Updated: Mar 12
I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.”
- Psalm 101:3 (NLT)
Do your kids have access to the internet? Then parental controls are an absolute must. But face it—setting up parental controls on all of your children’s devices is an overwhelming task! It takes a lot of time, research, and know-how. Perhaps that’s why only 4 out of 10 parents put any type of parental controls on their children’s devices.1 But consider this:
90% of children ages 8 to 16 have seen online porn.2
70% of children ages 7 to 10 years old have accidentally encountered online porn, often through a web search while doing homework.3
10% of 7th graders believe they are addicted to porn and can’t stop viewing it.4
Law enforcement officials estimate that more than 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given moment.5
22% of teenage girls say they have posted nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves online.6
65% of 8 to 14-year-olds have been involved in a cyber-bulling incident.7
That’s why experts advise not to give your children any kind of technological device without first setting up parental controls and establishing rules for each device.
WHAT PARENTAL CONTROLS CAN DO
Parental controls can:
Block inappropriate web content
Limit screen time
Send alerts and reports of online activity
Create schedules of when the device will work and when it will not, such as bedtime
Restrict access by time and category, such as no social media or gaming during homework time
Protect against adware and phishing
Block certain features of online games
Track your child’s location
Monitor your child’s texts and messages
Block new apps without parental permission
Track your child's YouTube or Hulu viewing history
Disable the ability to take photos and videos
Lock down a device remotely
HOW KIDS CAN AND DO BYPASS PARENTAL CONTROLS
Before you decide which parental controls to use, be aware that tech-savvy kids know how to workaround parental controls, and they pass that knowledge around. (A quick Google search will inform kids how to dismantle parental controls—even if they don’t know your passcode!)
For instance, on Apple iPhones, kids can reset their phones and set up a new Apple ID, thus avoiding all previous parental controls. Or, they can change the time to trick the time limit. Or, they can use iMessage to watch off-limit YouTube videos.
Many built-in settings aren’t even password protected, so kids can just go into settings and easily undo your parental controls. If you only use the parental controls on your wireless service provider, your kids can just use wi-fi instead, making the controls irrelevant. It’s a similar problem if you only set up controls on your home router. If your kids turn off their wi-fi and use their unlimited data plan, they can totally elude the controls.
You can also put controls on the browsers; but innovative teens often just download a different browser and hide it in a folder, totally evading the other browser’s controls. There are dozens of other hacks and workarounds as well.
So, what’s a parent to do? Well, unless you choose an expensive comprehensive monitoring system, you’ll probably need a combination of parental controls. Just like most companies rely on a multi-layered system of security, to fully protect your child you need a multi-layered approach. In other words, use a combination of controls so that your child is fully protected.
5 WAYS TO SET UP PARENTAL CONTROLS
Basically, there are five ways to set up parental controls on your children’s devices.
1. On the built-in settings on each device and/or individual system programs
2. On your wireless service provider
3. On your router
4. Third-party software or apps
5. Combination of above
1. BUILT-IN SETTINGS
Most newer computers, smartphones, tablets, and gaming systems will have parental controls built in and can be turned on in Settings. (Parents, don’t forget that gaming systems are connected to the internet and need parental controls.) You can set up parental controls individually on:
· Game Consoles (Xbox, PS4, etc.)
· internet Service Providers (Verizon, ATT, etc.)
· Internet Security Systems (Norton Security, Bitdefender, etc.)
· Internet Browsers (Chrome, Safari, etc.)
· Search Engines (Google, Bing, etc.)
· Video Sites (YouTube, Netflix, etc.)
· Social Networks (Snapchat, Instagram, etc.)
To find out how to set up parental controls on your specific device, read “How to Set up Parental Controls on all Devices.”
2. WIRELESS SERVICE PROVIDER
Most wireless service companies like T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and ATT offer parental controls, often for an added monthly fee. The advantages of setting parental controls on your wireless provider is that it’s good at restricting usage, blocking numbers, and spending money on apps.
The disadvantages of relying solely on your wireless provider is that not all of them offer the ability to filter and block websites and apps. And if your child switches to wi-fi, many of the features don’t work. Also, none of the cellular providers currently offer parents notifications if your child visits an unsavory site. Therefore, if you do use your wireless provider for parental controls, be sure to use built-in and/or third-party parental controls as well.
A router is a device that connects the internet to all the devices in your home. If your kids only access the internet at home, setting up controls on your router is an excellent option. The advantage of setting up controls on your router is that you can filter the internet for all of the devices in your home in one place: computers, smartphones, tablets, and even game consoles with built-in browsers.
The disadvantage of controls on a router is that if your kids are using their device in another location besides your house, the router controls will have no effect. Also, if they turn off their wi-fi and just use their data plan, it will bypass the controls on the router.
