Category: Online Safety for Kids

How to Activate Free Parental Controls

Free Parental Control Software Apps Guide

When seeking parental controls to keep your family safe online, there is a lot of consider. We’ll start with a checklist of all the devices your child may be using that are connected to the Internet.   Then, we’ll explore free parental control software and app solutions to help you cover all the bases.  Many of these options parental control settings built in.

Lets first define the areas we are dealing with, which are contained in our free parental control guide.

Types of Parental Controls

  1. Installable software for computers and lap tops; PC’s with Windows, Mac desktops and lap tops.
  2. Downloadable Apps for mobile devices; iPhones, Andriods, iPads, Kindle Fire, tablets or any device that has an app store.
  3. Parental controls on game consoles or on Internet based video games, either directly online or via software.
  4. Free factory built-in parental controls that may be limited by still usually available on a particular device or a software program or app on that device.  These include Internet browsers, a social media account or app, YouTube.
  5. Parental controls that are controls by an account with a parental log in and password. (Microsoft, Google or Apple Account).

A typical family is facing these challenges:  One child may have a tablet and an iPhone.  Another child may be working on the family computer and use an Andriod.  You may have a Kindle Fire that all the kids share.  Teens will be playing video games, as well as have a lap top and an iPhone or Android phone. These are just the devices.

Places Kids Need Protection

  1. In their bedroom.
  2. At school.
  3. On the playground.
  4. At a friends house.
  5. On the school bus.

Whether at home on a desktop, or in multiple locations on a smart phone, parents need to individually look at each of device their kids are using and be aware of what they are doing on those devices. And whenever you kids leave your home with a lap top, tablet or mobile phone, the internet goes with them.  This greatly increases the need for parental controls.

Kids Internet Activity:  Key Points to Consider.

  • Are they searching the Internet through a browser?
  • Are they searching the Internet through a browser app?
  • Are they interacting on social media on a desktop or via an app?
  • Are they playing videos comes online through an Internet browser or software download?
  • Are they playing video games on a gaming console. Is that gaming console connect to the Internet and interacting with other kids?
  • Are they watching YouTube through their main website or via the new YouTube kids app?

Safe Search Kids has prepared a free parental control guide that covers all of your devices, as well as the various platforms your kids are using to access the internet.

Internet Filtering

Probably the most urgent parental control concern to address is Internet search.  How do you kids search the web?  Which browsers are they using?  Simplify things by guiding them to use only one browser so you only have to set up parental controls for that browser.  A safe search engine like Safe Search Kids is a resource that enhances Google’s filtering but you should still have the basic parental controls enabled for when kids may to go search

Our free parental control guide goes through these various options.   Keep in mind that the browser on their lap top will have different settings than the browser app on a mobile device.  It’s also important to note that filtering options on a browser are very limited.

Social Media Monitoring

Without software or a parental control app, parents must monitor a child’s social media manually.  However, there is away to restrict app downloads within the app store.  Our guide reviews these options to that kids can’t download apps you do not approve of.  This option doesn’t not work with all devices.  Beyond that, get to know the apps your kids are using.  What social media programs are they using.  SnapchatTikTok?  Facebook?  Discuss which platforms you will allow according to their age.

Privacy Settings

Look at all your devices, apps and accounts your kids are using and ensure all privacy settings are set accordingly.  While parental controls are all about keeping your kids from accessing harmful material online, let’s not forget about protecting them from those who will want to reach them.  This will also help protect your kids from online predators,  as well as malware, viruses and online scams.

Video Games Consoles

If you decide to use a parental control software program or an app that fully monitors your kids activity online, you’re still somewhat on your own when it comes to gaming.  Software solutions will help if the video game is online, but this is not usually the case for gamers in your family that use consoles such as PlayStation and xBox. This issue includes hand held devices like Nintendo Switch.  Fortunately, our free guide includes parental control instructions for 20 different gaming consoles.  These protections come with each game from the factory.

Free Parental Controls vs Paid Subscription Models

Setting up parental controls on each device and each individual website platform or application on that device can be a daunting task.  It takes research and time.  Our parental control guide reveals these free ways to do it without fully automated parental control software, according to each area of concern.  In some cases, such as with privacy settings, setting things manually do the job.  In other cases, such as internet filtering and app usage, you will only achieve the basic levels of protection provided from pre-existing limits that come with the browser.

