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How to Keep Your Child Safe on the Web

With kids spending more and more time online, it's important to keep them safe. Tech Talker explains how to create restrictions and install monitoring services on your child's mobile device.

By
Eric Escobar,
December 11, 2014
Episode #152

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This week I’m going to talk about how to keep your children safe online.

I touched on this subject a while back in the two-part episode I did with Mighty Mommy. Be sure to check out Kids and Technology (Part 1) and (Part 2).

Although Mighty Mommy and I covered quite a lot in that series, there is much more to this topic. And with so many sad stories of children being bullied (or worse) by online relationships, I thought it was a good idea to do a few episodes on how to keep your children safe on the web. This week I’ll review mobile devices and next week I’ll talk about home devices such as desktops and laptops.>

Should I Give My Child a Mobile Phone?

Most parents will eventually have to grapple with the question: When (or if) should I give my child a mobile phone? 

Let me start by saying that there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all solution. Every family, every child, and every situation is different. Not to mention the fact that whether or not you give your child a phone is just the beginning. There is also the question of access. Do you give your child unfettered access to the web or something limited? Do you restrict their data plan? Do you monitor their activities and block certain sites? Do you put passwords in place to keep certain areas of the phone inaccessible? 

As you can see, there's a lot to consider.

I won't be able to answer all these questions in one episode. However, in the next two weeks of this series, I will give you the tools and knowledge to be confident in your decisions.

Let's start with Apple and Android devices. I’ve chosen these two because together they make up the greatest market share of tablets and cell phones currently available.

Luckily for parents, both Apple and Android operating systems provide a ton of security options for users. There's pretty much no limit on the number of configurations and restrictions that you can create on these devices, so I’ll go through the top 3 configurations that you might want to institute and discuss what each one provides in terms of monitoring and restrictions.

Configuration #1: Locked Down

Depending on the age or maturity level of your child, you may want to completely lock down the mobile device. With an Android or Apple phone, you can enable restrictions on almost any app. You can install or remove apps, configure the contact list, and adjust any setting. You can then set a restriction password that will not allow any changes to be made without the password which only you will know.

This means that your child won’t be able to install or delete any apps or change any of the settings that you’ve restricted. You can also restrict their device to only be able to make calls to people in their address book. The only way to bypass this would be to completely restore the device to the original settings, which may not even work if you’re on an Apple device tied to your Apple ID.

I really like this solution because you can tailor exactly what your child has access to and customize the phone with any apps, contacts, or settings that you deem appropriate.

For instance, you can install the Find my Friends app on an iPhone and not allow any changes to that app. This will allow you track the location of the iPhone or iPad (which is presumably on your child's person). The only way to avoid tracking the device would be to turn it off completely. This also goes for any apps that you don’t want your children to have. You can set up the phone so that apps could only be installed with your permission.

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