Look at the parental controls on the computer. Do the settings make sense for each user of the computer. You can normally have logins for each user of the computer. That way you don't have to have the same restricted settings as your 8-year-old son, and you can allow your teen more freedom.
Is your gaming system connected to the internet? If so, make sure the parental control settings make sense for each person who plays.
Most cell phones can both take pictures and connect to the internet. Luckily, most cell phone companies also have some level of parental controls on them. Like computer parental controls, the settings for cell phones will also change over time. Maybe the setting you wanted to use last time wasn't there, but it is now? Maybe it is time to allow more freedom than you had before?
Each child is different and every family is certainly different. There will never been a technical solution that is better than parenting. But sometimes parents need technical help with parenting situations. Enough.org has a check list of Rules 'N Tools that you can use to help in the decisions for you family.
YouTube is a great tool to share videos of your own and to watch the latest viral videos making their way through office buildings across the country. The challenge is that sometimes there are videos that are NSFW (not safe for work).
Thankfully, YouTube recognizes that not all videos are appropriate for all ages and came up with a Safety Mode. Similar to AOL Safe Search (YouTube filtering videos, while AOL Search filters search results), when it is in use it will not surface videos that are not appropriate for either viewing at work or viewing by younger users. Safety Mode can be set each time you go to the site, or can be permanently set if you login to your account. Kudos to YouTube for making our family viewing (and office viewing) that much safer.
What other safety tools do you know of?
All of the online safety experts have the same advice about how to keep our families safe online. There are a few variations, but the basics are always the same: Keep your personal information private, block people who aren't nice and don't open unknown files, and finally, report anything that upsets you.
It is not always easy for parents and teachers to clearly express these messages to kids and teens, especially when you either are upset. Click Clever Click Safe, from the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, has come up with a clear message we can all follow.
Zip It: Keep your personal stuff private and think about what you say and do online.
Block It: Block people who send you nasty messages and don't open unknown links and attachments.
Flag It: Report anything upsets you or if someone asks to meet you offline.
If you can remember to Zip It, Block It, Flag It, you can advise your teen to report the behavior to the provider, block the person who said the mean things. As a bonus, this takes only a matter of seconds and you have empowered your teen to stand up for herself without retaliating with more hurtful words.
Hopefully your teen will never encounter this type of harassment. But it is a good idea to talk to the kids and teens in your house. If they are old enough to go online, they should learn these simple things to help keep their time online enjoyable. What ways would you suggest to open the conversation with your kids and teens about online safety?
One of the disconnects between kids and adults is that kids are being raised with the technology, so it is simply part of their world. Many adults have begun to use technology regularly, but in many cases there is a definitive line between online and offline. The youth are flowing easily between on and offline and in many ways, there is no difference. They are just two sides of the same coin.
The Door That's Not Locked campaign addresses the incorrect perception of some adults that the door is closed to knowing how to protect their kids because they need to know more about the tool than their kids to keep them safe. This comprehensive site is designed to educate teachers and parents with age specific tips and information, regardless of where the starting point is.
Do you feel like you know how to protect your kids and teens online?
Then, at the FOSI conference, I heard this startling figure: of the top 100 apps on the iPhone, 35% are geared toward toddlers and preschoolers, and 12% to elementary aged kids. I'm assuming they were purchased by the parents who are giving their kids a game to play with while they at the store, on a plane, waiting at the doctor's office, etc.. The person doing this seems like the polar opposite of the mom I first described. Are these parents this tech savvy to use the all of these gadgets and gizmos? Or are they the same parents, but have discovered a way to make the Internet part of their everyday world?
A not so scientific survey I heard about at the conference said that parents who don't use parental controls on their computer don't because they:
- don't feel they need to because the child knows more about computers than they do
- feel "that wouldn't happen to my child" when talking about being exposed to mature content
- are intimidated by the computer
I have a theory that the same parents that use technology to their advantage are the same parents who say they "can't"... they just don't realize they already are tech savvy.
What technology do you use in your life?
Here are a few good web sites to start for kids who are probably just asking about getting online. Your child may already know a few that he/she wants to see:
- KOL - Yep, this is the AOL site for kids. It has celeb news, games, sports and style information. You can also sign your child up for an email address that is designed for kids. Because it is an AOL site, I will let you be the judge on how good it is.
- Nick.com - This site is from Nickelodeon and, as you might expect, it is filled with Nickelodeon characters. Everyone from Sponge Bob and iCarly to Rugrats and the Naked Brothers are represented with their own games and videos. If you like Nickelodeon channel, chances are you will like the site.
- Disney.com - Disney cannot be outdone for creativity, in my opinion. The games and videos are represented, all with the Disney characters, but there are a lot more interactive things to do on this site. My personal favorite is under the "create" tab, you can create mash ups.
- National Geographic for Kids - The fun way to learn and the best place for animal pictures.
- NASA - If you have a space nut in your house, this is a great site NASA made for kids.
This is a very short list of the many offerings for kids online. A good place to start looking for content for your kids is from their favorite activities, characters and toys. Do a search for the their favorite things and see what's out there. I would recommend you doing this search for the younger kids.