For social media monitoring and internet blocking of the darkest places on the web, you may want to consider paid parental control options.  These also including monitoring of suspicious texts, Internet searches and geo tracking for when kids are away from home.  If in doubt, start with free options.  This is the reason we created our free parental control guide. At the very least, every parents should have the available basic protection settings in place.  This is a process you can include your kids in, so they are aware of their boundaries when free parental controls are not enough.

Download the Free Guide to setting up Free Parental Controls on your various devices. It also shows you free software and free parental control app downloads to help you explore more automated solutions.

Digital Citizenship: An Overview of The 9 Elements

digital citizenship

Being good citizens can mean connecting with others, exercising empathy, and forming friendships. The concept of digital citizenship is quite similar, but it involves using modern devices like computers to form those connections.

With the world spinning toward virtual gatherings and learning more than ever before, it’s never been more important to understand the concept of digital citizenship

Generally, this can be summed up with nine elements and there are a plethora of activities to teach digital citizenship.

Here, we’re providing an overview of those nine tenets to ensure you — and your tech-savvy kids or students — are mindful of how you’re exercising digital citizenship.

1. Digital access

Not everyone can afford modern technology. We should strive to accommodate people with less digital access by providing alternatives to classroom assignments or making required technology available.

2. Digital etiquette

Those who aren’t used to computers may take online feedback personally. Anonymous online profiles can make people feel combative and negative. However, by teaching digital etiquette, we can learn to treat digital interactions the same as real ones.

3. Digital commerce

Digital commerce has become commonplace — people of all ages buy things online. Without knowledge of digital commerce, people’s personal information can be put at risk. Teaching online safety can help us understand how to avoid putting our personal information at risk.

4. Digital rights and responsibilities

Using anonymity to bully people on the internet takes away their right to be safe online. Teaching digital rights and responsibilities means teaching that respecting people online is just as important as respecting them in real life.

5. Digital literacy

Digital literacy involves spreading awareness of these nine elements and helping others treat the internet responsibly. It also teaches people to recognize fake information. Since so many vital social interactions happen online, staying safe and productive now includes understanding the difference between genuine and harmful content.

6. Digital law

The internet may appear abstract, but it has its own laws that everyone must follow. You can break copyright law by uploading someone else’s content or steal someone’s identity by hacking their email. And these crimes are just as severe as their real-life counterparts. We need to know and respect digital law so we can follow it and keep ourselves safe.

7. Digital communication

Everyone with access to the internet has a digital voice that they can use to express themselves. This freedom can tempt people to express anger or spread misinformation. Respectful, productive digital communication requires thinking of these communications professionally, rather than emotionally.

8. Digital health and wellness

Knowing when to unplug from a device or the internet is another element of digital citizenship. Monitoring the amount of time we’re eying screens and also our ergonomic setups all play into our health and wellness.

9. Digital security

Viruses, scams, malware, and other cyber threats exist. Being a digital citizen means understanding best practices for how to avoid them, including how to protect our devices and respond to digital security issues when they do happen.

Downloadable Resources

The nine elements of digital citizenship teach us how to treat each other and how to stay safe online. The internet can be a productive, amazing place where people make new friends, find new jobs, and learn new things.  If we all exercise these nine elements of digital citizenship, that makes for a more positive digital world for everyone.

Norton Digital Citizenship for StudentsHere are some PDF downloads provided by Norton, who has created the following digital citizen resources for students.

Choose the resources that suit the age of your students.

Snapchat Kids | Is Snapchat Safe for Kids?

Snapchat Kids

Snapchat is currently one of the most popular apps used among teens but it’s even higher up the list of popularity when it comes to usage by tweens, kids aged 9 to 12.  This is the case even though the signup age restriction is 13 and it questionable if anyone under 16 should even be using the app. Whatever the case, parental interaction is advised.

Snapchat is based on the ability for users to send pictures and videos instantly to friends with the added twist that those pics and vids will only be seen from 1 to 10 seconds, then disappear.  The user decides how long their followers will be able to view the content.  This feature is what first attracted youngsters. It garners instant attention with friends and also has a chat feature for instant communication.   The problem is the short time limits that an image is available on the app for all to see can also give kids a false sense of security.

