Digital Safety: The Case Against Overreliance on Parental Controls
Kids love their smartphones and the Internet. However, some observers see this as an unhealthy obsession that is taking over kids’ minds and life completely. It’s hard to disagree with the latter notion. Technology has indeed become an integral part of the youth culture, so much that the youngsters of today are living two lives simultaneously, real and virtual. Just as the real world is plagued with dangers that kids need to be protected from, the virtual world has its own fair share of threats that need to be acknowledged, addressed, and moderated on an urgent basis and without any half-baked measures.
A lot of parents have gone for the most obvious and perhaps convenient solution, i.e. iPhone and Android parental control apps. Although parental controls have proven to be an effective defense against digital threats, relying solely on them for kids’ online safety is unwise. This sure comes off as a strange assertion, but certainly not one without merit.
Here’s a quick run-through of why leaving kids’ digital safety to parental control tools alone is a bad idea.
Parental Controls Have Limitations
Let’s not take anything away from parental control solutions. They are an advanced technology, capable of offering powerful online protection through a vast array of monitoring, blocking, and reporting features. Their protective capabilities extend from mobile communications and chat apps to social networking sites, emails, and even offline where they are able to provide information on a child’s whereabouts.
It is important to remember that parental control tools rely on Internet connectivity to carry out most of their functions. Without an Internet connection, they are unable to transmit logged data and monitoring reports to the online server from where parents can access them.
Additionally, their protection is limited to the device they are installed on. When kids are accessing the web through another device, there is nothing shielding them from potential threats.
Last but not the least, there are still a lot that parental control apps cannot do. For example, they cannot log a child’s web browsing history in Incognito mode. Similarly, they cannot prevent cyberbullies and online predators from reaching them. Yes, they can raise a timely red flag but they can’t prevent the contact from being made entirely.
Kids are Intelligent Beings Too
Upon deploying technological solutions, a lot of parents sit back and relax, thinking that their job is done. What they do not realize is that kids have a brain too. The moment they begin to feel uneasy about having their mobile communications and Internet activities monitored, or disapprove of having their online freedom curtailed, they start searching for a workaround. They often don’t result until they successfully figure out a way to bypass parental control protection or disable it completely. The biggest mistake that a lot of parents tend to make is that they underestimate what their youngsters are capable of. Kids certainly have the capability to outsmart anyone and anything, whether an older individual or some advanced technology.
Progression of Parental Controls is a Reactive Process
Parental control apps have come a long way since they first broke into the scene. With an ever-increasing arsenal of powerful features, their scope of protection has expanded significantly. However, one must remain mindful of the fact that the improvements and advancements in parental controls have come due to a response of a detection of threats. A threat is normally detected only when it has caused quite a bit of havoc. Basically, developers of parental control solutions are usually playing catch-up, reacting to threats rather than proactively curbing them. As a result, parental control apps cannot be blindly and entirely trusted with the task of keeping kids safe from new and relatively unknown digital threats. Developers require a bit of time to detect new threats and integrate an effective defense into their tool. Until they roll out the necessary updates, which can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or even months, kids cannot be left at the mercy of the new threats. Someone needs to step up and do something to shield them, and that someone has to be none other than parents.