Equipping and guiding your digitally connected child is one of the toughest challenges you will face as a parent. As your child grows and changes, so too will their online activities. Friend groups, favorite apps, and online interests can shift from one month to the next, which is why parental controls can be a parent’s best friend.
According to a report from Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of seven hours and 22 minutes on their phones a day. Tweens (ages 8 to 12) spend four hours and 44 minutes daily. This is time outside of schoolwork.
That is a lot of time to stroll the streets of cyberspace for entertainment purposes, and it’s only increased since the pandemic.
Striking a balance between screen time and healthy device use is an always-evolving challenge. On the one hand, your child’s device is an essential channel connecting them to their self-identity, peer acceptance, and emotional well-being. On the other hand, that same device is also the door that can bring issues such as cyberbullying, predators, risky behavior, and self-image struggles into your child’s life.
Raising the Safety Bar
Parental controls are tools that allow parents to set controls on their children’s internet use. Controls include content filters (inappropriate content), usage limits (time controls), and monitoring (tracking activity).
Many of the technology your family already owns or sites your kids visit have basic parental controls (i.e., built-in controls for android and iPhone and social networks such as YouTube). However, another level of parental control comes in software specifically engineered to filter, limit, and track digital activity. These consumer-designed parental controls offer families a higher, more powerful form of protection.
If you are like many parents who land on this blog, you’ve hit a rough patch. You have concerns about your child’s online activity but aren’t sure how to begin restoring balance. Rightly, you want to find the best parental control software and put digital safeguards in place.
8 Signs Your Family Needs Parental Controls
Every family dynamic is different, as is every family’s approach to online monitoring. However, most parents can agree that when a negative influence begins to impact the family’s emotional and physical health, exploring new solutions can help get you back on track.
Depending on your child’s age, you may need to consider parental controls if:
1. They don’t respond when you talk to them
If your child is increasingly engrossed in their phone and it’s causing communication issues in your family, you may want to consider software that includes time limits. Connecting with your child during device-free time can improve communication.
2. They’ve started ignoring homework and family responsibilities
There are a lot of reasons grades can plummet, or interests can fade. However, if your child is spending more and more time online, limiting or monitoring what goes on in that time can help restore emotional balance and self-discipline to meet responsibilities.
3. Their browser history shows access to risky content
Innocent online searches can lead to not so innocent results or children may go looking for content simply because they’re curious. Parental controls automatically block age-inappropriate sites and filter websites, apps, and web searches.
4. They won’t give you their device without a fight
If the phone has become the center of your child’s world at the cost of parental respect and family rules, they may be engaged in inappropriate behavior online, connecting with the wrong friends, or struggling with tech balance. With the proper parental controls, a parent can block risky content, view daily activity, and set healthy time limits.
5. They’re losing interest in family outings and other non-digital activities
Poor habits form quietly over time. If your child has dramatically changed their focus in the past three to six months, consider zooming in on why. It may not be technology use, but you may consider an additional layer of protection if it is.
6. They go into another room to respond to a text
While everyone deserves privacy, if constantly sneaking away to communicate with a friend is your child’s new norm, you may consider making some screen time adjustments.
7. They are exhausted
Unbeknownst to parents, kids might be exchanging sleep for screen time. Parental controls can help you nip this unhealthy habit. Setting time limits can help kids experience deeper sleep, better moods, more focus, and more energy.
8. They overshare online
If you browse through your child’s social media and notice their profiles are public instead of private, or if your child tends to overshare personal information, parental controls can help you monitor future activity.
Ideally, we’d all prefer to live in a world where we didn’t need parental controls at all. Unfortunately, that is neither a present nor future reality. So, we recalibrate, keep learning, and keep adding to our parenting skills. As always, we believe the first go-to digital safety tool is investing in consistent open and honest conversation with your child. And the second tool? Yup, reach for the parental controls. While you may hear some hemming and hawing from your kids at first, the peace of mind you gain from having parental controls in place will be worth it.