By: Emma Kavanagh
The United Nations Virtual Global Taskforce estimates at least 1 in 5 children has been approached with unsolicited sexual advances in an online setting. Cyber bullying has become such a concern in some parts of America that acts of harassment online have been elevated to felony criminal status. Reports of teens meeting strangers for unsavory encounters abound as do other horror stories related to the pitfalls of the Internet.
While dangers no doubt exist in the online world that children must be protected from, the Internet is also a place for great learning opportunities, entertainment and socialization. Helping make sure a child can safely navigate around the pitfalls to enjoy the benefits the Internet delivers is where parental controls come in.
What Are Parental Controls and How That Works?
Parental controls are software packages designed to provide parents the ability to track, oversee and limit their children’s online experiences. While programs can vary in the exact features they offer products such as Norton Family, for example, give parents the ability to track and monitor Internet usage on such devices as computers, laptops, tablets and even smartphones. Some programs even go as far as enabling parents to monitor incoming and outgoing text messages.
The better parental control programs offer such features as:
- Site blocking: This feature enables parents to block their children’s access to specific sites or specific types of sites. Using this feature to block X-rated material, for example, means a child cannot pull up a page that is classified as such. Parents can also use it to block their kids from going on any specific site.
- Video tracking: Program’s like Norton Family provide parents with detailed reports about online video use. The reports, for example, will tell parents the videos a child has watched and will even offer snippets so parents can decide for themselves if the material viewed is appropriate.
- Search term blocks: Search engines are wonderful tools for navigating the Internet, but they can also turn up some interesting results. In some cases, children may use them to find material that isn’t necessarily appropriate for their viewing. Term blocking enables parents to key in search words, phrase and terms that they’d like blocked. This protects teens and other children from viewing materials parents find offensive or otherwise inappropriate.
- Social media monitoring: With more kids going online to use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, parents need to keep up with their activity closely. Programs such as Norton Family enable parents to easily track a child’s online presence and how that child portrays him or herself online.
- Activity limits: Some parental control programs let parents set specific hours for online usage. Kids might be allowed to use the Internet daily from 4 until 6 p.m., but are otherwise blocked. When limits are put in place, a protected computer will not let a child logon to the Internet any time outside the parent designated days and hours.
- Activity reports: Since it’s not always possible to provide constant oversight when a child is on an Internet capable device, activity reports give parents information about their children’s online activities during the course of a week or month. These reports list sites accessed, hours online and other important details parents can use to make informed decisions about their children and the Internet.
Why Should Families Consider Parental Controls?
Most parents want to trust their children, but the fact of the matter is the Internet is a very tempting place. There are thousands of websites that most parents would typically prefer their children not visit. There are also predators that lurk in social media outlets seeking out their next victims. Since it’s not always practical to look over their shoulders the entire time they’re online, parental controls provide extra peace of mind.
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