Are you keen to monitor what your child is doing online, but not sure where to start? Don’t worry – you’re not alone! Knowing what your child is doing is key to having the opportunity to help keep them safe online. But how can you effectively monitor their online behaviour? And how can you do it without completely invading their privacy and ruining your relationship with them?
Why Monitor Your Child’s Online Activity?
There are so many ways in which children can and do get themselves in trouble online. Some of the obvious ones are posting “nudes” of themselves (aka sexting), cyber bullying others, over-sharing personal details, talking to strangers, and watching porn and other inappropriate content.
Online safety expert Devorah Heitner (PhD) argues that it’s better to mentor your child’s online activities than monitor them using parental control software. That makes a lot of sense. There’s no doubt that as parents we need to ensure the lines of communication between us and our children are as wide open as possible, so that we can have the opportunity to address sticky situations hand-in-hand with our child as they arise.
The problem is that only about 10% of children tell their parents if they’re being bullied online, and there’s not much you can do to help your child through any of these situations if you don’t know what’s happening. Many parents therefore need a bit of extra help to know what their children are doing online. That’s where parental control apps and software come in.
How Can You Effectively Implement Parental Control Software?
If knowing you need to monitor your child’s online activity (to some extent) is a given, then the question remains as to how to EFFECTIVELY do this – without spying on your child or completely invading their privacy.
It’s important that your child knows you’ll be using parental control software to monitor their activity to some degree. They need to know WHY you’re doing this and they need to be supportive of it – otherwise they’ll just figure out a way to over-ride the software and you’ll be back to square one. Most often in this instance you won’t even know your child has worked a way around the parental control software, so you’ll be naively thinking you’ve got the whole online safety challenge sorted while meanwhile your child could be doing anything without your knowledge!
The Differences Between Parental Control Apps
There are plenty of parental control software products and apps to choose from, and no two are the same. Each have their benefits, and none of them are safe to rely upon 100%. In other words, if you’re looking for a parental control app to save you from having to mentor your child and be involved in their online activities you’ll be disappointed.
Some parental control apps support the view of allowing your child to make some mistakes and letting you know when they happen, so that you can have the right conversations at the right time (i.e. mentoring). Others are much more restrictive and will block a lot of content and try to prevent those mistakes from happening at all. And then there are others which let you see and hear every single message, image and conversation your child is having.
The first decision you need to make therefore, is what are you trying to achieve by using parental control software? Be aware that the more restrictive or intrusive the app is, the less supportive your child is likely to be. Factors to consider of course are your child’s age and maturity as well as their level of sensitivity.
The Most Useful Feature In Any Parental Control Software Product
In my view, it shouldn’t be necessary to listen to every phone conversation your child has, or to read every post they send and receive. Not only is this likely to adversely affect your relationship with them (who wants their parents to be in their face like that?), but it means you can waste a lot of time seeing what will mostly be perfectly innocent content. I don’t see the benefit of doing this, and I also don’t know of many parents who have this much time to waste.
There are lots of useful features in most parental control software products, like the ability to manage screen time and turn off internet access overnight and maybe also during meal times, as well as limiting access to adult content that your child really doesn’t need to see.
What you want most of all though in a parental control app is the ability to know if there’s a potential issue, without wading through all the other stuff. This is where the idea of alerts is just brilliant.
The better parental control apps on the market send you alerts, usually in real time, when they detect activity you should know about. This could be that your child is having a conversation with a stranger, or that messages they’re sending or receiving could contain words that indicate cyber bullying. This creates the perfect balance by helping you get involved in your child’s life where need be, while still allowing them some privacy.
Good News: The Research Has Been Done For You
The good news for you is that the research into which parental control apps provide these alerts and which ones don’t has been done for you. I’ve hand-picked what I consider the best available parental control software products currently available on the market and collated them for you, complete with review pages on each one. You’ll find the result of this research right here.
All of the parental control software products that appear on this page are easy to use and implement, even if you’re not very technical. Each review page will tell you in a nutshell how the product works, the key benefits, its limitations, and cost. From there you can see which product(s) match up with your personal requirements and go from there. Most products also offer a free trial period so you can try before you buy.
How To Choose Parental Control Software Just Became Much Easier
If you can see the value of using parental control software at all, then I’m sure you’ll find this resource page particularly helpful. Likewise, if you know of any other parents who are having issues with their child’s online activity or who may benefit from this sort assistance please feel free to share this page with them.
I’ll finish off by reminding you that no parental control software product on its own can replace your role as a hands-on parent. In line with just about every other expert in this industry, I believe that getting involved in your child’s online activities and opening up those lines of communication are the best steps you can take to help your children stay safe online.
Parental control apps are just a useful tool to have in your possession to make the job of keeping your children safe online that little bit easier. And now the task of choosing the right tool for you and your family is quicker and easier than ever before. Feel free to let me know in the comments below which parental control software product(s) you chose from the resource page and why. Good luck!