How to Find (And Use) the Net’s Best Parental Controls
Why Do You Need Parental Controls?
Ah, the internet. Creator of opportunities! Boundless fountain of knowledge! Window to a world beyond your borders!
… And home both to some seriously unsavory individuals and the most messed-up content that you can never un-see.
Yes, just like the real world, there are many dark, scary pockets of the old World Wide Web. But unlike those sinister elements of the real world, when you plug in your router, you essentially invite them into your home and leave them lying around for your kids to discover.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Here’s the trouble. Broadly speaking, there are two major threats you need to keep your kids safe from: stuff you don’t want them to see and people you don’t want them exposed to.
While younger kids might be the most upset by stumbling across nasty content, the likelihood is that they will do this by accident. That makes it relatively easy to prevent, as we’ll talk about in a moment. Your teenagers, on the other hand, are another breed entirely.
The biggest issue here is that teenagers want to dabble with new ideas, behavior and relationships – and they are secretive about it. It’s an inevitable part of growing up. But it also means they may actively use the internet to have conversations and make connections that could be dangerous, and which they keep hidden from you.
If they are too trusting, or if they don’t take steps to protect themselves, this could put them at risk of both emotional and physical harm – and you might not know about it until it’s too late.
What Can You Do About It?
Okay, enough with the doom and gloom. The upside of the Internet is that, unlike the real world, there are plenty of ways to sift and monitor what comes out of Pandora’s Box. With the right parental controls, you can win back your peace of mind.
Talk Me Through the Options…
First up, there’s access to content. As I said before, stopping your kids from finding inappropriate stuff by accident is easy enough and, at a basic level, you can even get some of these tools for free.
Start with your web browsers. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome and the like all offer built-in parental controls that can help you filter out anything you don’t want your kids to see. Specific sites like YouTube also allow you to restrict certain types of content.
These are quick fixes for young, non-tech-savvy kids, but they are pretty easy to circumvent. In the long term, and for older children and teenagers, it’s best to invest in antivirus software that comes with comprehensive parental controls built in.
What to Look For
Let’s get down to details. When it comes to parental controls in your internet security or anti-virus suite, you should look for three things: centralized control of all devices, social media protection and limiting purchases.
Why centralized control? Well, most kids and teens today spend far more time on their phones or tablets than an actual computer/laptop. So, if you really want to keep them safe, you need to be able to apply all your parental controls from one dashboard. This means you can keep them safe from the nasty stuff on all devices without demanding to see their phones – which will definitely damage trust and lead to a fight!
Second, social media protection means you can prevent fraudsters and other predatory strangers from approaching your kids via Facebook and similar sites. Some AV software will even scan messages for threatening or inappropriate content, helping you to make sure your kids aren’t the victim of cyberbullying or intimidation.
And lastly, limiting purchases helps you protect both your family and your wallet, by ensuring that they can’t spend a small fortune (either deliberately or accidentally) on things like in-app purchases and online shopping sites using your cards.
Where to Get It
There are tons of awesome internet security suites on the market with comprehensive parental controls built in, and it’s worth perusing some of the top options on our site. Depending on what you’re looking for, two that really stand out are BullGuard, which offers Facebook content scanning, and Intego, which gives you the added bonus of monitoring and limiting internet usage.
Ready to make your mind up? Check out these great AV packages with parental controls >>