#childsafety | Internet Safety for Kids: Protect Your Child

Parents can begin enforcing online safety rules by using the parental control settings found on digital devices and services. They keep younger kids from seeing disturbing content and limit their ability to share content that could be used inappropriately.

“Parental tools and monitoring are great if parents have the time and tech expertise to use them,” says Amina Fazlullah, policy counsel with Common Sense Media, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.

Where possible, start with free options that have a global reach, Common Sense suggests, instead of attempting to tweak each app individually.

Internet service providers like FiOS and Xfinity, for instance, offer router-level settings that let you control what happens on your home WiFi network.

The next step is to use the child-safety tools built into major operating systems such as Mac and Windows, and then adjust the Google Safe Search settings on whatever browsers you use.

To safeguard phones and tablets, turn to Apple’s ScreenTime for iOS or Google Family Link for Android. If you need more features, look for paid applications like Bark, Webwatcher, and Cisco’s router-level Open DNS.

But parents shouldn’t simply rely on settings. Activating parental controls provides an opportunity to discuss with kids how such safeguards keep them safe—as well as how they can be eased if the child behaves maturely online.

For older kids, whose tech savvy and sheer determination can make it hard to clamp down, parental controls simply aren’t as effective. (To keep his precocious teenage daughter from unauthorized online access, Balkam had to take the family’s router to bed with him.)

“When kids get into late middle school, it shifts from blocking to monitoring,” he says.

There are tools that allow parents to monitor a teen’s online activity in granular detail, but experts advise against using them except as a last resort. That kind of micromanagement can create an adversarial relationship between you and your child, and more important, prevent him or her from developing decision-making skills. “You want to train them to become competent adults,” says Larry Magid, CEO of ConnectSafely.org.

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