It’s no longer just a matter of basic supervision and ground rules as the foundations of strong parenting. The rise of the internet and digital devices, like the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, has made things more complicated. Parents need a strategy to ensure kids stay on the right path.
This trend is showcased in the “digital parenting” movement, which focuses on screen time management, browsing behavior on search engines, monitoring, and protection from harmful and dangerous content on your child’s device. The fight is ongoing, and there is always more work to do!
Thankfully, today’s parents have a wide array of great parental controls to leverage in the battle against the hazardous aspects of the web for kids.
Let’s cover the various types of parental controls, what they can help you accomplish. Plus, we’ll discuss some practical tips to coordinate these tools in a strategic, cohesive way as you navigate the digital parenting journey.
Parental Controls by Layer
We first need to understand that all types of parental controls are designed to work on particular levels or layers of our technology to filter out explicit content.
Here are the three main categories in which parental controls tend to work, then we’ll address the specific types of controls by function and outcome.
Application-Based Parental Controls
When you fiddle with the settings in an application like Google Chrome, YouTube, or a video game, you’re working with parental controls at an app level.
These controls may fill some gaps in your digital parenting plan, but features tend to be limited and don’t give you the granular control you want over app purchases and downloads.
Smart kids are often able to work around these settings. Sometimes, no matter how much you monitor, they can undo your efforts to keep them away from specific websites.
Quickly run down the list of all the devices that your children use on a weekly basis.
It’s not just mobile devices like a phone, iPod touch, or a tablet – smart TVs, game consoles, desktops, laptops, and even smart home appliances are all connected to the web 24/7.
While many of these devices have parental controls, privacy settings, and screen-time limits available in the settings, they also tend to be limited and don’t offer visibility from your perspective as a parent.
Not all devices are created equal, either. Apple products offer strong parental controls, while some third-party machines are not as robust in their options.
Network Level (Router) Parental Controls
The world’s best cybersecurity systems are network-level operations. The same philosophy should apply to our use of parental controls and content restrictions in the home.
To simplify this process, simply find a router that comes readymade with strong parental controls, and you streamline everything from setup to configuration and access.
Installing a router with parental controls is a much more complete and well-rounded solution than our first two choices (application and device layers).
This is because our routers are the gateway that transmits our internet connection to the devices in our home. It is the perfect location to put our controls that apply to the entire network.
As we continue our look at the best types of parental controls available, remember that network-level controls represent the most effective implementation method across the board.
Our first type of parental control is network monitoring, which grants the ability to see exactly what is going on across all devices, browsers, and apps for every user on your network.
The internet may be more developed and secure than it was in its infancy, but it’s still uncharted territory in many ways.
You want to know exactly where your children are hanging out online, what terms they are searching for on web browsers, and which apps take up most of their time.
Monitoring the behavior of your children online is the first step towards identifying problems and setting them right to ensure your family’s safety and set some digital ground rules.
Even if your kids delete their browsing history or change browsers, you can still pinpoint unwanted patterns on a web browser and address them in real-time.
There will be difficult conversations about uncomfortable subjects, but this is part of parenting in the 21st century.
Monitoring browsing history is a step in the right direction, but content filtering is a concrete solution that makes a difference.
Here’s how it works:
Prohibited Apps and Websites
As the parent in charge of the network, you establish which websites and apps are good to go and which ones are on the denylist of unacceptable content.
You may have a few websites in mind that go on the “no-go” list right away. The best content filters cover all bases so that you don’t let any problematic websites slip by.
Categories can include sexual content, violent content, politics, gaming, or other genres you don’t want your kids to encounter.
The internet is always growing and changing, of course. As a result, you will want content filters that constantly update based on information from a reliable central database with relevant ratings.
If you have several kids of various ages, it doesn’t make sense to apply the same content filters to all devices. Instead of a blanket content filter for your entire network, you want a personalized approach that gives you granular control.
Leading parental controls software allows you to do exactly that: Create profiles for each person on your network. You can apply content filters based on their age group or individual requirements.
That way, you can rest assured that every child has the right amount of access. Then, you can tweak profiles accordingly one by one if needed.
Digital parenting is often a matter of negotiating with kids, reaching compromises, and coming to agreements on how much screen time is allowed.
Access scheduling is a type of parental control that ensures kids cannot log onto certain websites or apps at particular times of the day or week, giving you an extra bit of leverage and keeping the power in your hands.
Times and Dates
Whether it’s Fortnite, Facebook, Netflix, or YouTube, every kid has an app or a website that takes up most of their screen time.
With the right parental controls, you can set a schedule that allows or prevents access to these apps and websites, depending on the time of day.
For instance, when homework needs to be done, those social media apps or games won’t start up on their devices. When it’s time for bed, you can shut down their Wi-Fi connections altogether and make sure they get to sleep ASAP.
Weekdays vs. Weekends
On weekends, parents tend to be a bit looser when it comes to screen time and which TV shows or movies their kids are checking out, and that’s to be expected. Access schedules should allow you to set parameters based on each day of the week. This gives you full control and customization for each child’s access.
Again, each kid has a unique profile with saved settings and configurations for quick and streamlined controls whenever you need them.
An All-in-One Parental Controls Solution
These are the main types of parental controls that matter most right now, but it’s not enough to pick and choose just one or two.
You need all of these parental controls working in combination, around the clock, to ensure that your network is truly protected in every scenario.
Here are some of the key factors to look for when browsing for a definitive parental controls solution.
Multiple Features, One Application
You can install several pieces of software and create a patchwork parental controls system on your network, but it will never stack up to a unified set of controls on one proprietary application. The app should be your one-stop-shop for all the controls we discussed.
It’s a matter of convenience and access to have a dedicated app for parental controls, but it also boosts the level of cohesion and security for your network.
Ongoing Updates and Improvements
As the internet changes and your kids become more tech-inclined, you’ll want parental controls to adapt with the times and become stronger as well.
Automatic updates to content filter databases and other restriction systems will be crucial to stay ahead of the curve.
Streamlined Security and Safety
The link between parental controls and network security is stronger than you may think. In fact, they’re both sides of the same coin.
When choosing a router with integrated parental controls, make sure it also comes loaded with advanced network security features. This way, you can protect your family as they navigate the web with a varied collection of devices – without fear of attack or network breach.
Use Every Digital Parenting Tool at Your Disposal
We’ve covered a broad assortment of parental controls in today’s overview. With a powerful router-based solution, you’ll be well equipped to take on the challenges of digital parenting moving forward.
As you know, setting up parental controls software is not an instant fix or a magic solution for digital parenting, but you will be two steps ahead as you navigate the internet era with your family.
Ultimate Guide to Parental Controls | Common Sense Media
What Are Parental Controls? | Parent Info
What is the Difference Between Parenting and Digital Parenting? | ThriveGlobal