The Importance of Parental Controls in a Digital Age
So your child has been gifted a brand-new gadget! While these gadgets offer many educational and entertainment opportunities, they also bring up concerns for parents regarding screen time, online safety, and content control.
Finding a healthy balance between screen time and other activities can be tricky. Let’s delve into the world of parental controls, understand how to use them effectively, and figure out reasonable screen time limits for your child’s new device.
Understanding Parental Controls:
Parental controls are a valuable tool available on most devices and apps, and they are designed to help parents manage what content their children can access. They allow you to restrict certain websites, apps, or content categories that might be inappropriate for certain age groups. Children are naturally curious and even the most innocent web search could lead to not-so-innocent results! Parental controls also enable you to set time limits on usage, restrict downloads, and monitor online activity.
It is recommended that parental controls are set up for:
- Mobile phones, tablets, and computers
- Home Internet
- Games consoles
- Film, music, and TV subscriptions such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, etc
- Social media
Setting Up Parental Controls
Each device and platform will have different methods for activating parental controls. For instance, on iOS devices like iPhones and iPads, parents can use ‘Screen Time’ in Settings to manage app usage, set time limits, and restrict certain content. Android devices offer similar functionalities through Google Family Link.
Gaming consoles such as PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch come with features that enable parents to restrict games with certain age ratings, set playing time limits, and monitor spending on in-game purchases.
And for computers and laptops, operating systems like Windows and macOS have built-in parental control settings that allow parents to create user accounts for their children with customised restrictions on app usage, web browsing, and screen time. Internet Matters.org gives you step-by-step instructions on how to set up controls on popular devices.
Screen Time Limits
Setting appropriate screen time limits is one of the most important aspects of managing a child’s device usage. While technology offers many benefits, excessive screen time can impact a child’s physical health, mental well-being, and social interactions. Experts recommend establishing a consistent limit on screen time with children under five spending less than an hour per day using screens, and some health experts have recommended that children aged five to 17 should limit their daily screen time to 2 hours. Encouraging breaks during prolonged periods of screen time is also essential for eye health and overall well-being, and the focus should be on balancing screen time with other activities, to ensure it does not interfere with things like sleep, physical activity, or homework.
Communication Is Key
While parental controls and screen time limits are crucial, openly communicating with children about being responsible when using devices is equally important. Talk to your child about online safety, cyberbullying, and the importance of privacy, and encourage them to ask questions and discuss any concerns they may have about their online experiences. Lead by example to educate them about the importance of balanced screen time and the benefits of engaging in activities like sports, reading, hobbies, and spending time with family and friends.
How to talk to your Child About Internet Safety and Parental Controls
- A helpful mantra is – “Don’t Spy, but trust and verify”. Don’t invade your child’s privacy, instead regularly check in with them to see if everything is ok, and ask them about the apps they use or the games they play so you can understand what they’re doing online.
- Explain to them that you want to protect them from risks such as grooming or inappropriate content, which will help them to feel safe in coming to you for support if they experience this.
- Use current issues in the news relating to hacking, cybercrime, etc to open up conversations on online safety.
- Play internet safety games with your child to help them to understand the latest threats.
Regularly Review and Adjust Settings
As children grow and their needs change, it’s essential to revisit and adjust parental control settings accordingly. Regularly updating these allow you to adapt them to your child’s evolving interests, maturity level, and online behaviour. It’s also really helpful to try and stay informed about the latest trends and threats in the digital world to help ensure your child’s online experience remains safe and positive.
Taking charge of screen time and ensuring online safety may have been unintentionally overlooked, but there’s no need to worry – it’s never too late to take action. Setting up parental controls to guide your children through the digital landscape requires a small effort, but the peace of mind it brings is well worth it. Striking a balance between screen time and other activities, along with having open conversations about online safety, is crucial. While technology can be a valuable tool for empowerment, education, and entertainment, children benefit from guidance and supervision to ensure their digital journey is positive and enriching.