The number one question parents ask me is “What tools should I use to keep my child safe online?”
First, use this free app called Bark-o-matic. It will ask specific questions about your kids’ technology use, then give customized recommendations for safety in the various platforms. Are you kidding?!? So good! DO THIS NOW!
If you’re looking for an overview of what I recommend, keep reading. I’ve researched the options, talked to many companies, tried several and determined what’s best right now and hopefully, that means I’ll save you some time.
There are two different issues, really. One is preventative, keeping the internet on appropriate sites and limiting the time spent online, and that’s really about parental control. The other is crisis management, and that’s about having your child’s behavior online visible, so you know when to engage as a parent.
My recommendations for filtering and limiting the internet (Parental Controls)
- Manage every device on your existing home network.
- Filter internet content
- Put an overall Time Limit on screens or a separate Time Limit for a specific app
- Set a BedTime for every family member–weekends and weekdays are separate
- Pause the internet
Did you hear what I just said? You will have the God-like ability to PAUSE THE INTERNET.
Chores not done?
“Whoopsie! Since our family agreement says chores before online fun, you’ve just lost access to the internet. Would you like to earn it back?”
(insert evil laugh)
Ready to sign up? I thought so!
- Circle is the physical box that connects to your router and keeps kids protected while on your home network (wi-fi). If you need help installing it, the customer service is good and there’s a phone number to call. If you need to ask questions about your service, again, just a quick phone call and your question gets answered.
- Circle Go is the monthly subscription that protects kids while using data (instead of your home wi-fi). Circle Go takes all the profile settings that you created for your family’s devices at home on the Circle, and extends those features to every network on your family’s iphone and Android devices.
*** Don’t forget–you need both products to work together before you’re effectively filtering and limiting screen time on wi-fi and on data plans.
My recommendation for monitoring your child’s behavior online (Online visibility)
It’s easy to correct your child when you see them doing something dangerous in real life (“Quit skateboarding through the house, Johnny!”) But it’s impossible to correct you child’s online behavior, unless you’re already aware of the issue. Online behavior is mostly invisible.
What you need is a way to become the guard rails for your child’s explorations online. You need to interfere only when they bump up against the guard rail. Other than that, they have privacy and freedom.
I wholeheartedly recommend Bark (affiliate link). They have amazing customer service, they let kids have their privacy except when there’s a safety risk, and you get a window into what your child is doing that may be inappropriate, without all the extra details you really don’t need.
It’s a monthly subscription for the family (you don’t pay based on the number of kids covered) and took me about 30 minutes to set up for my 3 kids.
Bark monitors over 20 apps and text messages (it’s always expanding) and they’re focused on the apps that are popular with kids. Here is the current list.
Bark scans your child’s accounts 24/7 and delivers alerts via text and email when it detects possible issues such as threats of violence, bullying, content that’s sexual, inappropriate language and drug references. Yes, they know all the latest acronyms. Yes, they monitor photos and text.
Other Ways to Limit, Filter and Monitor
Of course, there are other tools to protect your kids online. You should do some research to decide what’s right for your family.
Here are some other places to look:
- Antivirus software usually comes with a family protection tool
- Google Family Link has basic protections for free
- Google Play Store has parental settings for free
- iPhones have parental settings for free
- Cell phone providers like Verizon have family protection plans available for subscription