It seems that everywhere you look today, kids have phones. You must take action to keep them safe. In fact, 76% of teens surveyed have a phone! Have you finally given in and procured a phone for your child? If not, the time will come and you will need this information just like the rest of us who have surrendered to the device that becomes a part of the child’s life, just like it has ours!
I have installed, tested and tried most of the ‘safety’ software that is available. There are many, many options and some of them are more mature and robust than others.
- Kaspersky Safe Kids – I liked this one becuase of the timer that it shared and it didn’t force the use of a VPN. What I didn’t like was that the timer was simply a notification. Soon, my kids just ignored the notificatoin and the timer had no value.
- Qustodio – My main complaint with this tool was it’s use of a VPN. I’ll explain more about that later.
- UKnow Kids – I have tested this primarly for tracking iMessage activity, but it has been spotty at best. The security issues with Apple have made their product, which is fantastic in concept, not helpful at this point.
- NetNanny – While I haven’t tried it, the VPN was a no for me.
- Norton 360 – I haven’t tried this one, but I wasn’t a fan of the features or how it worked.
Teens & Porn – Check out these Stats from Covenant Eyes
These stats were shocking to me! At the same time, it made me realize that I needed to take action and I need to make sure I know what is going on with my children’s phones. Don’t wait until you are dealing with issue’s you wish you weren’t.
The Minimum Requirements
My recommendation of what you need to be able to protect and secure are the following:
- Ability to lock down the browser, like Safari, so that you can control and limit what the child is searching for on the internet. Specifically, I wanted to be able to lock down certain keyword phrases or words that they couldn’t search for. Most of the tools out there, just allow you to block categories and not keywords.
- Control of the time that the phone can be used and shutoff times, like at night where the phone can’t be used.
- No VPN. Many of the tools install a Virtual Private Network on the phone. With this technology, all of the traffic for any app that the phone uses is routed through the VPN. My epxerience of the VPN’s were that they were much slower than our home network. I didn’t want to take away speed just to control the device.
I was not able to find one tool that met the 3 requirements outlined above. My solution is to use 2 services. One service that controls the usage of the phone, the other than gives me more control of what they search for on the interent.
OurPact is the best tool that I found that allows full control of the device withOUT using a VPN. This was one of my key requirements. You can set a timer and limit the child to only 2 hours a day or you can set schedules, so that they don’t have access to their phone during dinner or during school hours. And if you purchase the premium support, you can even control what apps are available all the time and which ones via a schedule. For example, I allow them the kindle app all the time, but Messages and games are locked down by schedules. The support they provide is excellent. They also have a basic web filtering feature, but it doesn’t have all the controls that I needed, so I use Mobicip for that.
Mobicip wins the race for internet safety with their keyword search blocking. This allows you to block any word that you want. If they search for that word, they receive a notice that the content is blocked. You can also whitelist sites and blacklist sites, which is super helpful when some of the general categories block sites like a school study site for some odd reason. This service works by replacing the browser on your child’s phone and you can also install a filter on a Mac computer, so that the browsing security is secured everywhere.
Have an iPhone/iPad?
The iPhone and iPad with iOS have some excellent parental control features built into the phone under Settings, General, Restrictions. You should definitely turn these on and explore the options, espeically preventing them from in app purchases, TV ratings and movie Ratings. The other feature that Apple offers is the concept of family members where you can add the children and require them to have all of their purchases approved. You will be shocked at the apps that other parents allow their children to download and use. Don’t be that parent that let’s them do whatever. Keep them safe and keep the content on their phones age appropriate.
Do Your Own Research
Knowing what your child is doing on their phone is paramount to maintaing a healthy safe relationship with them as they learn to use technology. Some search terms to look for are:
- Parental Control Software for iOS/Android
- Parental Controls
- How to Secure Phones for Children
Be sure to have a solution in mind BEFORE you purchase the phone. I tested and tried all the solutions above on my children’s iPad’s and old phones before they had a ‘real’ phone. I wanted to know that I would have the control that I wanted and they would have the flexibility and freedom that they desired.