Limiting the amount of time we spend glued to our electronic devices can be hard for adults, and it’s especially tough for kids, who often use screens for school, fun and everything in between. But as Consumer Reports explains, the same companies that create these addictive devices are offering new ways to limit screen time, giving parents some much-needed control.
With two young kids, Whitson Gordon knows he’s in for a lifetime of keeping an eye on them while they’re online.
“My biggest fear is just them seeing something that’s too scary or something that they weren’t really ready to learn,” said Gordon.
Trying to keep your kids safe online can feel like a fulltime job. Aside from reminding them not to share personal information or photos, you’ve got to worry about them talking to strangers, stumbling upon inappropriate content or just spending too much time staring at a screen.
”There are a lot of free options you can use to keep an eye on your kids online,” said Consumer Reports Tech Editor Melanie Pinola.
Pinola said tech companies are improving features that some parents might want to try.
Take Microsoft Family Safety, for example, it’s built into Windows and also available as an app for Xbox, Android, and iOS. Apple’s parental controls for iOS and Mac are located in Screen Time Settings. Both allow you to limit screen time and set content restrictions on your kids’ devices.
There’s also the Google Family Link app, which is available for Android and iOS.
“With Google Family Link and a Google account you set up for your kids, you can do anything from monitor their app usage to seeing where they are on a map,” said Pinola.
The tools from Microsoft, Apple and Google also allow you to put restrictions on the apps your kids have access to.
And YouTube allows you to set up a “supervised experience” for kids under 13 that determines the types of videos your kids can watch. A safer option for younger audiences - like Gordon’s son - is YouTube Kids.
“He mostly watches science videos on YouTube. That’s how he spends most of his time on his iPad,” said Gordon.
Time that Gordon now has a bit more control over.
Consumer Reports said it’s also important for parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of being online, and to encourage them to come to you with anything disturbing they come across, whether it’s bullying in a video game chat or inappropriate content.
TELL US: Have you used any parental control settings or apps and what your experience like?
(Fill out the survey below and then comment at the bottom with your experiences using parental control settings on your kids devices.)