The following is adapted from First Time Coders.
With the internet, the world—good, bad, and ugly—is at our fingertips and at our children’s fingertips. Online, our children can be exposed to harmful content for too easily.
For instance, there has been a recent influx of adult content masquerading as children’s content, like adult-themed parodies of Peppa Pig where cartoon characters are shown drinking bleach or being violently beheaded.
Other content may not be as explicitly harmful but can still do much damage by instilling habits of passive consumption, where children zone out in front of a screen, playing mindless games or absorbing monotonous content.
As parents, we want to keep our children safe online and help them build good screen habits, but we don’t always know how to do that. Fortunately, there are great software tools available to help monitor and block harmful content as well as manage screen time. Let’s take a look at six popular tools that can help you protect your kids online.
Tools for Monitoring and Blocking Content
Circle Home is a device that pairs with your Wi-Fi router and allows you to manage every device on your network. By choosing age categories (Pre-K; Kid; Teen; and Adult, for parents who want to monitor their own screen time), Circle Home allows you to get very specific with controls, including setting bedtime, off time, rewards, enabling or disabling certain websites and apps after a certain amount of time (e.g., 45 minutes of Minecraft).
Cost: $99 for hardware
#2: Net Nanny
Net Nanny is an all-around monitoring service for households with multiple devices across different platforms (iOS, Android). Net Nanny comes with its own browser that masks profanity and blocks inappropriate sites and images. You set the filters in the admin panel, which lets you easily “block” or “mask” mature content. You can also set a content filter to “warn” instead of block, which lets children access content only after a Net Nanny pop-up reminds them of the warning.
Cost: Paid plans start at $39.99 for one license
Qustodio allows users to manage devices on multiple platforms and detailed app management features, making it suitable for households with many devices. In addition to granular time control for specific apps and websites—for example: 30 minutes on Minecraft on Mondays—it can monitor texts, provide history of locations, and more.
Cost: Paid plans starts at $55 a year
Tools for Managing Screen Time
RescueTime monitors websites and applications used, and how much time is spent on or in each of them. You can categorize each app and site you use on a Productive/Unproductive scale, and RescueTime generates a few basic reports showing how you spend your time. Lite members can set weekly goals, such as “spend X hours per week on productive tasks and fewer than Y minutes on unproductive items.” You can get a weekly report emailed to you.
The free version, RescueTime Lite, has a three months’ reports history, while the pro version offers functionalities including blocking distracting sites.
The Moment app allows you to keep track of your own time (and set limits), or keep track of those in your household with Moment Family. The app logs actions like how many times you’ve picked up your phone, which apps are most frequently used, and of course, how much overall time is spent on the phone. It also allows you to set time limits and even turn off devices for ‘Family Dinner Time.’ It comes with a free version with individual usage, and $15 for three months of family usage.
unGlue is a cross-platform software that works on iOS and Android smartphones as well as tablets and computers. The software allows you to set time parameters on each device and even gets as granular as how much time is allowed for social media, gaming, videos, etc. Parents can set time limits for overall activity categories, for example one hour of ‘Entertainment Time’ per day, while kids can decide how they want to spend that. Kids can also save unused time and also earn more time if they complete special chores (if you choose to grant it).
Building Healthy Screen Habits
With these technological tools, we can shield our children from harmful content and teach them to be conscious of how much time they spend on their devices. In this way, we can help them learn to self-regulate their screen time and build healthy screen habits as they mature.
For more advice on how to monitor and manage your kids’ screen usage, you can find First Time Coders on Amazon.