It’s a nasty world out there.
Though I don’t yet have children of Internet-browsing age, I am very aware of the dangers.
Over the years, I’ve found a few useful tools to keep your kids safe. Here are the ones that are not only tried and true in my home- but are also the simplest to use. Note: I am not affiliated with any of the Parental Control solutions below. Any change(s) they make to their products or prices are not under my control.
Parental Controls for Tech
OpenDNS FamilyShield is a great free tool to instantly put a layer of protection on your entire home network. While the setup may appear daunting, it’s like anything else. Follow the step-by-step instructions, and you have a great tool in about fifteen minutes or so.
After following the link, click the FamilyShield tab on the right-center of the screen for the free version.
Windows 10 Parental Controls aren’t that great. But if you’re looking for free, basic controls that already exist on your Windows computer, you’re in luck.
ColdTurkey is a new player, and is really meant for self-time management and as an anti-distraction tool – but if all you’re looking for is a website blocker for a period of time (Like Facebook, until all the homework is done), this is the way to go. Dead simple, and free. Nice how that works out, eh? Note: This is nearly impossible to disable(Note, not impossible to circumvent temporarily!). Make sure you set the block duration to something reasonable to for study time.
Norton Online Family seems to be a pretty good tool from the reviews I have found, but I’m not a huge fan of Norton (notice the Norton Removal Tool on my Tools page above?), so I haven’t tried it. It’s free, and a review of it can be found here.
Parents looking into Parental Control
Let me be the first to say: Good job. If you’re at this page, you’re taking the initiative to protect your kids (or yourself) from stuff that can ruin their lives.
I have a word of caution though. In this world where inappropriate content is more accessible than ever via the Internet, you need to be careful to address the root cause of what your children may be into, and keep in mind this generation’s need to ‘stay connected’.
Facebook and the like are how this generation organizes things. From birthday parties to charity events, it all happens on Facebook. They won’t get a letter in the mail. If you see something about it in a paper (aka, ‘snailmail’) newsletter, that newsletter writer is probably out of touch with this generation.
Your great-great-great grandparents probably thought phones were weird – but now, they are a necessity for the working individual. Sign up for services like Facebook and Twitter yourself, and ‘be hip.’ Don’t look at social networks as evil. Be educated yourself on why these things aren’t bad, but just a natural evolution of human communication. You will simply alienate your kids if you don’t do this.
All the same, too much of anything is too much – and the definition of ‘too much’ is at your discretion.
Once your kids are a certain age, I encourage you to move from moderating their web content to to monitoring it. The tools above can help with that. But the best real-world way to handle this is simple: Move the family and personal computers to a central area of the home. You’ll notice if something is up pretty quickly that way, just by walking by quietly. If you see something suspicious, don’t mention it then, but have a ‘family meeting’ to establish values and remind them of consequences. Not punishment consequences – this will make them bottle their emotions and feelings – but long-term, natural consequences.
Talk with them about it. Make it not something to be scared of, but something to look forward to at the right time.