Internet Safety

You are here

Internet Safety “Tools” (AKA Parental Controls) You Should Be Thinking About

The old Russian proverb “Trust, but verify” aptly describes the relationship you should ideally have with your kids when it comes their use of digital devices and the Internet. Without a doubt, the most powerful tool you have to keep your kids safe online is your relationship. You want them to know that they can come to you about anyone or anything that bothers them online and have a frank discussion, without blame, about how to handle the situation. But with kids being kids, it could be that they will come across (intentionally or unintentionally) some inappropriate material or situation online. That’s where parental controls come in place. With certain kinds of technology helping to filter and field what they come across, that is much less likely to happen.

So where do you need parental controls? Chances are your tweens and teens are most likely to get into sticky situations when they are away from home using their phone, so the first set of parental controls you need to look into are those afforded by your cell phone manufacturer (Apple or Android, for example) and/or your cell phone carriers. Do a search online for what your specific carrier has to offer by using the name of the service and the search term “parental controls” (many of these also apply to tablets). Both cell manufacturers and cell phone carriers offer parental controls, including the ability to set content filters and disable or limit Internet access or certain apps on Web-enabled phones. Mobile controls can also allow parents to disable, limit, or monitor a child’s texting capability, and picture and video messaging.

There are also a myriad of apps for monitoring your child’s cell phone use. What you need from a parental-control app mainly depends on how old your kids are. If you're the parent of children under 12, you absolutely want to be able to block objectionable websites. If you've got teenagers, you might be ok with just monitoring instead of blocking. You might also want to see who your teens are talking to in messenger apps, or where they are late on a Friday night. And you might want to consider a service that monitors your kids' Windows and Apple devices as well as their smartphones. The best parental control apps will offer, at a minimum, a website filter, location tracking, screen-time limits including a scheduler, and an app blocker.

As far as your laptop and desktop goes, again you may want to look into what your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has to offer by doing a search on their website or by contacting them directly. Depending on what operating system you are using (Windows, Apple, Chrome, etc.), there are parental controls built in as well. Again, doing an online search for your operating system and particular concerns is going to be your best bet for finding what you need to fit your particular purpose. There are just as many apps that you can download for your computer– free and otherwise - as there are for your phones. For your computer you are looking for much the same capabilities as for your phones – a website filter, screen time limits, an app blocker, and the ability to limit certain texting and messaging services.

Kids More Vulnerable to Online Predators During Corona Crisis Says FBI

The FBI is alerting parents, teachers and caregivers to the increased risk of online child sexual exploitation as children spend more time on the Internet while schools are closed because of the coronavirus. The agency urges parents to discuss Internet safety with children and to review the apps, games and websites that are being used. They also suggest parents adjust online settings if they can’t physically watch their children’s online activity. Do an online search to find out how to adjust the privacy settings on the specific devices your children use. Some signs that your child may be in contact with an online predator include increased nightmares, withdrawn behaviors, angry outbursts, anxiety and depression. And in case you need it, here is a checklist of things you should be talking to your kids about Internet safety.

A Technology Company Coalition and Senate Bill Aim at Online Child Abuse

A coalition of Internet companies and social media giants -- Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Roblox, Twitter and Snap -- is backing a set of 11 principles put forth by the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand to fight the spread of online child exploitation. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of US senators has introduced the EARN IT Act, which would allow the government to strip away tech companies' legal immunities for what their users post if the companies fail to crack down on online child sexual abuse.

Online Tutoring Firms Take Steps To Curb Abuse

According to a recent article from Edsurge, at least two online tutoring companies are taking steps to protect students following reports that educators have witnessed students being abused by parents or others during lessons. Qkids has launched a tool to help teachers report unsafe activity they witness during lessons, and VIPKid has added educational videos for parents and others on appropriate discipline.

Do You Know How to Spot a Teenage Cyber-Hacker?

A recent study led by Thomas Holt, cybercrime expert at Michigan State University, looks at teen cybercriminals and has found that low self-control is a key predictive factor in whether teens engage in cybercrimes such as hacking. Holt says that many stereotypes of hackers may not be accurate when it comes to teens committing cybercrimes. Holt also says that there's "value in teaching kids that cybercrime will get you in trouble and here's what you can do to protect yourself."

Experts who study the future of work and technology trends expect that teenage cyber hacking could become a problem in the future. Research suggests that there will be a growing need for more "juvenile crime rehabilitation counselors," who can help student cyber-hackers to put their tech talent to more productive use in the not-too-distant future.

Digital Tools for Annotations

Many people feel that one of the advantages of using physical books over digital is the ability to make notes in margins, whether it be study notes in a textbook, recipe modifications in a cook book, or highlighting favorite lines in a novel. Now there are tools to make relevant comments or ask questions digitally in textbooks and non-fiction and fiction books for students, and even include web annotations of relevant resources, writes educator Matthew Farber on the Edutopia site. In his blog post, he shares several such resources that he believes help foster reading comprehension. Look for examples of specific resources and how they are used in the post and pass the information on to your school.

Advertisers Spending A Billion on Digital Kid-Centric Advertising

According to Adweek, advertisers will be putting more than $1 billion in the global market for child-centric ads. Privacy concerns have been voiced because of the data collected on the youngest users, even with laws on the books against such collection. Video-on-demand platforms like YouTube Kids and social media are big draws for media buyers targeting digitally-savvy children.

YouTube Using a Questionable “Work Around” For Their Algorithm Problem

What is YouTube doing about the recently revealed research that found that YouTube’s algorithms could potentially be jeopardizing the safety of children? To avoid limiting the volume of content uploaded to YouTube (which would happen if every video was manually reviewed), they’re opting instead to tighten parental controls on YouTube Kids—the only place under-13-year-olds are ever supposed to be. Their solution is to hand parents the reins, letting them go so far as disabling search and only displaying videos they’ve personally approved, which essentially means is all they have done is put the onus back on parents to protect the postings of their children.

Post First, Think Second

Keri Stephens, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says that today’s students post first, think second. This is in contrast to older generations that are more careful about what they post. Stephens says this creates a disconnect between the generations: younger people often pop off in texts or other social media whatever they are thinking at the moment, but older generations tend to take what they read to heart since they put more thought into what they post. This can sometimes lead to issues in communication when young people are just letting off steam and older generations take it as a threat.

UNICEF Pleads For Action Against Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying victims are at greater risk of drug and alcohol use, poor school attendance and performance, low self-esteem, and suicide, UNICEF warns as it marked Safer Internet Day recently. A new UNESCO report confirms that violence and school bullying remain a global problem. The UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a press release “"We've heard from children and young people from around the globe and what they are saying is clear: the Internet has become a kindness desert."

Pages