As a mom of three kids, it’s always been in the back of my mind to supervise and monitor usage of their devices. The timing of usage was our primary concern, as we didn’t want to have children with too much “screen time” — as experts warn against. So we restricted their use of electronics during the week. With a keen eye towards being aware of apps that were being downloaded, total control over the movies they watch and discussions over what they are and are not allowed to text or email to friends, I thought I was doing a good job of monitoring usage. The one thing I completely failed to do was to properly lock down their ability to roam free on something as seemingly innocuous as Google Chrome or Safari. My kids still have early bedtimes and watch G/PG movies and our conversations around the birds and the bees (for my two older girls) have centered around the American Girl book series on those topics. You get the idea, it’s been a G-rated experience thus far. The idea that my youngest – the one who I hadn’t yet even had the “talk” with – would stumble upon completely inappropriate content before I even had the chance to explain things hadn’t crossed my mind. Mostly because his usual usage was in the controlled environment of apps that we had approved and downloaded. On a playdate, he was introduced to a popular game that is played on a web browser (agario) about six months ago. Without realizing the change, he had gone from controlled access within apps to completely uncontrolled free access to the internet — because we didn’t stop at that moment and lock it all down. From that moment the controls of my sheltered household were gone and inappropriate content was viewed, much to my dismay. Since I know my demographic of readers — and I have both moms and grandmothers following the blog, I thought I would share a few simple tips for putting basic controls in place to prevent this from happening.
First, if your children or grandchildren have access to an iPod, iPad, iPhone or other iOS device, go into the Settings -> General -> Restrictions. Click “Enable Restrictions” and there you can control their access. You will be able to create a restrictions passcode that only you will know. I turned off Safari for my youngest, so that he doesn’t even have access to search the internet at this time. I also turned off Facetime. Under “Allowed Content”, I set the level of ratings for things he can see. I turned Music, Podcasts and News to “Clean” (explicit items are banned), Movies and TV Shows, I turned to a rating no higher than PG and put further controls in place. For my oldest daughter, I allowed Safari but put controls in place to limit her access. Websites I restricted to “Limit Adult Content” and you can put even more detailed information on actual websites that are allowed or not allowed. You can also turn location services off if you need to do that for some reason.
Second, if you do have a family computer where it is necessary to use web browsers – you can either create a unique user with a separate login for your kids and have limited access that way, or you can put additional controls in place on your actual browser. For example, on Google Chrome you can go to https://www.google.com/preferences and turn SafeSearch on. There are also Google Chrome extensions that you can add to your Chrome browsers to add additional filters. For example, I have added WebFilter Pro to further control access to nasty stuff. For Safari, you can go into your desktop computer Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Parental Controls. After entering your computer administrator password (that you set up when you got the computer) you can go in and limit app and web content. Once you are done, click the lock icon again. Be aware of any additional browsers that they have access to and do similar lockdowns. Monitor use of apps, be sure your child’s accounts are private and monitor followers. Good luck!