Parental control services, devices, and software have gotten out of hand. Yes, I said it. Let’s talk about it.

Now, I am specifically talking about controls that monitor and forcefully control activities. Many of these devices and services prey on FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) and are many times massive privacy violations (yes, your child’s data may be exposed to the public). The advertising is geared to scare uninformed parents into thinking if they don’t install software that rarely focuses on the security of the data captured that, in turn, puts your child more at risk than without it installed.

Services that monitor your child’s every move online is similar to strapping a camera to their head. You would not do that so don’t do the equivalent in the digital world.

So what can you do?

  1. Talk to them about what you expect, the dangers, and how great the internet really can be.
  2. Monitor them. Physically, yes in the same room and securely using built-in digital services. More on that below.
  3. Accept they are going to see, hear and say bad things. Teach them what is bad, the consequences of those actions and continuously reinforce it.
  4. Accept they will find a way around filters, blocks, and monitoring – just like we did as kids. It is going to happen, get over it.
  5. Have open and continual conversations about what is going on in their life. Get to know what they like, who they talk to, what they like to talk about, and accept they are not going to tell you the entire truth.

Now, there are few things technically you can do to help.

  1. Setup OpenDNS Family Filter on your network. This is a non-obtrusive way to block accidental clicks or searches to adult-themed sites. Remember, if they want to get around the filter, they will.
  2. Use the built-in services now available in most major platforms to help monitor time, etc. This helps teach your child boundaries – something many adults should learn.

Overall, stay calm and do not fall into the trap of buying or subscribing to services to monitor every single activity your child does online. AND don’t fill the pockets of companies that prey on fear.