Before you begin installing parental control apps, start with some clear rules, standards, and expectations. Sit the family down and walk through every rule, why that rule is being put in place, and the consequences for breaking the rule. Write it out in detail, and give everyone in the family a chance to discuss each rule. For example, preteens may want to use FaceTime to coordinate with friends on school projects.
The “why” of the rules is particularly important, for two reasons. First, it makes clear the spirit of the rule. Every parent knows children become sticklers for detail when they want to try and get out of something. Secondly, it gives kids information they need to better understand the risks online.
Next comes the software end of things. In Screen Time, there’s a tool called the Mobile Device Management plan, which offers parents control over what’s downloaded, what’s opened, and when it can be opened. If, for example, there’s a strict “no iPad in bed” policy in your house, you can lock down the iPad at bedtime and it won’t open again until the morning.
This is also important if you’re using more than one app to track time usage. For example, if you’re using iOS12’s time tracker to look at how kids are spending time, you can prevent kids from deleting and reinstalling the app. You can also block the download of certain apps altogether, so if you don’t want your kids on social media, you can just simply lock it up.
That said, as useful as parental control apps are, they’re just one piece of keeping the rules in place. You should always be talking with your family about what they’re doing online, who they’re doing it with, and what they’re saying. Even with a tightly controlled internet presence, kids can still find things they struggle with: Images on the news, things friends or relatives say to each other online in a fit of temper, and so on.
It also leaves the door open to change the rules. As kids get older, their needs and wants online will change. They’ll want to play games with friends, drive to and from their jobs, and other milestones on the way to becoming adults, and the rules will have to change with them. Consider having a yearly family meeting to discuss rule changes.
We can’t protect everyone in our family from everything. But we can put sensible, fair rules in place that teach kids how to spot dangers and to better understand possible risks, setting them up for success as adults. To learn more about parental control apps and their role in internet safety, ScreenTime Labs invites you to try it for free.