When Snapchat first came on the scene it mainly went unnoticed by parents because let’s face it, a few years ago we were not as savvy at keeping up on the latest craze in social media networking apps.  Facebook was king and other social media platforms were not in the forefront people’s minds when it came to protecting kids online.  Today, parents and guardians are more in the loop and aware of the due diligence needed to stay on top of evolving technologies.  We also use apps as much as kids do, just not the same ones.

Before we speak to possible solutions to either block a Snapchat app download or restrict it’s use, let’s look at the current status of Snapchat dangers and pitfalls.

The Dangers of Snapchat

One the attractive things to teens about Snapchat in the early days of the app was that kids were always told that “anything they upload online will be there forever, even after you delete”.  This is still true in many cases.  However, kids need to know that sending an image to all your followers even for just a second doesn’t mean some of those connections will take a screen shot of that image before it disappears.  This results in that seemingly instant photo being in the possession of others for as long as they wish to keep it or share it with others.

The bottom line, Snapchat is not any more dangerous any other app where kids are connected to other kids except that is may embolden users to take greater risks with the images or videos they create and send out into cyberspace.  So, while each parent should decide how old their children should be before they go on Snapchat, an open conversation about online behavior has never been more vital.  Online security and privacy protection may be increasing in the technology but it’s often only as good as a users behavior on that technology.

It’s also important to note that while images may not be readily available online there are ways to recover images from the users computer or phone even after they have be removed from the Snapchat app.  We all need to take a lesson and pass it on to kids.  Digital footprints online and even on our own private computers, the cloud, and on phones stress the importance of being responsible with our pictures and private information.  The lesson to be learned by parents and to be taught to our kids is the same for all online activity online. “Be responsible and don’t do anything that may come back to haunt you later in life”.

Monitoring Snapchat Usage

Like any website, app or anything kids do online, the standard rules apply.  Families need to have educational conversations about what they share online and who they share it with.  Beyond that, the only way to truly have control over your child’s web surfing habits and social media usage including Snapchat, is to install parental controls.  With these controls you can monitor and have a say in all online activity.  This includes setting restrictions at various levels according to the ages of family members, while blocking the worst of the worst content at all times.

Safe Search Kids restricts the all harmful content while searching Google from the top of our website, but it doesn’t prevent users from leaving our website to search elsewhere.

Parental control means you can decide to block all app downloads or only those specific apps you may deem too young for your kids.  After a child has permission to download and use an app, parental control software allows parents to manage and monitor the usage.

It’s not just control over Snapchat, it’s any social media app including Tiktok, Instagram, Messenger, Facebook, even WhatsAppand the next big social media fad we don’t even know about yet.  New ways to connect with friends will always be attractive to that kids who want to connect with their friends online without parental supervision.  It happened to Facebook when young people left the world’s #1 social media platform for Instagram.  It’s totally natural.  The older kids get the more they want to forge their own identity.  Parents just want the internet savvy and tools to guide kids in a safe and healthy manner as they explore their world online.

Parental Control App

Wondershare has a wonderful (pun intended) parental control app that gives parents complete control within their home and everywhere else a child’s phone may roam.

It’s called FamiSafe and features include:

  • App usage and blocker.
  • Screen time controls.
  • Web content control.
  • Parental alerts.
  • Family locator.
  • Activity reports.
  • Custom settings for each individual family member on multiple devices.

FamiSafe can be installed on Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android phones, tablets, Kindle Fire.   It’s secure and trustworthy thanks to the Wondershare name, a software company that has been around for years building quality and user friendly programs for multiple purposes.

Learn more and
Download Wondershare FamiSafe
for your individual family devices.

Tech Trends That Will Make the Internet a Safe Place

Tech Trends for Safe Kids Internet

Children nowadays access the Internet daily for school or pastime starting from a very young age. And since they might be too young to understand potential threats and consequences of their actions, parents, educators, and online service providers are obligated to step in and make the Internet a safe place for kids.

If you’re a parent, you already know that keeping children safe in the ‘Internet of Things’ era is an uphill task. However, technological advancement doesn’t only mean more risks or dangers for children online or in an educational setting at school.

