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Though possibly daunting, implementing parental controls in your household doesn’t have to be a negative experience. The main thing to remember is to respect your child’s autonomy while maintaining your parental responsibility of keeping them safe.
To make your job as a parent easier, we’ve combined expert-approved tips and created a four-step guide to introducing parental controls in your home. It encompasses everything you need to explain parental restrictions to children, secure their devices, and keep them safe online. They may not like it initially — but they’ll thank you later.
What Are Online Parental Controls?
Parental controls encompass a group of settings that let you decide what your child can access online. They create a safe(ish) internet space where they’re free to explore appropriate content for school or entertainment. At the same time, you can also use them to limit your kids’ screen time, apply GPS tracking, or monitor incoming texts and calls.
Parental controls are extremely important for kids and teens of any age. The internet is riddled with all types of risks young minds aren’t ready for, like online predators, pornographic images, and violence to name a few. With appropriate use of parental controls, you can protect your children from the worst of it.
Explaining Parental Controls to Children and Teens
Despite popular belief, kids aren’t opposed to parental controls. Research shows 70% of young people support their parents adjusting settings on their devices if it means they can avoid harm.
It doesn’t mean introducing parental controls in your household will be easy. You shouldn’t have too much trouble with younger kids who don’t fully understand the concept of content blockers, but teens may have different opinions. Luckily, we’ve dug deep to find expert-approved tips on explaining parental controls to children.
1. Decide Which Devices You Need to Secure
Start with the basics and do your research on available parental controls and how you can protect your kids from online dangers on different devices. Decide how much you want to restrict your child’s online access, for example, which sites you’d like to blocklist. Remember to be reasonable — teens probably won’t appreciate only an hour of the internet a day, but they still need protection.
It’s also a good idea to find out more about the risks of using the internet and how they may impact your kids. Write down the most important information and choose what you want to share with your children. While they should be aware of what could happen, the last thing you want is to traumatize them or scare them off the internet.
All of this provides you with the ammunition needed for introducing parental controls to your kids. Young minds are clever and they might try to outsmart you, but having the backup of knowledge will act to your benefit.
2. Sit Down to Have a Conversation With Your Kids
The next step is to talk to your kids about parental controls. Find a calm moment when you and your kids can sit down and have an open chat without distractions. Depending on their age, the conversation may be shorter or longer, so don’t limit yourself with other arrangements.
Start with simple explanations of what parental controls are and why they’re important. Your kids may feel upset when they hear about upcoming limitations. Remain calm and guide them through it. It’s important they know it’s for their protection and you’re not punishing them.
See if you can find a compromise to give them more involvement in the process. This could be extending screen time by 30 minutes or having a certain website moved from blocklist to allowlist — as long as they can prove it’s not inappropriate.
3. Follow Through With Your Parental Controls Plan
Now, apply the controls you want to implement on all the devices they use. You can choose to involve your kids and let them adjust their device’s settings. However, make sure they don’t use this knowledge behind your back to undo everything.
Even if your conversations ended in a civil way, you might want to add monitoring controls to check that your children don’t sneak around the restrictions. This could include restricting access to parental settings with a password or linking your devices, so you know when they attempt to change the settings.
4. Review Security Settings on All Devices Regularly
If you choose not to use monitoring software, it’s still important to check your kids didn’t change the parental controls. Regularly reviewing the settings on their devices lets you keep an eye on your children and keep up with the ever-changing demands of the internet. Especially as software updates sometimes add new control features. You can quickly adjust the existing settings or add new ones if a sudden danger emerges.
You should also schedule regular chats with your children about the internet, how they use it, and what they think of parental controls. Research shows involving your kids in creating family rules makes them less likely to rebel against them. As they grow, they might want to reduce the limitations you placed on them too.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Parental Controls
As with anything in life, parental controls come with many pros and cons. Even though the good highly outweighs the bad, it’s crucial you know both sides of the coin before you start explaining restrictions to your children.
Remember, parental controls don’t replace parenting. They’re simply a tool to help keep your child safe. Always pair them with an open conversation and lead by example, so kids can understand what’s acceptable and unacceptable online.
Simple Guide to Blocking Inappropriate Content on Any Device
How you block content depends entirely on the device you want to do it on. If you’d like step-by-step instructions for blocking websites on popular operating systems, check out our in-depth guide for iPhones and other devices.
Apple uses Screen Time settings to block age-inappropriate sites and apps on your child’s Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Simply create a kid’s account through the device’s settings and start adjusting available options.
Windows settings don’t include parental controls, but you can block inappropriate content with Microsoft Family Safety. Like with Apple devices, you must create a child account and link it to your main profile. Then, access kid-safety settings, like website blocklists, content monitoring, or screen time limitations.
Android devices don’t come with built-in parental settings. Instead, Google has a handy Family Link app with similar features to most parental software — but without payment required. If you’d like more extended settings, like call screening, you’ll need to download a separate app, like Norton Family or Bark.
