What are Parental Controls?
Parental controls are features that help parents monitor their children’s screen activity and take action if necessary. Some parental controls only restrict certain features of an app while some third-party apps enable parents to track their child’s location. Some of the features that count as parental control include:
Limiting screen time
Monitoring screen activity
Reading in-app messages
Tracking live location
Setting schedules for app use
Restricting messages from strangers
Some apps have their own default parental controls and most operating systems nowadays have something akin to parental controls. The best type of parental controls can be found in third-party parental control apps. Some examples of parental controls apps on the market include Safes, Qustodio, Kaspersky Kids, and Google Family Link. Some operating systems have their own parental controls so there are different ways to put parental controls on Android, Windows, iOS, and such.
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Reasons to Have Parental Controls for Kids
There are a multitude of reasons for parents to enable parental controls on their children’s devices. Here are a few:
- Monitoring Children’s Devices: Parental controls allow you to keep an eye on your children’s devices and internet activities, such as emails, social media profiles, texts, and other mobile functions.
- Blocking Adult Content: Parental controls enable you to manage what your children discover on search engines and to exclude adult material, explicit images, videos, and websites from search results.
- Restricting In-App Purchases: Parental controls can prevent your children from accessing certain features of games, such as in-app purchases, chat areas, and online multiplayer options.
- Track Your Child’s Location: You will be able to monitor your children’s locations and set up geofences or safe zones for them using parental controls.
- Setting Screen Time Limits: Parental controls can help your children balance their digital and offline lives by limiting their online computer time.
Tips on Talking to Your Kid About Parental Controls
A difficult part of implementing parental controls for parents is talking to their children about it. It’s hard to make children view things as you do but hopefully, with the use of these tips, you’ll have an easier time doing so.
Keep Things Positive
Children see parental controls as a type of punishment by default. It’s your job to teach them how it’s not supposed to be a punishment, but rather an extra tool for you to support them. If you use words with negative connotations, it helps your child hold their negative mental image of parental controls.
Differentiate Supporting vs. Spying
Make sure your child understands that you’re not trying to invade their privacy. In fact, using a parental control app is for their own safety and wellbeing.
Confront Trust Issues
Let your child have no doubts about the fact that you trust them. They have to understand that if you’re restricting their access to apps, it’s not that you don’t trust them, it’s because their online safety is your responsibility to ensure.
Explain the Dangers of the Internet
Try to use examples to illustrate the dangers of the internet to your child. If your child has been lucky enough not to encounter any of the dangers online, such a cyberbullying, phishing, stalking, etc., then it’s your job to warn them of these threats.
Keep Dialogue Open
Let your child object to the points you make and try your best to reason with them. Let them negotiate on different restrictions, in short, let them feel heard. Also, while you’re using parental controls try to ease them into it and reward them when they stick to the rules.
What are the Dangers of Too Much Screentime?
Too much screen time can have many adverse side effects, especially for children. Many children won’t know they’re being exposed to too much screentime until it’s too late. Some of the side effects you can talk to your kid about include:
Eye strain: Excessive screentime can lead to dry eyes and eye strain. In extreme cases, it can lead to retina damage and blurred vision.
Sleep deprivation: Too much screentime can lead to sleep deprivation especially when children use phones in bed. The blue light emitted by phone screens leads to sleep deprivation.
Lower grades: One consequence of too much screentime for children is getting lower grades. This is because most children are sleep deprived in class and spend their time glued to their phone instead of studying or doing homework.
Obesity: Children that are addicted to their screens are more obese that children who are not.
Lower self-esteem: Children who are exposed to too much screentime usually suffer from low self-esteem. This can be a consequence of creating false ideals of body images or being cyberbullied.
Mental health problems: An increase in depression and anxiety have been linked to children who spend too much time on their screens.
Using Parental Controls Responsibly
Though many parental control apps allow a ridiculous amount of control on children’s phones, not all features should be used the same. For example, using a parental control app for a 5-year-old should be different than using it for a 16-year-old. As children grow older, parents have no choice but to give them more independence and in return expect more responsibility.
If your child obeys the rules you’ve put in place for screen time, it might be a good idea to reasonably ease the restrictions once in a while. Note the word “reasonably”; easing restriction on the amount of screen time your child gets in a day is reasonable, easing restrictions on access to porn is not.
Try your best not to use parental controls as a form of punishment. If you keep tightening the restrictions on your parental control app, it makes you look like the bad guy more and more. Parental control apps work best when your child has a friendly or at least a neutral attitude towards them.
It’s hard to argue against the use of parental controls and some parents might not even want to engage in dialogue with their children about the matter. But it’s important for children to understand the reasoning behind using a parental control app, otherwise, they can easily disregard the rules as children usually do.
Whether it’s the default parental controls on your child’s device or a third-party parental control app, it’s best to first talk to your kid about the new restrictions they’ll be exposed to and the reasoning behind each and every one of them. Hopefully, your child will gradually understand your point of view and accept your judgment.