This article was written by Kayelene Kerr from eSafeKids.
The Internet has transformed the way we learn, create, connect and are entertained. It has given our children access to the world, but has also given the world access to our children. Whilst there are many benefits for our children being online, there are also risks.
Parents have the responsibility of keeping their children safe in all the spaces and places they spend time, including online. Tech savvy kids, coupled with, multiple devices can make this very challenging and over whelming for parents. Parental control tools can be a great way for parents to protect and support their children as they develop the social, emotional and relational skills and competencies needed to have safe, positive and respectful online experiences.
What are parental control tools?
Parental control tools play a role in creating safer digital environments and experiences for children. They allow parents to set boundaries and monitor online activities, promoting responsible and age-appropriate use of technology. They provide the means to regulate and oversee the use of various devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, smart TV’s, gaming consoles and other internet connected devices. Parental controls can help protect children from a range of potential online risks and harms such as, accessing age inappropriate explicit content (pornography, sexualised media, violent content), excessive time online, online grooming, sextortion and bullying.
What can parental controls do?
Parental control tools can assist to monitor, restrict, limit and filter what children do and see online. They offer a range of customisations and restrictions. These tools allow parents to tailor the controls to their child's specific needs and gradually increase independence as the child matures. Some of the common features are:
Content Filtering Blocking or allowing access to specific types of content, such as websites, apps or games. This includes filtering and blocking adult content including pornography.
Screen Time Management Setting limits on the amount of time a child can spend on devices or certain applications during specified periods. This allows you to restrict device usage to the times and parameters you choose.
App and Game Restrictions Controlling access to specific apps or games based on age appropriateness.
Privacy Controls Managing privacy settings to control what personal information is shared online.
Location Tracking Some parental controls include GPS tracking to monitor a child's physical location.
Communication Controls Monitor their communication and restrict who can contact the child online.
Age-Based Restrictions Applying default settings based on the child's age and stage of development to ensure age-appropriate content and activities. This includes setting individual profiles and customisations for the diverse and different needs of children
What are the different types of parental controls?
Parental controls can be categorised into a range of types. Each type offers a different focus and degree of control, allowing parents to customise their approach based on the specific needs of their children.
Application Level Controls Application level controls focus on managing and restricting specific applications, such as games or social media apps. They enable parents to set limits on usage, block certain apps or filter content within individual applications.
Examples TikToks Family Pairing, Google Safe Search, YouTube Restricted Mode, Instagram Sensitive Content Filter, Roblox Parental Controls.
Device Level Controls Device level controls operate at the device level, providing overall management of the entire device. These controls include features like screen time limits, app restrictions and content filtering that apply to the specific device.
Examples IOS Screentime, Microsoft Family Safety.
Network Level Controls Network level controls control access to the internet and online content at the network level. These are typically managed through modems/routers or network settings, allowing parents to filter content and monitor activities across all connected devices within the home network. Be mindful these are generally not as effective for mobile devices. If children have a data plan they can disconnect from the home network and use their data, thereby bypassing network level controls.
Examples Free modem/router controls – contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to learn more.
Don't set and forget
While parental controls are valuable tools for managing and guiding a child's digital experience, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Parental controls can help mitigate certain risks and provide a level of supervision, but they are most effective when used in conjunction with parental supervision, education, conversation and participation.
Open communication between parents and children is vital. Parents should actively engage in conversations with their children about responsible technology use, online safety, and the potential risks associated with the digital world. Educating children on making informed decisions and cultivating a sense of digital responsibility and resilience is crucial.
Parental controls work best when combined with a balanced approach that includes both technological safeguards and ongoing communication.
Parental Control Tools
There are many tools available and they all offer different functions. The below list of paid parental control tools and services is by no means an exhaustive list or an endorsement but could be used as a starting place to research what will best suit your individual and family needs. Visit the eSafeKids Members Community for direct links to a range of parental control tools. Don't forget free parental controls can also be found on devices and on websites.
You may like to read the following eSafeKids Blogs:
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About The Author
Kayelene Kerr is recognised as one of Western Australia’s most experienced specialist providers of Protective Behaviours, Body Safety, Cyber Safety, Digital Wellness and Pornography education workshops. Kayelene is passionate about the prevention of child abuse and sexual exploitation, drawing on over 24 years’ experience of study and law enforcement, investigating sexual crimes, including technology facilitated crimes. Kayelene delivers engaging and sought after prevention education workshops to educate, equip and empower children and young people, and to help support parents, carers, educators and other professionals. Kayelene believes protecting children from harm is a shared responsibility and everyone can play a role in the care, safety and protection of children. Kayelene aims to inspire the trusted adults in children’s lives to tackle sometimes challenging topics.
eSafeKids strives to reduce and prevent harm through proactive prevention education, supporting and inspiring parents, carers, educators and other professionals to talk with children, young people and vulnerable adults about protective behaviours, body safety, cyber safety, digital wellness and pornography. eSafeKids is based in Perth, Western Australia.
eSafeKids provides books and resources to teach children about social and emotional intelligence, resilience, empathy, gender equality, consent, body safety, protective behaviours, cyber safety, digital wellness, media literacy, puberty and pornography.
eSafeKids books can support educators teaching protective behaviours and child abuse prevention education that aligns with the Western Australian Curriculum, Australian Curriculum, Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and National Quality Framework: National Quality Standards (NQS).