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Parents: How to Take Control of Your Child’s TV Viewing, Internet Surfing and Texting Habits

Ranging from a wide array of smart phones to tablet computers, to the hundreds of TV channels and thousands of on-demand video games online, consumers have never in history had more options for how to spend their time. For parents, however, the vast amount of content out there can often lead to apprehension – about what their children are watching on TV, what Web sites they regularly visit and who they may be conversing with from behind all those electronic screens. So what is a parent who is concerned about all these to do?

To adequately address this issue, many communications carriers have developed a wide variety of simple-to-use technologies that give parents control over how their kids’ use their devices and services. “Parental control technology” is a term used to describe all software and hardware solutions that parents can make use of to restrict accessibility to some contents on TV and on the internet as well as the people they can talk with.

The challenge is that, depending on some factors such as the technology, medium, and service provider, there may be some variations in parental control options. Therefore, finding the most effective way to protect your children from adult, extremist or hate-driven content can sometimes be an uphill task.

To address this, at the end of this article, you will see links to some relevant resources online that can help you identify what technology is best suited for your family in controlling and monitoring what your kids are watching, and where/what the kids are surfing online.

Best practices

Parents are often worried that, when compared to their tech-savvy teenage kids and pre-teens, they cannot keep up with the use of technology. To some extent, this may be true. Therefore, instead of having to start competing with them by trying to become more techie, here are some basic rules that if you stick to, will go a long way in helping keep your kids safe online;

·         Talk to the kids regularly so they know what is acceptable, what type of websites you want them to stay away from, and who they are permitted to text, for example. This is a good way to get the kids to open up so you and they can start a dialogue about safe use of internet and cable network technologies.

·         Find out where they frequently visit online. Get familiar with the Web sites your child or teen hangs out most of the time. Encourage them show you their favorite sites and discuss what they find fascinating about them.

·         Make sure your kids are fully conscious of the fact that they should never give out any salient information that someone can use to identify them, their friends, or family members. This sort of information includes names, addresses, mobile numbers, your workplace, email, passwords, bank details, and ATM card numbers.

·         Parents should know the exact capabilities of whatever technologies their children are using. For example, does the families’ cable television service include stations that show adult content? Do your kids’ cell phones include an Internet browsing capability? If so, does it have option of enabling parental controls on the Internet browser?

·         Your family computer should be set up in a centralized and open location, like the living room or kitchen where you can look over your kids’ shoulders and know what they are doing online.

·         Ensure you have a family agreement for Internet usage. This may include items such as hours of use, what sites the kids can access freely, and what sites are “no-go-areas”.

·         Tell your children that if someone they are talking to online harasses, bullies, or makes them uncomfortable in any way, they should talk to a parent, teacher, or an adult they trust.

There is always an element of uniqueness in every family. We all have our own set of criteria for what is acceptable and what is not. Therefore, not all of these suggestions will be relevant to your family situation, and they are not intended to be a complete list of all available options. However, this can at least serve as a starting point to begin a fruitful conversation about safe practices for surfing the internet, watching Television, and connecting with others

IMPORTANT RESOURCES

http://www.nclnet.org/technology/149-parental-controls/539-parental-controls-what-are-your-kids-watching

http://www.nclnet.org/technology/149-parental-controls/538-parental-controls-monitoring-where-children-are-surfing-online