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The Internet can be a tricky place to navigate. In fact, I wrote a blog about some of the dangers the Internet can pose to our kids. And with the rise in social media and iphones, it seems like danger is always at their fingertips.
Because my husband and I are raising 3 boys, we felt it was important to protect them from cyber bullying, pornography and sexual predators, so we did a lot of research to decide which software would be best. There are hundreds of different apps and filtering software that can help you filter out adult content and track your child’s social media presence, but choosing one can be overwhelming.
I’ve compiled a short list of both free and paid apps, software and services that can be used to filter the internet on your child’s phone, computer or tablet. These are all companies that either my family or someone I know has used and found helpful and I hope they will help you too. A lot of the services these companies provide are similar, so do a little research and determine which one best suits your family needs and your budget:
If you have an iPhone, you can enable Family Sharing and this will allow you to control what apps your child can install on their phone. Why is this necessary? Because the app store has over 2.2 million apps available. Apple reviews these apps and does not allow explicit adult content onto it’s store, but there are still many apps that contain content that may be inappropriate for your child.
We feel it is important to know what apps our kids are installing on their phone. Setting up Family Sharing allows you to use the Ask to Buy feature. Once this is set up, when your child wants an app, you receive an alert on your phone and will enter a password to approve the download.
If that seems a little too involved, the iPhone also has an option to enable restrictions to limit the apps your child can install based on age ratings established by Apple. There are also settings to limit access to movies, TV shows, music and books based on age ratings as well. To access Restrictions, go to Settings>General>Restrictions, tap Enable Restrictions at the top of the screen and set up a pin. You can then scroll down and set up allowed content based on age rating, and there are options to remove access to certain apps on the iPhone.
Family Sharing has a number of other benefits, including the ability to share purchased apps, shows and movies among family members (so you only have to pay for them once), track your child’s location, and purchase a family membership to Apple Music.
If you have a PC, this is a FREE program that you can sign up for. Each child gets their own account that they can personalize. You set the limits and permissions on what they can see and you can control their screen time. Once a week, you receive an email with a list of all the websites your child has visited and what they’ve searched for. We love this feature, because it helps to keep our kids accountable. They know that we will see what they’ve searched for and what sites they’ve visited. As a bonus, if you have an Xbox, Microsoft Family Safety also keeps track of screen time and games they’ve played.
I don’t know about your kids, but mine spend most of their screen time watching YouTube videos. It’s replaced TV shows! And while they love to search for funny cat videos or watch clips of their favorite sports star, one wrong search could land them on a channel that is not appropriate.
YouTube does offer a Restricted Mode. On your computer, scroll to the very bottom of the page, you will see Restricted Mode and when you turn it on, it will hide videos with inappropriate content. To do this on their phone, just click on the icon in the top right corner and then select Settings. There will be an option there for Restricted Mode filtering.
The MamaBear app is FREE to download for IOS and Android devices and it is used to monitor your child’s phone, but not the computer. MamaBear lets you link your child’s social media accounts to the app on your phone, so that you can monitor things they post and who they follow. You can also put in keywords and if they search for those words, you get a notification.
MamaBear has location services, so you can receive alerts when your child arrives at school or at a friend’s house. There is also a driving monitor which is helpful for teen drivers. You set a max mph speed and if they exceed it, you are notified. We activated this for my son and I got an alert that he was going over 70 mph….but the alert came when he was in the car with me and I was driving. Oops! MamaBear does monitor text messages, but only on Android devices
Mobicip is the software that we use for our boys. It can be used for phones, tablets, Mac or PC and can be used on multiple devices. There is a free version or a paid version, with the paid version starting at $39.99 a year. Mobicip acts as a filter for the Internet and YouTube. Instead of having Safari or the YouTube app, your child will have the Mobicip app, which will act as the Internet and as YouTube. It blocks all adult content. Depending on whether you have the free or paid version, Mobicip lets you view browsing history, monitor apps and set a time limit on when your child can use their cell phone or computer.
This software can be used on any device: phone, tablet and PC or Mac. The cost varies depending on the number of devices you will be monitoring, but it starts at $39.00 per year for one device. Net Nanny lets you set up a separate profile for each child, block apps like Snapchat, receive alerts if adult content is found and manage their screen time. Another helpful feature of Net Nanny is a dashboard, which shows how many websites were blocked, as well as the most common categories blocked (mature content, nudity, tobacco, etc).
Similar to Mobicip and Net Nanny, Qustodio monitors phones, tablets and PC or Mac computers and they have free or paid versions. The free version only covers one user and device. There are several options for the paid version, the cheapest being $54.95 per year for 5 users and devices. One service offered by Qustodio that the others don’t have is a panic alert button, which lets your child send their location with the touch of one button.
Hopefully this list of filtering softwares will get you started on your search to keep your family safe online. According to Guard Child, only 15% of parents are aware of their child’s social media habits and only 1/3 of households with Internet access are using some type of software to protect their children when they’re online.
Don’t be one of those homes! Keep your kids safe on their phones and online.
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