It is always a good idea to use tools like parental controls in conjunction with your help, especially when they start surfing on their own, but there is no tool that will parent better than you.
What are some of your young child's favorite web sites?
The law dictates what counts as "personally identifiable" and companies work within this law. There is a recent controversy about the collection of children's chat discussions through parental control software. I will note that not all parental control software collects this information. For example, AOL's Parental Controls does not track what a child says, only where they go and with whom they communicate with via AOL mail and AIM.
Assuming the risk of exposing personally identifiable information is gone, what are your thoughts about parental controls collecting information from chat to sell to advertisers?
One concern for parents is the potential of having very high cell phone bills; another is the risk of losing the phone. Once those are resolved in the minds of parents, there is the risk of behavior on the cell phone.
There are solutions to many of these problems, allowing for a little more peace of mind for parents.
AT&T offers a content blocker and a purchase blocker.
T-Mobile allows parents to set limits for messages, minutes and downloads. Once a limit is reached, they are no longer allowed to use the phone (except for those on the "always allow" list – ensuring parents can always be in contact).
Sprint has parental controls that include limited web access (restricting sites with mature content), blocking two way text messages, content purchase block, restricting of voice calls by phone number, turn on or off the ability to use the in-phone camera, and for an additional fee, you can use Sprint Family Locator, which locates the phone by GPS.
Verizon's parental controls are called "usage controls" and also offer usage allowances, time restrictions and blocked numbers. They also have trusted numbers, which allow for usage even after usage has been exceeded or it is out of time restrictions. They also break down the family locator fee separately from the parental controls. They do have a separate content filter for children, young teens and young adults that has no fee.
If your carrier doesn't have what you need, you can also check out companies who say their products will work with any carrier. Mobile Nanny, for example allows a parent to control how and when a cell phone is used. The company boasts about features blocking texting and call features by phone number, time restrictions, Internet or app blocking and even content monitoring. All this does come with a fee, but it may suit you better than alternatives.
These solutions offered by companies may put some minds at ease. There are still other questions about lost phones, etiquette regarding when to use the phone, or even if it is appropriate for your child or teen to have a phone.
When do you think is a good time to get a child a cell phone? What does it depend on?
For those who are under 18, you will have to wait for Microsoft to finalize the parental controls to allow you to do the same. They say it will be a few weeks.
The Xbox (and many other gaming systems) have had the ability to connect to the Internet for a while. It now seems the online world and offline world are blurring that much more. What do you think about this functionality?
When I read this article saying that 1/3 of students in the UK aged 12 – 15 years old have a web cam in their bedrooms – this made sense to me. Assuming the technology is basically the same in the US vs. the UK, parents are getting their school aged students a laptop to do their homework and it is very likely going to include a web cam.
I am a long time supporter of having the computer in a common area of the home, not in a bedroom where the door can be closed. Admittedly, most teens are not going to do anything too terrible or talk to people they shouldn't using a web cam, but even fewer will if they have to do it with parents or siblings around (even if the family is just in sight and not close to the computer).
Now that our family has this new web cam, we got one for Grandma and Grandpa too. Every couple of weeks they can see their grandchild as she is growing up. I guess this forced technology isn't all bad – just unplanned.
Having friends and family know where you are is one thing, but quite another if it is someone you don't know or don't want to know. Hopefully this is good information for you to know what is out there. Since teens aren't using Twitter as much as adults, so this may not be anything to worry about for your family. But as the Internet evolves, new functionality like this gets shared over many sites.
What do you think about this feature? Could it help your family keep track of where everyone is?
A recent study by the Pew Institute suggests that no matter how much time is wasted on Social Networks, even more time is being spent watching videos.
I am as guilty as the next person of wasting time on Social Networks (don't tell my boss). I check my Facebook page almost every morning. I catch up on Twitter from time to time. But I have never spent much time on videos. That is, until today.
As luck would have it, while researching for this post, a friend sent me a video from You Tube. It was a Las Vegas commercial, talking about celebrating Chinchilli Day. Then I got it. The Internet has taken the way to kill time from before (the television), made the shows a minute or so long and put it online (the current time-suck). There are even many sites that post entire TV shows online.
While I don't think Social Networking is going away any time soon, you can rest assured that kids are getting all the TV and videos they need online. Maybe this is another great reason to have the computer in a family room instead of a bedroom. What a better place to share the videos found (and know they are on when homework is scheduled).
To help, many parental control products have online timers (blocking or allowing usage at specified times set up by the parent) and filter content that isn't appropriate for your child.
What do you think about this phenomenon? Do you like watching videos or TV shows online? Do you think it is appropriate for kids to do so?
I am excited by this, not because I am a customer (Verizon is not available to me), but I feel like it is a move in the right direction. A complaint that some parents have about parental controls is that they are cumbersome to use. Companies like AOL and Verizon are working to make parental control products easier. If products are easier to use, more parents will use them. If more parents use them, kids will be safer online. You see where this is going...
Do you have any reviews of great parental controls on the market?