Will setting parental controls solve all of your family's Internet safety challenges? Of course not. But monitoring is an important way to ensure that your boundaries are being respected and to stay connected with your child.
There is no silver bullet or techno fix guaranteeing that your child will be an upstanding digital citizen. Your involvement, supervision, limits, and nurturing have the greatest influence over your child's online behavior. That said, technology can help! Here are some tips for setting parental controls effectively:
- Start with a conversation. Discuss expectations about safe, responsible Internet behavior. Parental controls help verify that everyone in the family has good netiquette - only you can teach them these skills.
- Tell them first, then install. The goal is to encourage responsible behavior, not to "catch" your kids or spy on them. Tell your kids that you will be setting parental controls on their phones and computers before you set them up.
- Explain why. Tell your kids why you are setting parental controls but make it clear that it is not up for negotiation.
- Assure your kids that you are not a spy. Explain to your kids that you will not be reading every line of every text or post. You will merely be scanning things periodically or reading summary reports to verify that all is well.
- Follow through. Hold up your end of the agreement - don't read every line of your child's texts and posts! Parental control should build trust between you and your child, not erode it.
- Establish limits and consequences. Make sure that you have rules and consequences for online behavior and follow through consistently.
- Involve your kids. Monitoring software can actually hold up a mirror to your child and help them reflect on their own behavior. Sometimes our kids don't realize how often they multitask or get distracted. Use these tools for reflection and goal setting.
- Use Internet incidents as an opportunity to communicate. Make sure that Internet incidents aren't just a platform for endless lectures or meaningless punishments. If your child is using the search term "sex" it could be that they genuinely want information about sex and sexuality. Use this as an opportunity to communicate!