via common sense media
Before you go shopping at the App Store for apps to keep your kids and teens safe online, take a look at the built-in safety settings on your phones and devices, an important first step all parents should take, according to commonsensemedia.org, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping families safe while using the internet. One of the most important protections for children and teens using smartphones is to disable the location setting so that the apps your kid is using can’t track his or her location, which can be dangerous information in the wrong hands. Next you’ll want to review and approve any app purchases before your child downloads them. Be sure to read the privacy and sharing options for the app, making sure they don’t share data, which can include contacts stored on the phone. If your child uses social media apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, make sure that the privacy settings have been set as tightly as possible and that you’ve taken advantage of any parental controls that come built in. “Both Apple phones and Androids have an extensive set of parental controls that allow parents to have control over location services, to monitor apps being downloaded and deleted, and to disable in app purchases,” explains Augusta Nissly, program coordinator of the Good Digital Parenting program at the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI). “There are Wi-Fi routers available that have parental controls built in too.”
Zoodles, a browser for young kids age 3 and older, comes highly recommended by the commonsensemedia.org experts. It allows parents to restrict their child’s web surfing to only approved websites, and only to areas within those sites that parents have allowed in advance. There is a premium version of this app that allows parents to block ads and monitor the activity within the browser as well. The app can also be used to restrict and allow games and videos within the browser. Zoodles allows children the freedom to explore through educational games and activities that are both age-appropriate and controlled by parents. Parents using the premium feature are also given the ability to promote certain educational subjects for their children such as reading, math, or science.
KidsClick!, a site directory and search engine created and maintained by librarians, compiles informational sites for children. The librarians behind this site strive to include only pages that do not request personal information or payment. The site provides well-rounded access to information on all topics, even those deemed controversial. It offers the option for children to search for digital media such as videos, images, and sounds pertaining to their chosen topic. It also allows them to search the Dewey Decimal System to find topics and information. Common Sense Media lists the recommended age for this site as 8 and older. Nissly suggests that parents and children alike be aware of how to report inappropriate content to filtered sites. “Make sure children know how to report inappropriate content in apps and online sites. Review this process with your child.” Also make sure whenever possible that your child’s profile is set to private and is not public, and turn off location-based services, she adds. Though it’s valuable to understand how location-based services, because in some instances they’re useful, but in others they give out info you might not want others to know. A good rule is to turn off the location service until you determine that there’s a valid reason for your child to use it and that he or she understands how to use it safely. (This sixth-grade teacher’s warning about the internet is a powerful lesson for all of us.)