The internet is a wonderful place for children to learn, communicate, play, and explore. But of course, the internet can also be a dangerous place where children can encounter adult content, criminals, and numerous other threats. Little wonder, then, that many parents are looking for smart, easy-to-use online parental controls to ensure that their children can experience all the best of the internet while avoiding its many hazards.
Fortunately, parental controls are now available on the operating systems and web browsers of just about every device your child might use, from smartphones and tablets to desktop computers and gaming systems. Some home routers also have controls available to filter content before it reaches any devices.
There are several different types of parental controls to consider, depending on the age of your child, the type of devices they use, and your specific concerns:
- Filtering and blocking tools limit access to specific websites. Some even block specific images or words.
- Outgoing blocking tools prevent children from sharing personal information online and via email.
- Monitoring tools don’t block children from any online activities. Instead, they simply let parents know about online activity.
- Time limits can be set on devices to limit the length of time children spend online and when access is allowed.
In addition to the parental controls that are built into today’s devices, you might consider using mobile device apps such as Bark and TeenSafe, which can help track and monitor online activity for issues like cyberbullying or sexting, including text messaging. Especially for younger children, it’s also worth considering using a kids’ browser, or so-called “walled garden” like Zoodles and Tweens Browser. Walled gardens fill the entire screen and can’t be clicked out of, so children are limited to a variety of safe, preapproved websites, games, and other activities.
All of these parental controls are free, other than the walled gardens, most of which are initially free but can be upgraded for a fee to premium versions. If you don’t mind investing a little money, all-in-one parental control software like NetNanny are available to block, monitor, impose screen-time limits, add additional anti-virus software, and more.
Of course, any form of online parental control can only do so much. The best way to protect your children from the risks posed online by everything from pornography to strangers on social media to identity theft is to talk to them and be by their side as much as possible to help them understand how and why to be safe and responsible online.