The Pros and Cons of Parental Control Software

One of the most common questions I hear from parents is, “How can I set up parental control software?” But parental controls aren’t a panacea for keeping your kids safe online. Let’s talk about when to use parental controls… and when not to use them.

Most computers have basic built-in parental controls, like the ability to set login times or restrict app access. (Here’s how to set them up for Windows and Mac.) Third party parental control apps offer additional features. Common Sense Media has a nice roundup on parental control options.

The problem is that a lot of parents assume that they can install a parental control app and guarantee their kids’ online safety. Parental control software is only one tool in your Internet safety toolbox, and it’s not the most important one.

In my opinion, the best way to protect your kids online is to talk with them, listen to what they have to say, and work together to find solutions. For example, maybe you don’t want your kid playing multiplayer games, but there’s a multiplayer game they really want to try. Ask your kids about the game. Research it to learn the content rating, and find out what other parents thought of it. Maybe the game has some features that will only let your kids play with friends they already know in real life. Or maybe it’s time to lower your own restrictions a bit and let them branch out into new online horizons. It’s easy to forget that kids grow up, and their Internet rules should grow with them.

There are lots of other resources to help you keep your kids safe online. I mentioned Common Sense Media, which has a wealth of information for parents. You can read reviews of TV shows, movies, video games, and more, so you can make your own determinations on whether you feel something is appropriate for your kids.

Here are my other posts on how to protect your kids on the Internet, including resources for younger kids as well as tweens and teens:

Do you have questions about protecting your kids online? Ask in the comments, and and sign up for Tech Tips by email for weekly computer news and advice for Windows, Mac, and mobile users. You can also follow Tech Tips on Facebook.

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