In this era of invasive tech, kids get to interact with gadgets galore at a very young age, can navigate most of them (especially the handy ones like smartphones or tablets) and also learn to surf and download. Gadgets are great learning tools, but they also provide access to the Web's endless flow of information and entertainment, which could be both addictive and dangerous (think of binge gaming, life-threatening games like the Blue Whale Challenge or rising child abuse on the Internet). So, digital-age parents have a formidable responsibility - that of keeping their children safe from inappropriate content, malicious trolls and outright predators. One way of doing it is to keep gadgets (and the Internet) off-limits. If that is not practicable, go for the next best thing - make gadget rules and use technology to implement them. There is a bunch of tech tools out there that can provide all the help you need - right from managing the devices your children use to limiting access to generating activity reports.
Let us start with Apple's iPad, one of the most popular tools among kids as interactive content makes learning fun and easy. But instead of worrying all the time what the child could be doing, set up parental control to stay safe. From September onwards, you can download Apple's iOS 12 that comes with a Screen Time feature and monitors your kids' activities, be it website visits, app usage or overall device time. It will work better if the child has an iCloud account. Under Family Sharing, you can add that account to your iOS device and thereafter, will get an approval request every time an app is purchased.
You can also set 'downtime' under Family Sharing, and apps cannot be accessed during that specified period. When you set up App Limits, you can choose from a number of options such as All Apps and Categories, Social Networking, Games and more. When the child reaches the limit you have set, the app will stop working. He/she can request more screen time for which you will get a notification on your device. You can either ignore it or grant more time, much like what your parents did with TV watching. Content and Privacy Restrictions can also be used to determine the websites your child can visit. This new feature gives you access to activity report right on your iOS device so that you know what is keeping your child occupied. Those using iOS 11 can go to Settings to enable these controls and turn off app usage, installation, deletion and in-app purchase. You can also restrict website access or create your list of red flags.
Apple is not the only company providing online security. Google, too, has a Parental Control option that can be set up via Play Store Settings and Android users should try it. When you set it up for the first time, it will ask you to enter a personal identification number. Once turned on, it can be used to restrict downloads and purchases from the Play Store. Plus, you can restrict content based on age appropriateness. For instance, apps and games are rated for 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+ age groups. For movies, you can select from U (most restrictive), UA, A, S or all. Access to music can be cut off if it is marked 'explicit'. Google's Family Link app offers a more extensive control where a parent can approve/block app download, manage screen time and check up on how often the child is on his/her favourite apps. With this app, you can lock the child's device or hide specific apps whenever it is time to play, study, eat or sleep. The app was released last year but is not available in India yet.
If your children use your smartphone or tablet for gaming, surfing or clicking pictures, you can create a guest profile for them or a second space with restrictive access. It will prevent them from accessing the data on your device and give you control of the content they are accessing.
Windows 10 devices also allow parents to determine what applications their children can use, what websites they can visit and how much time they can spend. These can also track activity and even locate kids by tracking device locations. Parental controls can be turned on by clicking Windows Defender Security Center/Family Options or from Settings/Accounts. Create and add your child's account to Family and click on View Family Settings (same path as above). Now log in using your Microsoft account and the web page will show the child's profile as well as data on activity, web browsing, screen time and more. Using these, you can disable InPrivate browsing, block access to inappropriate websites, give permission to selective sites and control spending on purchases. For older version of Windows devices, there is a Family Safety option on the Control Panel.