Nearly three out of every four teenagers in the United States have access to a smartphone, their main line to the Internet, Pew Research Center studies show. And, with more teens online comes another escalation — parental concern.
After all, who can really say what the kids are doing when they’re logged onto your home’s Kinetic Internet Wi-Fi or using the family’s smartphone data plan? A 2011 study found that most parents worried about their children meeting a stranger online, seeing porn or violent content and either being bullied or bullying.
Maybe you’ve thought about app monitoring tools or parental control software, but you haven’t made the jump yet. You aren’t alone.
You don’t want to sneak around and add parental control software to your children’s devices. On the other hand, telling them you’re using an online safety app allows them to find and use a workaround. (Teens can be really resourceful!) Many parents struggle with finding the right balance between monitoring online activity and privacy and independence.
As Psychology Today noted: parents who micromanage behavior with online safety apps can create an environment of mistrust and resistance. Monitoring online activity shouldn’t be a “gotcha” moment, but instead an opportunity to teach responsible online citizenship.
So, what are some of the safety apps for parents that can help rein in some of your child’s online activities? Here are a few from our Kinetic by Windstream team.
Available for iOS, Android and Kindle devices, FamilyTime calls for one account for your whole family, and you can share that account with any other caretakers, like grandma or the babysitter. The catchall app lets you monitor call history, web history, installed apps, contacts, bookmarks, text messages and app usage. It also uses location tracking so you can see where the whole family is at the time and where they’ve visited over a period of time. Location tracking services can also notify you when a family member enters or leaves a place. The app also includes other features, such as an SOS alert to know when someone is in trouble, a PickMeUp alert to know when your children are ready for pickup and Teen Safe Drive to know when your kids are speeding when driving.
A free safety app for parents, Life360 is about safety, synchronization and togetherness. You can create circle “members” with immediate family, friends, caregivers, etc. and customize messaging, location sharing and check-ins with specific circles. Like other apps, this one can send you alerts when circle members get to certain locations and driving details, including routes, top speeds and dangerous driving events like phone usage while driving. The company has another app called Driver Project, a subscription-based app that can send you weekly driving reports, detect crashes and even offer extended roadside assistance.
3. Circle with Disney
A device similar to Amazon Echo or Google Home, Circle uses your home’s wireless Kinetic Internet connection to manage all of your connected devices. With features like bedtime, pause and offtime, you can temporarily disable devices from using the Internet at certain times of day. The app also includes rewards, such as bumping up time limits or allowing for a later bedtime. Circle touts an a la carte menu with customizable filters in which parents can block certain websites and ads, have search engine results display only appropriate matches and create different presets for each of your children.
For parents who may want stronger control over their children’s apps, KidLogger can track web history, USB drives, CD/DVD usage and the most used files, folders and applications. The app can also record text entered onto computers, periodically take screenshots and monitor messaging services, such as Facebook and Skype. On phones, the app records incoming and outgoing text messages and phone calls, along with the photos taken from the device and any keystrokes typed using the phone.
These safety apps for parents are mostly for smartphones and Internet use. But there are often parental controls for TV, too.
Also, know that while these safety apps for parents can help you get a better grasp on monitoring online activity, it should be part of a comprehensive approach to digital citizenship. As more children are becoming so caught up in technology and the Internet, it’s more important than ever that parents empower them to use those devices responsibly to learn, create and participate.
Part of that will include a tried and true way of connecting with children: talking to them. Have a conversation with them before you hand them a smartphone about the potential dangers of the Internet. Show them examples of good and bad online behavior, ensure they understand what is OK to post and share, and teach them to find the right balance between having a digital life and protecting their well-being.