Cyber Resilient Families and Parental Controls

by | May 13, 2022

“What are you watching?” It’s a question that all parents of school-age kids have asked with some level of passionate inquiry. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting the use of media to no more than one hour per day for young children, the reality is that sometimes our kids are online, and we just aren’t watching.

Our kids live in a digital world as much as we do. Online avatars having digital adventures and interacting within a virtual world is fun, but it can also be dangerous. As parents, we must keep up digitally in the same way we stay in physical shape to keep up with them on the field. In honor of the International Day of Families on May 15, I wanted to take the opportunity to address cyber resilience at home.

Spoiler Alert: Don’t talk to strangers is still the leading principle.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • There is little to no oversight or management of advertisements displayed within apps. Free web and mobile apps often include some form of monetization by way of embedded advertisements. These applications, especially games, are notorious for creating tricky mental moments to gain clicks on those advertisements. Sometimes, if a paid version of an app or game exists with embedded ads, it is best to purchase the app to avoid the unmoderated ( and sometimes disturbing) content that can be served in the ads on a free app.
  • Parents of teens are notably less likely than parents of younger children (ages 6 to 9) to monitor technology usage closely.
  • Kids aged 8 to 12 spend an average of four to six hours per day watching or using screens, while teens spend upwards of nine hours daily. (AACAP)
  • 7 out of 10 people are victims of cyberbullying, and 37% experience cyberbullying on a frequent basis.
  • With just a few details of your child’s personal information and some access, scammers can open up new lines of credit in your child’s name or sell the information on the dark web.

PARENTAL CONTROLS

If you’re concerned about what your kids see online or who they are interacting with, consider tools with these features:

Filtering and blocking. These tools limit access to certain sites, words, or images. Some products decide what’s filtered, while others leave that to parents. Some filters apply to websites, while others apply to email and chat. You can block or limit specific apps or features on an Apple device: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201304.

Blocking outgoing content. This software prevents kids from sharing personal information online or via email.

Limiting time. Similar to filtering and blocking settings, many devices, this software allows you to limit your kid’s time online, and set the time of day they can access the internet.

Browsers for kids. These browsers filter words or images you don’t want your kids to see. YouTube is a big concern for me personally, with my first grader who reads at a third-grade level. Setting the safety to “ON” and logging out of the YouTube account keeps that control in place.

Kid-oriented search engines. These search engines perform limited searches and/or filter search results to only include sites and material appropriate for kids.

Monitoring tools. This software alerts parents to online activity without blocking access. Some tools record the addresses of websites a child has visited; others provide a warning message when a kid visits certain sites. Monitoring tools can be used with or without a kid’s knowledge.

Mobile phone-specific privacy features. Cell phones and their service carriers generally have privacy settings specific for kids that parents can maintain, such as blocking web access or restricting downloads.

Domain name system (DNS) filtering. Implementing this can deter kids from going to off-limits websites (and some of these programs are free!).

BEST PRACTICES

  • Start using a password manager. The one linked here includes family pricing: https://1password.com/families/.
  • Create an open and honest environment with your kids, so that being online is not something that they hide from you.
  • Talk about the concept of credibility. Remind them that not everything they see on the internet is true, and people on the internet may not be who they appear to be.
  • Watch for changes in behavior. If your child suddenly avoids the computer, it may be a sign they are being bullied online.
  • Regularly review security settings and privacy policies for the websites your kid frequents. These settings are updated often, so check back regularly.
  • Review your child’s social media friends list. Do you know the names on this list? Being able to block or delete someone from this list can stop cyberbullying, in addition to promoting security.
  • Secure mobile devices. Use PINs and passwords, and only install apps from trusted sources. Understand the privacy settings and permissions for these apps.
  • Don’t assume that the parental controls on home devices are the same as the devices issued at school. Check the ESRB ratings and/or Common Sense Media for the games and apps your kids are using. Is it appropriate for YOUR child?
  • Saddle up and get your game on. Getting to know the apps and games your kids are spending time with not only increases awareness of their activity, but will keep dialogue between your family open, and build some shared understanding.

Cyber resilience, like parenting, is not about that one good act (or blocker). Rather, it’s about staying consistently alert, responding and adapting in order to learn and grow. I spend a lot of time thinking about making the right choices for my kids. The real work is learning about their emerging environment, and teaching them how to make the right choices for themselves. Happy gaming!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Chatting with Kids About Being Online, which CISA recently published, is an excellent resource for talking to kids about online security.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board guide provides information about the content of a video game or app, so parents can make informed choices about which are right for their family.

The Net Cetera online toolkit, provided by the FTC, offers free resources to help you talk about online safety with kids.

Common Sense Media – Independent non-profit that provides entertainment and technology recommendations for families and schools.

About the Author

Lisa Hill
Vice President of Marketing

Lisa Hill is the Vice President of Marketing at Resilience. Prior to joining Resilience in 2018, she spent nearly 10 years in government service with the Department of Defense where she held posts at the Defense Innovation Unit (formerly Experimental) (DIU), the Office of the Navy Inspector General and at United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM). Hill holds a BA in Political Science from California State University Long Beach, an MA in Public Administration and an MA in Urban Planning from the University of Southern California.