6 Tips for Safe Screen Time for Your Children
Parenting has changed a lot over the past couple of decades. One of the most troubling changes for a lot of parents is cyber-security – making sure children’s screen time on devices like iPads and Android Tablets is safe and secure. We have a few tips for you to get up to speed and keep your kids protected.
Tip #1 – Set restrictions on the device
There are a number of options that you can use on a your devices to improve the online safety of your children. These include:
- Restrictions Apple: has made a number of child-friendly settings available, including website blocking and blocking content by age group or rating.
- Restrictions Android: allows you to set up a new user with settings that work for your child’s access and then restricted access to Google Play Store to prevent them from racking up massive bills in app and game purchases.
- Google SafeSearch: You can turn this on in the Google website, and search results will be filtered for child-friendliness.
- YouTube safety mode: Open YouTube on your tablet and turn on Safety mode to filter the videos that your child has access to.
Be aware, though, that all of these options tend to rely heavily on content creators being honest about the rating of their content – and their idea of ‘safe’ might not match yours. For example, a G-rated game might still allow players to chat with each other, unmoderated. For some great in-depth information on security options on the iPad, see this article: Is Your Kid Safe on the iPad or iPhone? Here Are 18 Ways to Make Sure and for Android tablets, see this article How to Use Android Parenting Controls.
Tip #2 – Restrict sites on your home wireless router
Some wireless routers allow you to control internet access for each device on the network. Depending on its brand and features, you might be able to:
- Block internet access at certain times (e.g. after bed time).
- Block specific sites.
- Limit the amount of time spent online.
While restricting internet access on the router level can be handy, especially when you have multiple children or your child is likely to find their way around device-level restrictions, it will only affect children’s access if:
- Their tablets are WiFi-only – some allow Internet access over the mobile network too (3G/4G).
- They’re only using your home’s internet access (keep in mind that neighbours might have unsecured WiFi).
Tip #3 – Talk about online safety
Children are great at finding loopholes in rules and protections put in place – even when they’re there for their own good. One of the key aspects of protecting kids from harm is ensuring that they understand the restrictions you’re using, and the reasons that you have for doing so. Explain the idea that there are people who could mean them harm, and sometimes it’s not easy to distinguish people with good intentions from those with bad intentions. Work out some basic rules with your children: for example, ‘don’t make friends with people you don’t know from school’ or ‘never tell people your real name or address’.
Tip #4 – Limit private screen time
It’s easier to oversee your children’s screen time if you can actually see and hear what they’re playing or listening to. Implementing a rule that devices can only be used in shared areas (like the lounge or dining room, rather than the bedroom) helps to ensure that you’ll catch any inappropriate content.
Tip #5 – Remember that kids are smart
Some children, faced with restrictions on what they can do, simply shrug and accept it. Others will wiggle and work until they’ve found ways around the measures you’ve put in place. It’s possible to get around a lot of technical solutions like iPad and Android restriction settings and router configurations, if you know how – or can find a website that tells you. Spot checks can help you to ensure that your children aren’t involved in anything online that they shouldn’t be.
Tip #6 – Let your children know that they can talk to you
Some children will hesitate to tell their parents when they’re in a difficult situation – whether it be bullying or threats from a stranger – because they disobeyed a rule in the first place and they’re worried about getting in trouble. Some families put a modified X-plan in place for online problems: a signal that a child can use to indicate that they need help now and that your first priority will be helping them out of their bind.
If you have any more concerns or questions talk to our staff or join us at our Monthly Support Meetings.