This month’s featured article includes the Resource Packet: Keeping Up with Apps and Parental Tools, with breakdowns of some of the major devices, apps, and streaming platforms and the ways in which they connect to one another. We explain there that different types of settings can interconnect. For example, having accurate settings within a mobile device can prevent the need for more specific settings in apps that you’d rather kids not have in the first place.
Many devices and apps are linked to more central profiles, such as Microsoft profiles linking to Xbox accounts, or Google profiles linking to Chrome browser and YouTube accounts. Knowing the different types of settings can help you decide the most efficient and effective way to utilize them for your family.
Below is a more thorough breakdown of the different types of parental settings. The resource packet includes links to examples of all of them:
Computer Operating Systems
Windows, Mac OS, and Chrome OS computers all offer some built in settings for restricting content, limiting the websites your family can browse, and limiting purchases. These can be a great first step to your family’s online safety.
Just like computer operating systems, Mac and Android devices have built in tools to limit content and purchases. They also provide parents with screen time settings, activity reports, GPS tracking, and other more monitoring that can be customized. Along with the Computer OS settings above, these are the best first steps for online safety.
Chrome, Safari, and Firefox browsers default to the parental settings on the device (or attached to Google account in use in the case of Chrome). That means Chrome settings are tied to the device settings OR a child’s Google account; Safari settings are done within the Mac computer or mobile device interface, and Firefox automatically turns content filters on if the device in use has any parental settings turned on.
NOTE: Dangerous anonymous websites, such as the live-streaming site Omegle, can only be blocked using the higher level settings that come in devices, browsers, and sometimes routers.
Using settings or free services like OpenDNS, Parents can block access to certain sites for everyone on the network. This may feel too complicated for some families, and there are some easy workarounds that make this approach less effective. For example, if kids use their data plan or access nearby WiFi networks, the local network restrictions will no longer apply.
Parents can turn on higher levels of content filtering within Google, Yahoo, and Bing search engines as an added layer of protection.
Video Streaming Sites
Common streaming sites such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video offer simple, age-based restriction options. Live-streaming websites vary in how to set up parameters, if you can at all, and are therefore significantly riskier. The popular streaming site Twitch does offer parental settings, while sites like Omegle must be blocked using the types of settings described earlier.
Games and Consoles
Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo all offer parental settings that can protect privacy, and limit purchasing and communication . Xbox settings are connected Microsoft Family Group Settings (included in the Resource Packet: Keeping Up with Apps and Parental Tools), while Playstation and Nintendo settings must be done independently.
3rd Party Parental Apps
Parents may find 3rd party apps that house many settings in one place to be helpful. Some of these services can provide monitoring for apps like Snapchat, that have no lockable or effective privacy settings of their own. On the downside, many of these apps cost money for some or all features, and some features or limitations may not fit for your family.