As a parent, who has teenagers, it can be a somewhat complicated and mortifying world when it comes to trying to allow a teenager a small level of personal “freedom” of expression and allowing them to be curious and discover new things while also satisfying the need to protect their online privacy from those who may do them harm. In this blog segment we will discuss some of my thoughts on what we as parents can do to aid our child in this ever evolving world that is the internet.
To start of with I suppose we need to first look at the child’s age and I’m not speaking to their numeric age, but rather to their level of maturity. And so when my wife and I decide what applications (apps) our children may download, it depends heavily on the content of the application, but also to the child’s maturity level. Who would want a scary game or a very provocative application to be seen or played by a minor, especially if it is something that you fundamentally don’t agree with as a parent. Let alone a game or app with overtones of sexuality that is going to be played by your teenager for hours on end. Now I am not saying that they don’t hear it and see it in the world that we live in, I am not naive, but why put it on a silver platter and feed it to them. Those things can wait a bit longer, especially if we are talking the difference between a thirteen year old versus a seventeen year old. True it is only four years, but developmentally and cognitively there are vast differences between them. Particularly in their ability to make intelligent decisions as I am sure many of you would agree!
So lets start with the basics, remember that you are the parent and a good dose of common sense goes a long way. With that we all need to be able to reach our children and so perhaps you want be able to track where your child is and more importantly they are where they say they are. Have no fear there are apps for that, but most if not all smartphones have GPS built right in. However, apps like Find My iPhone and Find My Friends can be quite helpful. Perhaps you want to limit the amount of time that a child spends online or limit the sites that they can have access to there are apps for that too. Apps such as Screentime and DinnerTime Parental Control offer you the ability to not only limit their screen time, but also limit how much they are texting and playing games. All in an effort to help them refocus on working on homework, chores or spending quality time with the family. Some parents may elect to take it a step further and want to track who their child is communicating with, read emails, see all the pictures that are sent, received and perhaps more importantly deleted. Well they can do so with an app called Teensafe. I know this one sounds a bit like big brother, but if your child is being bullied, abused, or dating without your knowledge, some parents want the ability to intervene more quickly. Especially, if the child isn’t as forth coming as the parent feels they should be.
Next, comes the security of the websites and the apps themselves. I think we as parents have a responsibility to protect our children and that responsibility should include a healthy dose of cynicism. To that end, make sure you go through each setting on an app or website that you load or your child loads onto their device(s). Making sure that you turn on or off the security settings that you feel are appropriate for your child. Lets say we allow our child to use a social media website or app, we certainly wouldn’t want a thirteen year old exposed to the entire world, when all they want to do is connect with their friends. This would potentially expose them to threats that you may not recognize as a threat until it was too late. So lets go through those settings and turn off some of those features and lock it down to a level where you as a parent are comfortable with. It may seem like just a simple click of a button, but believe me it is a very important step in ensuring your child’s online safety.
Finally, remember that you may not want to give your child the ability to download or change the settings of their devices, so maybe keeping a log of all of their passwords. Perhaps in a password vault such as 1Password would be in order. You would do this for two reasons. One to make sure that they are using a strong password, and where possible to also turn on two-step verification, but also to make sure that they don’t forget the password that they just created, because a good password should be challenging, otherwise it’s pointless. Please remember you are in charge and ultimately responsible for the safety of your child both at home and online. Secure as much as you can, where you can. So let’s be safe out there!
It should be noted that some of the apps mentioned above are free and some are open source and some are at a cost to the consumer. It is up to you to research these applications and see what best fits your security needs.
In no way do we endorse the applications that were presented in this article we are simply stating that they may be an option for you to consider for your device. Your particular security needs for your device are up to you to decide. Be safe out there.
This post by Preston Kershner.