Monday, October 28, 2013

Monitoring Screen Time

Most parents agree that kids need some degree of monitoring when it comes to technology. Whether it’s time limits on games, supervision when using social networking sites, or established bans on some sites until kids are old enough, protective measures are important to keep kids safe. But many parents struggle to find the time to hover over kids as they hover over screens. Luckily, there’s a techy solution for this techy problem: enter parental control software.

Daniel X. O'Neil

There are a multitude of options available when it comes to this sort of software, and parents must first decide what’s right for their families. Do they want to block certain sites from kids altogether? Limit the amount of time spent on sites? Monitor where their kids spend time? Here are some of the best options out there:

Kids Watch Time Management 6.5: This highly reviewed software allows parents to establish time limits for certain types of sites and block others altogether. The software is highly customizable and will send an email detailing the activity of each registered account user (i.e. your kids) daily, weekly, or monthly, prompting busy parents to remember to glance over their kids’ computer records. For more information, check out this review.

iDetective: Download iDetective to keep tabs on youngsters’ use of tablets (Mac or PC) to get detailed reports and summaries on the way a remote computer is being used. iDetective can even allow a parent to send messages to the device from another computer. Imagine the look on your child’s face when “I thought we agreed no Minecraft after 8:00…” pops up in the middle of his game!

StayFocused: This Google Chrome plug-in restricts time for specific websites or certain types of websites. Once a user has used up all the time allotted, the plug-in will block the site for the rest of the day. StayFocused goes beyond the basics to give clever options, like blocking all subdomains (i.e. all social media) or specific in-page content (i.e. all videos).

And remember, there are no-tech solutions that can help kids manage their screen habits, too.

  • Some parents choose to keep a record of their children’s email and social media passwords so as to monitor their accounts. Expert advice is split on this policy: some advocate it, while others view it as an unforgivable violation of a child’s privacy, so be sure you know where you stand before taking action.
  • Establish areas of the house in which technology is not welcome (like the dining room, perhaps) to make room for real (what’s-it-called?) conversation. Another tack: forbid technology in all but certain rooms in your home. Remember that you have to abide by your own laws, however, so don’t make changes you’re not prepared to live with!
  • We’ve saved the best for last: Talk to kids about their online interactions. It could get uncomfortable, but they might learn something valuable. Discuss the choices made by their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Raise questions like, “What do you think she’s trying to communicate by posting a picture like that?”, “What reaction do you think he’s hoping that post will get?”, or “How do you think this status message could backfire?” For an interesting take on opaque social networking, check out one mom’s policy on keeping her teenage boys, and their friends, in check.

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