That’s why it’s important to have parental controls not only on the router, but also on the built-in controls and/or a third-party software as well.
Some routers come with built-in parental controls and some don’t. While each router is different, here are some standard ways to access your router’s settings to set up parental controls:
Consult your model’s manual, or
Open up your preferred web browser (Chrome, Edge, Safari, etc.) and type in the IP address of your router in the search bar. (Hint: Try typing in the IP address 192.168.1.1. Many routers use this IP address by default.) If that doesn’t work, check out “How to Find Your Router IP Address” for step-by-step instructions.
If your router doesn’t have built-in parental controls, you can use OpenDNS to set up parental controls on any router. For step-by-step instructions, read “OpenDNS Parental Control.”
4. THIRD-PARTY SOFTWARE OR APPS
For those devices without built-in controls or just to add another layer of protection, there are a large variety of third-party software. Most third-party software operates as a subscription service, bur there are also free options with basic protection. Obviously, you get more options and better protection with a paid plan, but that may not be an option for some families.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN LOOKING FOR THIRD-PARTY SOFTWARE
Which parental controls you get will depend on what you need. Are you trying to block inappropriate content, or do you just want to track the sites they visit? Do you want to limit screen time? Do you want to track your children’s location? Look at the list above of “What Parental Controls Can Do” and decide what you want.
Here are some things to consider when looking for parental control software:
Does it support all of the device types in your household? (smartphones, tablets, computers, gaming systems)
Does it have limits on the number of child profiles or devices you can use? Or does it charge according to how many devices you need covered?
Does it have HTTPS filtering so that tech-smart kids can’t bypass the web filtering?
Does it keep a detailed log of your child's web activity?
Does it have a daily or weekly cap on device or internet usage?
Does it have a companion app so you can manage your child’s device on your mobile phone?
Does it send you notifications when your child tries to visit a blocked site, or break your established rules?
Does it control or monitor apps? Will it block new apps without parental permission? (Remember, there are all kinds of dating and messaging apps that could get kids in trouble.)
Will the controls work when away from the home network? (Router controls only work at home.)
How specifically does it filter content and messages? Some software filters a lot of questionable content, while others don’t.
Does the software have a long list of categories that it will filter? The more categories it will filter, the more specific you can be when setting up controls.
Does it control screen time? Does it have a time scheduler for internet and device usage?
Does it work on all major browsers? If not, your child can just download a different browser.
THIRD-PARTY SOFTWARE RECOMMENDATIONS
According to PC Magazine, the top-rated parental control software programs are:
Qustodio starting at $39.95/per year (Works on Windows, Macs, iOS, and Android devices.)
Norton Family Premiere starting at $49.99/per year (Works on Android, Windows, and iOS (9 and up)
Kaspersky Safe Kids starting at $14.99/per year (Works on Windows, Macs, iOS, and Android devices.)
There are pros and cons for each so be sure to read the review at "The Best Parental Control Software for 2020."
There are also free parental controls that offer basic protection. Unfortunately, most of the free versions come with limited controls that can only be used on one device.
According to Tech Radar, the top rated free parental controls are:
Qustodio, free version
Kaspersky Safe Kids, free version
KidLogger (only tracks activity, but doesn’t prevent activity)
Zoodles (a great option for young children)
Again, find out the pros and cons to each at
Keep in mind that software and apps are constantly changing and updating. At least once a year, check to see if you still have the latest and best parental software on your children’s devices.
ADDITIONAL HELPFUL HINTS
For portable devices such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, and gaming systems:
Make sure each and every device has parental controls.
Check these controls often to make sure they have not been dismantled. Try visiting some prohibited sites to see what happens.
Establish a nightly technology curfew. An hour before bedtime, have your kids store all of their devices in your bedroom for the night. (For gaming systems, have them store the controllers.) This will solve the problem of any parental control breaches.
Consider having a rule where internet usage is only allowed in family areas, such as the kitchen or living room.
If you share a computer with your kids:
.Give each family member his or her own separate user account.
Make sure your kids can’t get on your account (administrative) so they can’t change settings or install another browser that you don’t know about.
Create a password to your account that your kids will never figure out.
Set your account so when your computer goes idle, it locks within minutes and requires a password. Otherwise, your child could easily continue on your account—with all the administrative settings.
Keep the computer in an open spot, such as the kitchen.
BEFORE YOU GIVE YOUR CHILD A DEVICE
Experts advice that before you ever give your child a technological device, you need to do these two things:
Make sure it has adequate parental controls. Try visiting some off-limit sites to see what happens.
Establish rules about each device. For instance, how much time can they spend on the device each day? Are there any sites they can’t visit? Can they post pictures and videos? Are you planning on randomly checking their devices for inappropriate messages and photos? Talk to your kids about the rules and what is appropriate and what is inappropriate online behavior.