Gaming consoles, like PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch, also have built-in controls to protect children from malicious gamers. You can access them directly from the device’s settings. As additional protection, Microsoft offers a mobile app for parents, which you can use to control your kid’s Xbox from your phone.
Some apps and websites offer their own parental controls as well. You can create a kids profile on websites like YouTube and Netflix, for example, which automatically restricts content to kid-friendly shows and videos. Be aware that you’ll still have to keep an eye on what your kid watches, as inappropriate content has managed to leak through on YouTube Kids in the past.
If you have multiple kids, each with their own devices, you may want to block websites directly on your router. Doing so stops anyone on the network from viewing restricted content, regardless of what device they use. You can often set specific time restrictions for these blocklists too — so you don’t have to use child-friendly websites when your children are asleep.
Boost Online Protection on Any Device With a VPN
Parental controls block inappropriate content, but they don’t prevent internet snoopers and hackers from stealing your childrens’ photos, videos, or information. Luckily, you can install PIA on all of their devices and stop unwanted malicious actors from getting vulnerable data.
Connecting to PIA scrambles your connection to make it undecipherable to anyone, including your ISP, hackers, online predators, and other onlookers. Our 256-bit AES encryption provides the same level of protection used by the US military and government agencies. It protects your children’s data from falling into the wrong hands and potentially involving them in identity theft.
If you’re not sure where to start, our 24/7 Customer Support is here to help. You can also use PIA to add extra security to your child’s devices with zero risk as we offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Remember, VPNs may go around network-level parental restrictions, like website blocklists that block at the DNS-level, because they redirect your DNS queries. You also won’t be able to ask your ISP for an activity list because the ISP won’t be able to track what your kids do online.
It doesn’t mean you need to pick one over the other as parental controls and VPNs aren’t mutually exclusive. Most parental controls are VPN-proof and remain effective. You can still set parental controls on a device-to-device basis. Then, enable a VPN to increase your child’s privacy without negating the parental restrictions.
Implement Parental Controls With Your Kids
Parental controls are a tricky subject but don’t stray away from it just to avoid conflict with your children. Despite what you may think, even teens want to avoid online dangers — so it’s possible to protect your kids without causing at-home rebellion.
While it’s not fail-proof, experts suggest a four-step method to make the process easier. The key is to create an open conversation space, where you and your kids can express concerns and reservations. Compromise also reduces the possibility of your child completely going against you, but decide which areas have the leeway and what’s non-negotiable.
Also, keep a vigilant eye on the parental settings you apply. The digital space constantly evolves, so you may have to add or take away some controls every now and then. Also remember these tools, while helpful, can’t substitute your watchful eye as a parent.
What do parental controls mean?
Parental controls block or limit inappropriate content and online dangers. The settings vary slightly between devices and parental apps, but generally, they include:
- Blocking adult websites
- Setting screen time limits
- Tracking location
- Monitoring incoming calls and messages
- Controlling who can see your kid’s social media accounts
- Keyloggers to review keystrokes made on the device
- Limiting specific content on certain websites
- Stopping pop-ups
- Preventing data collection
- Disabling online sharing and account links
To take internet protection to the next level, you should consider combining it with a VPN. PIA uses the toughest encryption to anonymize your child’s traffic. This blocks potential snoopers and online predators from accessing vulnerable data and using it against your kids.
Why are parental controls important?
Cyberbullying, child predators, violence, pornographic content, radicalization, and identity theft are just a few of online dangers your kids may come across. They usually hide among the content your children search for, like funny TikTok videos or Peppa Pig games. And with close-to-none surveillance, the internet quickly becomes a danger instead of a fun interactive experience.
Remember, parental controls aren’t 100% effective as anything can seep through the protective cracks. Teach your child to stay vigilant and guide them through any unwanted experience with an open conversation. Also, encourage your child to use a VPN to protect their online activities and stop unwanted individuals from tracking their habits.
Do parental controls affect children?
Screen time limits and content blocks might affect children to an extent, but apart from these, they likely won’t notice a difference. If anything, parental controls elevate their browsing as they won’t be afraid or worried after seeing inappropriate content.
To add extra protection to your child’s device without affecting their screen time, use PIA. Our ultra-fast servers and secure encryption guarantee online anonymity. PIA’s protection stops snoopers from stalking your kids online too, letting you sleep better at night. If you need any help setting up our app, reach out to our 24/7 Customer Support.
Do VPNs bypass parental controls?
They can with network-level restrictions. A VPN stops your router from recognizing which websites you’re visiting. This goes around local firewalls — including blocklisted websites. Since a VPN masks your IP address, it stops parental control apps using the device’s IP address, like Bark or Google Family Link, from working.
However, a VPN won’t bypass in-app parental controls, like content blocks on YouTube Kids. You can also still track your kid’s GPS location as a VPN doesn’t spoof a device’s GPS.
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