By Chanelle Hawken
Summer break is here, and for many of us, that means our kids are home with a lot of free time on their hands. Whether we like it or not, much of that free time is spent on electronic devices.
We can’t monitor our children’s every move online, but Internet parental controls are an underutilized, easy way for parents to make sure their kids stay safe while they are streaming, gaming, scrolling or chatting.
As our use of the Internet and the modes we use to access it have evolved, so have parental controls. Here are five tips that Cox Communications has put together for making the most of parental controls available for every Internet-connected device in your home:
1. Remember how many ways kids can access the Internet. Use resources like Internet Matters to figure out which devices and online accounts you can set parental controls on, and go from there.
2. Use them to control how much time your children spend online. On iPhones, especially, you have the power to set your child up on Family Sharing, and then set rules on your kids’ iPhone usage. Your Internet service provider may also have parental controls included in your subscription, which can help you restrict and monitor the time kids spend online while they’re at home.
3. Make controls on YouTube a priority. Use YouTube’s parental controls to set your account to “Restricted Mode,” even if you use YouTube Kids, so your kids won’t run the risk of viewing disturbing content when searching for clips of their favorite shows.
4. Create a “white list” for kids under 5. Children 5 and under can and are navigating the Internet and tech devices very quickly and with ease. Choose a handful of sites you’re comfortable with, and make those the only ones accessible on the device your kid uses. This is also a service that is often available through your Internet service provider.
5. Don’t forget their email or social media accounts. Make sure you have access to your minor child’s accounts (usernames and passwords), and regularly monitor their interactions if possible. Otherwise, consider blocking a social media site or deleting an email account if you’re truly worried.
Most importantly, however, know what parental controls can and can’t do. Parental controls can control how much time your kid spends online using devices you and your family own, which online games your child can access, filter web browsers so that your children can only access pre-approved websites, prevent children from using certain devices, limit what children can search for online, and manage the types of videos that are searchable online.
But parental controls cannot control who reaches out to your children on their own social media channels or what photos children view on their own social media channels if those websites are not blocked, or you don’t have access to their accounts.
As many parents know, there are plenty of dangers for kids online, from seeing inappropriate content to being contacted by unsavory strangers. However, the Internet is an indispensable part of our lives, so it’s simply not practical for us to unplug or forbid our children from going online in any way.
Internet parental controls can give parents the peace of mind they need while school is out and ensure kids’ time online this summer is what it should be: fun.
Chanelle Hawken is the vice president of government and public affairs for Cox Communications California. She is a mother of two school-aged children and resides in Encinitas.
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