Here are some technological trends that are making the Internet a safer place for children.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things or IoT, in short, enables a seamless connection between multiple devices. In a broader sense, everyday devices contain sensors and stream data to and from the Internet.

Ironically, many IoT devices like baby monitors and smart toys have gone from a way to protect children to devices that could put them at significant risk.

Regulatory bodies are continuously making efforts to impose safety standards on manufacturers of such devices and toys. These regulations call for stronger protocols and encryption and more options available in parental controls so that parents can filter out questionable content and the amount or nature of data being collected.

Using apps that sync across devices, parents can access and control many of these devices from a distance. This is greatly beneficial for monitoring which data is being exchanged, through which channels, and ensuring that sensitive data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands (or ears). It makes it easy for parents and educators to keep an eye on children’s activities both online and offline.

User and Entity Behavior Analytics

Online parenting forums are awash with hacking incidents where passwords and usernames fall into the wrong hands. Once a hacker gains access to your account or device, they can waltz in and do as they please.

Unfortunately, not all breaches are detected fast enough to prevent damage or data leaks. This is especially problematic if personal data of children are involved.

In the future, such incidents should create less worry for parents, though.

One of the latest advancements in cybersecurity is User Behavior Analytics (UBA). The technology uses data analytics to identify anomalous user behavior and alerts administrators about suspicious activities.

UBA uses machine learning technologies to “learn” about a user’s normal and regular activity pattern. It can then differentiate between a legitimate user’s activity and an attacker who has gained entry by compromising log-in credentials if these activities don’t fit the norm of the legitimate user.

While UBA is still only in the realm of large organizations, its ability to quickly detect and respond to unusual activities in places that children frequently visit makes it a viable solution for minimizing future data breaches and leaks.

Multifactor Authentication

Many applications, websites, and devices use Multifactor Authentication or MFA in short, to improve account security and protect against identity theft. Technically, MFA refers to any system where a user must use at least two authentication forms to access a device, an application, or a website.

If your children use devices or applications, you’ll find MFA handy. Immediately after you log into a device with your username and password, the account server will prompt you to provide a second and independent authentication form.

It’s more or less what happens when bank security asks to see your social security card even though your funds are already secure.

MFA’s concept is that it’s difficult to pretend you’re someone you’re not when you have to prove who you are in different ways repeatedly.

If you’re monitoring how often your child uses a device, MFA will make it hard for your child to use the device even after getting their hands on the device without your approval. Most importantly, it will help keep out those that shouldn’t have access to it in the first place.

AI and ML

AI, along with IoT and other emerging technologies like ML, are continuing to change how we use the Internet. Nearly all modern devices that enter the market are IoT enabled. This includes not only smartphones but also TVs and gaming consoles, as well as almost all Virtual Reality gaming setups.

Together, these technologies are shaping a safer Internet environment for children. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning come complete with advanced language processing abilities. That means that unsafe content can easily be filtered out.

As an example, such technology enables fast image processing that analyses the content of the image and then interferes before a child can see it.

Recently, Instagram updated its filters to remove comments intended to upset or harass its users automatically. The new filter hides negative comments about a person’s character, appearance, and any other content that poses a threat to a user’s physical health and well-being.

Wrap Up

The Internet is an exciting place, but is it really safe? Can you, as a parent, allow your children to use it unsupervised? The answer is probably a resounding no. There are apps available to monitor internet activity in your home and on your child’s phone. 

Online safety is a continuous battle that never ends. Malicious attacks, inappropriate content, and data theft methods continue to evolve along with the technologies intended to prevent them.

So what can a busy parent do? The answer lies in taking advantage of tech trends designed to prevent malicious content from showing up in searches.

Using safe environments such as Safe Search for Kids, YouTube Kids, and implementing all available mechanisms to filter out inappropriate content on devices is a start. Tech progress and trends like some of these mentioned here will contribute to making the Internet a safer place for kids.

About the author:

Ashley WilsonAshley Wilson is a digital nomad and writer for hire, specialized in business and tech topics. In her self-care time, she practices yoga via Youtube. She has been known to reference movies in casual conversation and enjoys trying out new food. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.