There are many benefits to providing your child with a device or phone. As a parent, you can enjoy the peace of mind of quickly finding out your child is safe and sound – especially in an emergency. Your child will be academically prepared with Internet access for research and educational games. In addition, they will become familiarized with adapting to new technologies – a crucial skill for the modern world.
However, with the great power of smart devices comes great responsibility, especially for the parent. The material a child may come across can be confusing, and, if not age-appropriate, psychologically damaging. Spending time on devices can distract from priorities and may limit a child from developing healthy, in-person relationships and a keen interest in activities.
As a parent, take the initiative on how you can manage your kids’ devices and phones through automation, conversation, and good old-fashioned parenting.
Within the settings of your child’s device or phone you can set content and privacy restrictions with a passcode of your choosing (separate from the home screen passcode). Take advantage of the ability to disable in-app purchases or downloads, restrict the use of video and text communication apps (or even individual contacts), set screen time limits, and create filters for what materials are available to view on the device. On an Android, this can be done on Google Play, and on an Apple device, in Settings under Screen Time.
For tech lovers, one of the savviest parental control apps available is OurPact. The most advanced on the market, parents with OurPact can conveniently auto-schedule restrictions to the Internet or apps during predetermined time frames, including school, bedtime, or meals. At any point, access can be manually blocked or granted on your child’s phone no matter where you are. Premium features offer separate customization for up to twenty devices as well as app-specific management guidelines — for example, allowing more time on educational apps vs. social media apps. In addition, parents can choose to filter available web content or texting capabilities. The Family Locator identifies locations (or lost devices) of all members and alerts parents when their children arrive or leave specific areas – from school to home.
Google Family Link (simple)
Download the free Family Link app onto both your and your child’s phone as the first step to guiding them to use their device safely. In addition to blocking app downloads, enforcing screen time, and tracking location, you can upload creativity and education apps (recommended by teachers!) directly to their device. To use this app, you’ll need to create a Google Account for children under age 13 – otherwise, they are of age to create their own Google Account, which means they can choose to limit some aspects of monitoring. Of course, by being free, there’s the additional compromise of your child’s data being up-for-grabs by Google.
No matter what measures you have taken to automate your device management, you will need to be diligent in your observations and maintenance of your child’s online behavior. A young child is not prepared to identify or prevent the dangers of constant social connection to their peers and strangers. Beyond explaining the need for a private profile on social media, you will need to monitor their social postings to ensure they are not using “checking-in” at locations or sharing personal contact information or addresses. To strengthen your message about the importance of keeping a private profile, commit to displaying model behavior and avoid oversharing your own whereabouts and personal details.
While there are technologies that allow full access to spy on your child’s texts and call logs, it may not the best start to a trusting parent-child relationship. Phones and devices can be very personal, and private conversations between friends take place digitally more than ever. If your child suspects they lack privacy, they may find ulterior methods of social interaction that may not be as easy to spot or monitor. To keep things in balance, consider leveraging the authority that comes with your property and simply request spot checks as often as you sense they are necessary. Be sure to explain where your interest and concern comes from — a place of protection and love.
I hope your better understanding of phone and device management options gives you the confidence you need to guide your child to utilize ever-changing technology in a positive, risk-free way.