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Top 5 Ways to Monitor Your Child's Online Activities

By Zuhair Siddiqui
Published: October 1, 2012
Key Takeaways

There are a lot of different options for parents looking to limit their children's exposure to pornography and other inappropriate content online.

Let’s face it; like it or not, the Internet has become a major part of the education system. Today’s kids have access to the Internet at incredibly young ages. They're comfortable with it. They're able to interact with it. And perhaps it speaks to them a little more clearly than it did for past generations. Combine that with the portability and usability of computer devices, and it's easy to see why technology has become such a big part of the education system. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 97 percent of teachers had at least one computer in the classroom in 2009.

But while the Internet is full of learning opportunities, it also includes inappropriate sites, pornography, hackers and a range of other things many parents just don't want their kids to see. So how can parents protect kids from the bad while still allowing them to access the positive things available online? In this article, we’ll take a look at the available options to control your child’s online activities.

1. Parental Control Software

One of the most popular methods of monitoring and blocking access to inappropriate content online is via parental control software. Depending on your requirements, the majority of parental control software allows parents to impose time restrictions, block access to inappropriate websites, and monitor chat conversations and social network activity. Some of the more advanced parental control software includes safeguards against attempts to bypass the software and enables parents to set up filters on a hardware-level. However, many parental control tools are ineffective against proxy sites and do not filter HTTPS content, so it's important to ensure that you have alternative methods in place if you decide to purchase low-end parental control software.

Parental control software provides parents with a huge amount of power and, depending on the software, gives parents control over much of what their kids access online. But, as with all things involving children, it's not foolproof. A common problem with parental control software is that because it only filters content on computers that have the product installed, children can evade it by accessing the Internet on a mobile device. In such cases, a complete parental control suite may be used to monitor all devices in the home.

2. Mobile Parental Control

The demand for mobile parental control software is on the rise for one simple reason: An increasing number of kids are carrying around mobile devices. According to Sybase, 85 percent of children owned a mobile phone in 2011! Mobile parental control apps have a similar feature set as computer-based parental control software and they enable parents to set up content filters and monitor their child’s online activities. Most parental control apps allow parents to monitor text messages, transactions, calls, pictures and to access a full list of phone logs.

There are a number of mobile parental control apps available in the market and they vary in price based on the number of features they provide. When choosing a mobile control app, it is important to know which features you require so that you can select an app that fulfills your needs. Depending on your requirements, mobile control apps such as Mobicip Safe Browser and iHound are good options to consider. This article outlines some of the other available mobile parental software apps.

3. Router Time Scheduling

Parental control routers are ideal for households with multiple Internet capable devices. The average consumer now possesses devices such as smartphones, tablets and iPods, so it can be difficult to find a solution that allows parents to monitor all these devices. Fortunately, most parental control software developers have expanded their horizons so that software filters can be applied to routers.

By using a parental control router, parents can monitor and filter online content accessed by any device connected to the router. Depending on the features of the software, parents can also set up time schedules and apply Web filters so that access to inappropriate content is denied on all devices connected to the router.

4. Web Browser Filters

Web browser content filtering is one of the most overlooked methods for restricting access to certain websites. There are many ways to filter content through a Web browser, but the easiest method is to use a content filtering proxy. You can do this by configuring your Web browser to a specific proxy, so that every attempt to access inappropriate content will return a blank page as the proxy will see the full URL and prevent it from making a connection. The obvious downside to this method is that the child can use a different Web browser to bypass the proxy configuration.

Another simple way to block access to inappropriate content is to use the built-in features of your Web browser. The majority of Web browsers allow you to block access to specific content; just go into the settings panel for the browser and tick off the types of sites you would like to enable or disable. Features such as blocking pop-ups and not allowing the browser history to be deleted are also very useful ways for parents to restrict and monitor their child’s online activities.

5. Usage Controls

Implementing usage controls on the operating system allows parents to restrict the number of hours their children can spend online, and can control which websites your child can visit. Depending on the operating system you are using, setting up and configuring usage controls is a very straightforward process. For instance, if you are running Windows 7, simply go into the control panel, click on Set Up Parental Control for Any User and follow the on screen prompts.

Usage controls are an easy way for parents to gain a high level of control over their child’s computer usage. For a built-in feature, usage controls also have a decent set of features that allow parents to impose restrictions on how and when children can use the computer. Of course, if you are after a more comprehensive solution, you will need to spend money on third-party software that provides more features.

There are many technologies that can help parents limit their children's exposure to the seedier side of the online world. Most of these solutions aren't perfect, but they should help to limit exposure to the most objectionable types of content - and hopefully put up enough of a barrier to keep your kids from trying too hard to evade them.


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Written by Zuhair Siddiqui

Profile Picture of Zuhair Siddiqui
Zuhair Siddiqui is a passionate Australian-based freelance technology writer who specializes in social media, cloud computing and business management. He is currently studying Business Administration and aspires to be an online entrepreneur. 

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