Nowadays, many children have easy access to electronics such as computers, tablets and smart phones. This makes it easy for them to browse the internet, go on YouTube, use social media platforms and more. While children use the internet for innocent purposes, they could easily be exposed to content that is not suitable for them at their fragile and impressionable age. 

Do Parental Controls Really Work? 

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Yes, but using just parental control settings and software on devices, while necessary, is not enough. If children try hard enough, there is no doubt they could eventually beat the parental control system. Using parental controls in conjunction with talking to your child about why they are in place is crucial. Helping a child understand as much as possible will help them be on the same page as you. 

How Do I Teach My Child Internet Safety? 

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Trust is key!  As a parent, the best thing to do in general is to establish an open, loving, and trusting relationship with your child. They have to know that they can easily trust you with anything that they have to tell you, and that you will respond through love, and not anger. If your child is distressed by something they come across on the internet, they should not feel embarrassed to tell you, or scared that it will result in punishment. It is very important to tell them that you only want to help them.

Prior to the child’s internet use, the parent should have conversations with the child helping them understand what they should be using the internet for and teaching them how to make responsible choices. A child needs to be taught how to use the internet, just like they are taught everything else in life. A child also learns through repetition, so they must be reminded of your internet safety rules periodically. Most of all, children learn through example, so if a parent is using the internet with their child present, they must be extremely careful of what is on their screen that their child could potentially be exposed to.

Should Parents Spy on Their Child to Keep Them Safe?

Absolutely not. When a child or teen feels like their privacy has been invaded, the trust relationship has been broken. While not only extremely distressing emotionally for the child, this could also lead to bad behavior. This does not mean a parent cannot monitor their child’s internet use. A parent can still let their child know that their devices will be checked, the main premise here being that you are letting the child know that this will be happening.

So, What Parental Controls Should be Used?

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Making sure every device has parental controls enabled is the first step. Controls should be used on any device your child uses, whether it be a television, laptop, tablet, game console, or phone. Set filters on the search engines, set privacy settings on the devices, make sure certain websites are blocked, if an app has a safety mode, enable it, block pop-ups, and make sure these settings are password protected when possible. Setting screen times also help greatly, so the child does not become addicted. Parents can also sit with their child during screen time, guiding them in the right direction. 

Discuss websites and apps with your child to get a sense of how they use the internet. If you notice your child is constantly trying to get around parental controls, this could be a sign of an unhealthy relationship with technology that should be addressed. Again, this issue could be prevented beforehand by talking to your child about why their internet use is so controlled.

To sum it all up, parental controls work best when it is not just a setting on their device but rather when it is combined with education and discussions about internet safety. The goal is to let children know that the digital world is a big place with lots of information which can have a large influence on them. They need to know that limits are necessary for their safety, whether they fully understand what that means or not. Just letting them know is still helpful in influencing positive behavior. Because, at the end of the day, a parent can turn on the parental controls and try to stop certain behaviors, but without open lines of communication between a parent and child there will be problems in the future.


WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Virtual Victims: Protecting Yourself and Your Children Against Cybercrime.

Parental Controls: Do they really work?

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