children in person. If you adjust your router’s capabilities, you can control your router’s connectivity. If you want to restrict Wi-Fi, you can turn off internet use based on the schedule you created.
To begin, you’ll need to open a web browser on your laptop or computer. Search for your network’s IP address, which you can usually find on the side of your router (it will be 8-digits long).
If you still can’t find your IP address, look it up by right-clicking on your internet icon and looking for details or settings. If you’re on an iOS device, you can find your IP address under “Open Network Preferences.”
Once you’re in, you can customize your router’s settings to restrict websites, pause the internet, and establish time limits for your kiddos.
All Apple products offer Screen Time, a pre-downloaded app that allows you to restrict your children’s access to any Apple device connected to your home’s Wi-Fi.
To access Screen Time on any Apple device, visit Settings, and find the Screen Time tab. It’ll ask you whether you want to control your device or your child’s device. If you use Family Sharing, you can connect your child’s device to your device, and you can adjust their settings and monitor their screen time from your phone.
The nice thing about Apple products is that anytime you make changes on one device, it’ll automatically update every other Apple device connected to your home’s Wi-Fi. In other words, if you update the settings on your child’s phone, you won’t need to update the settings on their tablet or laptop either.
Windows offers a “block” setting that restricts children from accessing a list of restricted websites.
Like most parental control settings, you’ll need to create an account to customize your parental control preferences. For Windows 10’s parental control settings, you’ll need to create an account for your child (a “child account”) in addition to your existing account. Once you create that, you can restrict specific websites and set up other web-browsing restrictions through their portal.
Keep in mind, there are some holes in Microsoft browsers’ filtering capabilities. Their block lists won’t stay up-to-date, and some user-created content may slip through the cracks. We recommend supplementing Windows 10 parental control with an additional internet filter system, such as Net Nanny.
Also, unlike iOS devices, if you update preferences on one Windows browser, it won’t apply to other browsers. For instance, if you customize parental control settings on your desktop, you’ll need to do the same on your child’s phone. Or, if you make changes to your Chrome settings, it won’t affect other browsers, like Firework or Edge.
Here are Apple TV’s parental control features:
- Create a password to restrict your little ones from purchasing or renting any movies, TV shows, or apps.
- Create a password to prevent your children from opening or downloading an app.
- Block mature or explicit language via Siri Explicit Language.
- Disable multiplayer games and screen share.
- Disable locations services, conference room display, and Airplay access.
- Filter only clean podcasts and music.
- Block content based on its rating (e.g., PG-13, R, etc.).
Apple TV offers a nice perk no other parental control feature offers: The option to change your country’s rating systems. Each country has a different rating system for TV shows, apps, and movies. Apple TV defaults to America’s rating system, but if you wish to choose another country’s rating system, you’re welcome to do so.
First, set up an Amazon Video PIN on your account. Amazon’s Fire TV parental control requires a pin to prevent your little ones from buying any movies without asking you first. It also requires permission before opening any apps—even pre-downloaded ones, like Amazon Music.
Once you’ve set up parental controls, you can monitor activity on your tablets and phone too. In addition to making it more difficult for your kids to access inappropriate content, Amazon Fire TV’s parental controls also block the playback of TV shows and movies.
Unfortunately, Roku doesn’t offer very many control options for parents, and is chock-full of explicit, mature content unfit for kids.
On the upside, though, Roku has a Kids and Family section, which offers kid-friendly content safe for your child to watch.
Roku also gives you the option to create a 4-digit pin to filter and prevent your kids from downloading inappropriate channels. The caveat here is that this doesn’t block existing inappropriate channels (meaning the channels that came already downloaded when you bought it).
But again, even though Roku doesn’t have the best filtering capabilities, if your home’s router is aptly secure, it’ll make it difficult for your child to come across something like porn if it’s already restricted.
The same way iOS products have Screen Time, Android users can download the app Family Link.
With Family Link, children won’t be able to delete search history or access restricted websites that you selected—but it applies only to Google searches. So if your family routinely uses internet search engines like Bing or Yahoo, you’ll need to manually block those websites there as well.
Family Link also prevents children younger than 13 from accessing YouTube videos, which is useful since YouTube has been under fire in recent years for doing a poor job of filtering and blocking inappropriate content.
As mentioned before, Apple devices come with Screen Time, a parental control software, downloaded on every Apple device.
Screen Time lets you restrict the amount of time your kid spends online. It also gives you an option to limit specific websites. In doing so—as with Family Link—your kids won’t be able to delete their search history in Safari.
Screen Time and Family Link are fairly similar, so here’s a breakdown of each to help you better differentiate.
Parents can activate Google’s SafeSearch to restrict any Google search. Like many parental controls, Safe Search prevents people on your network from accessing explicit control via search engine results.
It also blocks your children from visiting mature sites.
Unlike most parental controls, it isn’t specific to an Apple or Android device. Since it’s Google’s product, parents can use it on any browser, as long as they activate it through their search settings. Here’s how to activate Google’s Safe Search on your phone, tablet, or laptop.
Google Chrome has zero parental controls built-in, making it easier for kids to access restricted sites if they can’t on Safari or Internet Explorer. Mozilla Firefox isn’t much better, but it offers a free “Fox Filter,” which restricts pornographic and explicit materials.
Internet Explorer offers the most parental control features of all three. Features include the ability to block restricted websites, as well as filter out language, nudity, and violence.
If you want to beef up security even more, you can add a supplemental plug-in device to your router. They’ll help further manage your internet access and devices (which can be especially helpful if you have several devices in one household).
Many parental control features offer time limits, which allow you to cut off access to specific devices or apps based on a schedule you created. Some time limits even let you schedule limits for specific devices and apps. So if your child has played a video game for more than an hour, for instance, it will automatically disable it.
On the extreme end, you can also schedule your entire network to shut down during specific times. So if your kid needs to use the internet to do some homework, you can schedule it to turn on for a few hours after they get home—but they can’t stream or play after you’ve gone to bed, for instance, without you knowing.
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