Navigating Parental Control in the Age of Social Broadcasting and Mobile Streaming
The old days were golden. I am talking about two to three decades ago when families gathered for some television time and viewed legendary family programs such as; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Full House, Everybody Loves Raymond etc. Also in many ways, the 80’s and 90’s were a simpler time and control over television time, internet sessions and what media kids could view was absolute. With a simple parental lock, you could ensure that your kids could not access media forms above their age grade. But with the age of digitization and IoT, drawing a line using parental control tools has become blurred.
The days were using one parental control tool to protect kids from viewing certain media forms a long gone. And this is due to the rise of smart devices, mobile internet access and the use of home video systems. Statistics show that 56% of teenage population own smartphones and 91% of kids now access the internet through mobile devices. Thereby making that archaic parental control software you installed on the home PC virtually ineffective. This raises the question on how parents can safeguard their kids in the age of incognito browsing and VPN access.
Choosing a Smart Device for Kids
Once you have decided that your kid is ready to have his or her own smartphone, the next step is deciding which operating system gives you more control over how the device is used. The two major operating systems you are bound to cover are; Android or iOS powered devices and here are the defining features to consider:
- Security Features: the ability to restrict access to certain parts, apps and features of a smartphone is generally determined by the operating system. In the Apple ecosystem; adult content can be restricted from loading on the Safari internet browser, media streaming apps can be limited to working with only Wi-Fi. While on Android; restriction on downloading apps with adult content and blocking app purchases from Play Store are ways to restrict a user’s access.
- Access to Internet: with both Android and iOS devices, access to the internet via mobile data can be restricted while allowing Wi-Fi access.
These features provide you with in-built parental control tools which can be initiated directly from a phone’s settings.
Restricting Access to Streaming Services
Today, all the major digital media streaming services—Amazon, YouTube, Netflix etc. — offer mobile apps that enable users stream contents on the go. This means at any time, your kids could access video materials not appropriate for their age. Thankfully, there are in-built age restriction features, provided by these services that you can employ in limiting access. They include:
- On Netflix—four maturity levels that can be applied to the profile of viewers. These are; little kids, older kids, teens, and Adults.
- On Amazon—selected audience category feature allows you restrict access to your kids. These settings include; General, Family, Teen, Mature.
- YouTube—here, simply downloading the YouTube app for kids while restricting access to store apps restrict its streamed content.
Internet Security Services
As with most industries, IoT, social broadcasting and mobile streaming have birthed supporting industries to help manage and grow their ecosystem. The internet security and access restriction industry is one such industry built to clean up the internet when using these devices. There are diverse security tools—Norton, DinnerTime, Ooma etc.—that have been built with the sole purpose of securing internet usage as well as for monitoring how individual devices use the internet. These tools provide an all-inclusive parental control system that can:
- Block websites and links that are seen as security threats
- Restrict access to search engines while allowing only age appropriate materials to filter through
- Customize your kid’s access by placing blocks on certain websites and the contents associated with them.
As adult guardians, the responsibility of safeguarding a kid’s access to the World Wide Web and how he or she uses this privilege falls squarely on your shoulders. Applying the above techniques as a means to deter truant behaviour or protect your kid’s internet space from intruding content is recommended. These three tips were provided as complimentary ideas which can be simultaneously employed to ensure you navigate the issue of setting effective restrictions in the digital age.