Digital Parenting
March 16, 2023

Do you need a parental control app?

Parental control apps can be a good addition to your family’s digital safety plan. Learn about the pros and cons here.

The digital world seems to be getting more complex every day—so it’s not surprising that parents are turning to parental control apps to help monitor kids’ online activity and keep them safe.  There are a number of different options with lots of different features, so it can be tricky to know which one is best for your family. From geofencing to call and text monitoring to screen time limits, here’s a breakdown of everything parents need to know about parental control apps.

What can you do with parental control apps?

When you start your search for a parental control app, you’ll quickly learn that there are a lot of options out there. You’ll encounter a wide variety of features and a range of prices. It’s a good idea to think about what exactly you’d like your app to do. Here are the main things you can do with parental control apps:

  • Content filtering: Block access to inappropriate content from websites, apps and videos.
  • Screen time management: Set time limits for devices or specific apps.
  • App monitoring: See what apps your kids are using and how much time they are spending with each.
  • Geofencing and GPS tracking: Track the location of your kid’s devices and know when they arrive at or leave certain places.
  • Social media monitoring: Check in on your kid’s social media accounts and review messages and posts.
  • Call and text monitoring: Access your kid’s phone calls and text messages.
  • Remote control: Lock or unlock your kid’s devices, or restrict access to certain features.

Some apps offer a robust suite of features, while others are specially designed to tackle one task. Another thing to keep in mind as you’re searching? Some apps work really well on iOS or Android—but not both. If your kids have multiple devices with different operating systems, ensure you find and app that’s compatible with both!

What can’t you do with parental control apps?

It’s important to note that no parental control app is foolproof. These platforms are not a complete tech management strategy by themselves, and they cannot replace the guidance, mentorship and education that are essential to help kids navigate the digital world with confidence. And, you can’t trust parental control apps to work perfectly 100% of the time. Here’s what you can’t do with these apps:

  • Set and forget: Savvy, motivated kids have been known to circumvent parental controls, so ensure that you check in regularly if you are relying on one of these digital solutions.
  • Replace ongoing dialogue with your kids: Digital safety is about more than monitoring, and nothing can replace the value of an open and honest conversation about the digital world.

Are parental control apps safe?

Parental control apps have pros and cons. Like any app, it’s important to do your research before picking one for your family. Look for apps with good reviews and avoid apps that request access to more personal information than they need. It’s also a good idea to look into privacy policies and try to get a sense of what information the app is collecting and how they’re using it.

Unfortunately, even apps designed to keep your family safe can carry risks. Recently it came to light that family location tracking app Life360 was selling children’s detailed location data—something many parents didn’t explicitly consent to.

Protecting safety while respecting privacy

While parents want to do everything they can to protect their kids, some are also concerned about invading their children’s privacy. It’s a natural impulse because parents want to help their children feel empowered, and they want to respect their autonomy. If you feel this way, you’re not alone—but remember that privacy is not a right: it’s something that kids earn over time.

Monitoring is important, especially as kids are learning the digital ropes. It’s not only appropriate but necessary to keep an eye on children’s online activity. And, as they show you they can be trusted to use their devices responsibly, you can give them more leeway.

Finding the right balance for your family

Parental control apps can play an important role in your digital safety strategy. They can offer easy tools and features to help you keep track of your children’s screen time, monitor their activity and put up guardrails. But, it’s important to recognize that, while they can be helpful, parental controls are just one aspect of keeping kids safe. The most important thing you can do to protect children online is to maintain a healthy dialogue about the digital world.

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