By Julie Myhre, NextAdvisor.com
It is getting harder and harder to keep track of what our kids do when they are on the Internet, am I right? With one in four teens now being “cell-mostly” Internet users, they have access to the Internet almost anywhere they go. That’s why more parents are finding new ways to monitor their kids’ devices. Around 42 percent of parents have Google’d their child’s name to see what information is available on them and 50 percent of parents say they have installed parental controls on their children’s devices.
These parental controls shield our children from things that we don’t find appropriate for our children. But parents often face the dilemma of whether they should or should not tell their child about the parental controls. Here are some things to consider when deciding if you should or should not inform your child of parental controls.
Are there ways to set controls without your children knowing?
If you choose to not disclose parental controls to your children, make sure you set them so your children won’t know. How you stealthily set your parental controls of course depends on the technology that you want to control. “For instance, based on multiple unique identifiers (MAC addresses, IP address, etc.) you can block Internet access based on time of day, you can block websites and much more,” Ken Myers, president of Morningside Nannies, said. “Some routers even allow you to block types of sites like social media, sites with adult content, and others that you do not want your kids to access.”
RELATED What is a Reasonable Curfew?
Are you obligated to disclose controls?
Technically, you’re not obligated to tell your children that you’ve set parental controls. However, if you choose not to tell your children about the controls, know that there are certain situations when your children will have access to the Internet and you won’t be there to control it. Myers said he is a strong believer in telling your children about parental controls because it’s important to explain to your kids why you don’t want them exposed to certain media.
“This is really important because there will be places your kids go (friends’ houses, the local Starbucks, etc.) where you cannot enforce the same parental controls,” he said. “They need to know what you want them to avoid and why in order to make good choices for themselves.”
At what age should you talk to your children about technology?
Technology is such a large part of our everyday lives that it’s rather difficult to decide when is the “right time” to discuss technology with your children. Myers said there probably isn’t an age that is too early to introduce children to technology and parental controls. “I think what varies is more how much you have to tell the children as they age,” he said. “When a child is a toddler you really don't need to do anything other than apply the blocks. As they get older and more involved with various devices (meep's, iPads, iTouch, etc.) you have to communicate and educate them more about the dangers of various technologies.”
RELATED Secret Benefits of Video Games
Ways to approach technology and media
Think of the ways that you allow your child to access media, whether it is on a cell phone, television, computer or tablet. Do your children have a television or computer in their room? Michelle LaRowe, editor in chief of eNannySource.com and executive director of Morningside Nannies, said that parents should keep technology that accesses media in common areas of the home.
“I think some of the most ‘practical’ controls are keeping media out in the public,” she said. “For example, computers in the main areas, no televisions in bedrooms, teaching proper usage, set expectations and communicating from the get go that, ‘These are mine and you are using them.’”
LaRowe said that parents should make it very clear that the media gadgets belong to the parents and that the children are only borrowing them. “As such, as parents and owners, we have the right to ‘police usage,’ set parental controls and set expectations and rules for use,” she said. “These things are privileges not rights.”
So should you, or shouldn’t you?
Essentially the decision is completely up to you. The most important thing to remember is that parental controls are set to protect your child. However, if you only set them at home then what’s protecting your child when they go to a friend’s home? Parents can choose to use parental controls as a teaching tool instead of a censoring tool — this could help create an open conversation between parent and child.
Myers thinks parents need to identify what they want to limit their children from seeing and plan accordingly. He encourages parents to make a list of possible harmful media and work from that list. He stresses,“I am a big believer in this whole area being a personal decision that parents should get informed about and then decide based upon their moral code.”
Julie is a NextAdvisor Content Manager who covers identity theft, VoIP, virtual phone, online college, photo cards, parental controls and people search. She has experience writing for the Silicon Valley Business Journal and as an editor of her college's daily paper. She is a graduate of San Jose State University, and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.