UPDATED December 11, 2021 This piece has been updated to reflect the emergence of new technology

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Christian Mathews Security Writer

Should you be concerned about your child’s safety while on the internet? According to research done by Internetsafety101, as a parent or guardian, you should be very worried. So what app to control kids’ phones do you need then? Before we get into that, we’ll look a little more at some of the statistics available.

According to a study conducted by Pew Research, on average 60% of teens have experienced some form of bullying online. Additionally, the Crimes Against Children Research Center puts it that at least 10% of children surfing the internet are solicited for sex by sexual predators.

But it’s not just about sexual abuse and cyber-bullying. What most cyber-criminals have discovered is that young teens and children are easily duped.

Cybercriminals can trick kids into giving up their Personal Identifiable Information (PII’s), information on their parents, where they live, etc. With this information, criminals can easily steal identities, plan kidnappings, child abuse, and even plan home invasions & break-ins.

Most criminals prefer to assume young children’s identities as they consider them as “clean slates” since they don’t have much on them in terms of records.

With all that said, the need to ensure your child’s safety when using the internet can’t be reiterated enough.

Keep reading to find out more on:

  • Whether to monitor, restrict or block web access for your kids
  • App restrictions/blocking
  • Time restrictions and monitoring
  • Location monitoring/ tracking if your child has a phone
  • Ability to access the child’s messages

1Should you monitor, restrict, or block web access for your kids?

The conversation around whether or not you should monitor or restrict web access for your kids is always a tricky one. Should you use an app to control kids’ phones? Should you let them be and hope for the best, or should you monitor and control their internet access?

The answer to this is never clear.

So how do you go about it?

With young kids aged 12 and younger, you can monitor, restrict screen time or even disable internet access altogether. At their age, it won’t matter much and in most cases, they may be using your device(s). It may be worth your while to consider the Samsung tablet parental controls. Other brands have similar such controls, whether parental controls for Android cell phones or on an iPhone or Ipad.

It’s tricky with teenagers as they probably have their smartphones or computers. However, you might want to dial down a bit. There is a balance that needs to be kept in mind. That is between protection and privacy. This is ultimately up to the parent to decide what that balance should be.

Creating too much restriction may risk rebellion from your teenage kids. Kids are also smart and may eventually find a way around the monitoring and restrictions. Having upfront conversations with your kids go a long way for them to understand your position and gain trust in the process.

Fortunately, there are some apps and software to help you with this and they work on smartphones (IOS & Android) as well as PC (Mac and windows). You can monitor logs on what sites your kid’s visit, to what they download. Also, you can restrict or even completely block your kid’s access to certain sites.

2App restriction/blocking access to only certain apps on the device

Monitoring and restricting internet access doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to protecting your kids while on the internet.

You’ll need to restrict certain apps on your phone when your kid is using it, or on your kid’s phone. Some of these apps come with an inbuilt browser and may bypass internet restrictions or monitoring in place.

You may have restricted your kid’s internet access, and they happen to be tech-savvy. They can easily install a VPN application to bypass all internet restrictions.

In some cases, your kid may willingly or unknowingly install apps that are bad or harmful to them. You’ll therefore want to ensure that you can monitor what applications they’re installing and using. Services like Boomerang and Mobicip are used to restrict the usage of such apps or even block them completely on your child’s device.

3Time restrictions/ Monitoring

Monitoring and restricting when your kids use their devices help to ensure a balance between school and life. Additionally, this is great in detecting changes in behavior.

Changes in behavior or search patterns help in flagging any suspicious activity or anything going wrong with your kid.

It could be that they’re talking late into the night with a stranger they just met on the internet, spending a lot of time on a messaging app you don’t know or they could be addicted to social media or some other app.

To be sure of any suspicious activity, you should be able to monitor when your kids use their smartphones along with which applications they use most regularly.

There are some applications and software that work with IOS, windows as well as android devices. These include Family time and Norton Family.

In IOS and even android devices, you can utilize the parental control feature to achieve this. , be it restricting the use of certain applications to even blocking the installation of the applications from the App Store or play store.

4Location monitoring/ tracking

You might think that it’s paranoid constantly keeping tabs on your kid’s location.

Well, it’s not.

Come to think of it, you can only do so much when it comes to protecting your kids online.

But what if you happened to miss something. Or your tech-savvy kid somehow managed to bypass all the controls and restrictions you could find and you can’t tell where they are or what they are doing.

What now?

With an application that tracks your child’s location, you can know where they are at any time. You can do this without having to go through their phone. For extra peace of mind, you can always attach a tile tracker to their backpacks.

Some apps to control kids’ phones like Qustodio and Locategy even have a provision to send an SOS alert with your child’s last known location to you or even to other trusted contacts. All alerts are sent continuously until either you or your child turns off the alert.

Aside from the extreme scenario that your kid gets lost and may be in danger, you can also use these apps with geofencing enabled. These are used to check whether your kids are at school or a friend’s house they are supposed to be. Some even send you an alert whenever your kids leave the location they were supposed to be at.

5Ability to access child’s messages

This feature has for a long time been the subject of controversy, because some people use this feature to spy on their spouses/partners

There was also a concern as to whether a parent accessing their child’s messages is ethical, especially if the kids are teenagers.

As a result, as of 2019, this feature was disabled for all apps on IOS devices due to privacy issues.

As a parent, if you are concerned with your child’s safety, you might need access to their messages, for both younger kids and teenagers alike.

It could be that they’re talking to a possible predator or they’re being bullied on the internet.

Either way, you would need to resort to this as the final option, especially if your kid is in danger.

This functionality is however supported only on android devices.

6Final thoughts

The internet is unpredictable and while you can’t possibly cover all ground. Try your best to protect your kids as they use the internet. An app to control kids’ phones is a viable option to gain better oversight on what is happening in your child’s online activities.

What goes a long way is to talk with your child about the dangers and explain to them how and why they need to stay safe. By doing so, they are part of the solution and not the problem.