There’s no arguing that kids today are more connected than ever. With 66% of children getting cellphones by the age of 12 (and many of those smartphones) and the average home having more than one computer, access to the Internet and everything that comes with it is just a click away. Yes, I’m hyperventilating a bit myself.
The question is not whether parents should monitor their child’s online activity but how much. Of course, your level of monitoring depends on several factors – age, access to online content, maturity level and how comfortable you are with “spying” – just to name a few.
The most commonly used devices among teens are their cellphones (56%), laptops (50%) and tablets (48%). There are several ways for parents to monitor these devices, the hard part is determining what you want to focus on. A lot of parents have decided to monitor their kid’s activity on their laptops, gaming devices, cellphones and tablets. They do this a bunch of different ways, by limiting the time spent on the device, restricting websites they can visit, apps they can download and the amount of data they can use.
There are hundreds of monitoring tools available and costs vary from FREE to $100. Some software simply blocks specific websites and polices the amount of time a child is allowed on the computer. Other software records every single action taken online – everything that is sent, received, viewed and downloaded. While other software focuses solely on your child’s online privacy.
But what about the smartphones?!
Many of the tools listed below also allow for some mobile phone monitoring. However, I suggest having a device contract that has established expectations for how your kids behave and what they look at online.
Here are a few noteworthy tools worth looking into:
An extremely thorough suite of features including website blocking, profanity masking, social media monitoring and time management has made NetNanny a bestselling and award winning online monitoring option. Cost: Starts at $4.99 for mobile monitoring and $29.99 per year for computer monitoring
This tool monitors your child’s activity on Facebook and Twitter including messages, pictures and other interactions with followers. A handy dashboard makes reviewing monitored content quick and easy. Cost: FREE
This tool includes social media monitoring (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), mobile monitoring (available for both Android and iOS) and includes a family locator tool. Cost: $9.95 per month
Interested more in protecting your child’s identity online than monitoring their every move? SafetyWeb allows parents (via the child’s email address) to locate your child’s social accounts and compiles a continuously-updated report on what information is public. SafetyWeb also allows parents using an AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon family plan to enable mobile tracking. Cost: $10 per month