‘Tis to the Season: Give Your Family the Gift of Security
The holidays are upon us. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. I don’t know about you, but I for one love giving gifts, especially to my children and other family members. Nothing is more thrilling than watching their excitement.
I still remember the birthday dinner for my oldest son when he turned 13 years old and got his first iPhone. Most of his friends had them for years prior. He was so excited he didn’t take a bite of his dinner.
Christmas and the surrounding holiday season is similar to that moment … only on a much grander scale. It is the season of giving. Likewise and for kids of all ages, it has become the season of the tech boom. New gadgets and widgets are being purchased at record breaking paces. Every one of them connected and integrated into an online world with so much to explore and do.
While this is all very exciting, it can also be very sobering and troubling, especially for parents who are now enabling our children to have ungoverned communication, media and information at their fingertips like never before. Much of this is good, but we also need to guard against the bad that our children may be exposed to.
Consequently, I have decided that I would use this blog space for readers who may have concerns similar to mine. I will list some of my favorite tips and products that can be used to set a parent’s mind at ease while protecting our finest assets–our children—as well as ourselves and family members of all ages.
A Few Disclaimers
Before I get started, I want to mention three things:
- I understand that there is a difference between “control” and “accountability.” The information I’ll share below covers both of these areas. You’ll find a decent mix of each. I realize that everyone is different in terms of preference and maturity levels when it comes to such things.
- The products that I mention below are not sold by SwishData. They are simply things that I have enjoyed or seen success with. There are many others out there like them and I encourage everyone to do their homework before making a decision.
- The information below is intended to be an overview—a starting point—not a tutorial on how to enable and use the controls and accountability tools. Each product does a nice job of providing those instruction on its own site for those who might be interested.
The best way to approach this is by category. Here we go.
A great starting point here is with “restrictions.” I encourage you to check out the options. You can set a passcode that is different than the one for the device itself, so you can lock down installing apps, deleting apps, and in-app purchases. You can also put age-appropriate levels on things such as music, movies and shows that can be watched from the device. And you can disable the stock browser in favor of another browser that will allow more accountability. These action are very basic but very effective—and free!
iTunes lets you restrict or prevent access to the iTunes Store, shared libraries, and certain types of content. For computers with multiple user accounts, you can set different controls for specific users, but still allow unrestricted access from administrator accounts. In order to do this, simply go to the help menu in iTunes and search on the word “parental.” It will provide you with all of the information you need to get started. Also very quick, effective and free!
BluRay, DVD and Streaming Formats of Movies/TV Shows
I’ve recently come across an excellent product called ClearPlay. You set content preferences based on your family values. ClearPlay Smart Parental Controls then automatically filters out the images and dialogue you don’t want in the movies and TV shows you own or rent or stream. You control what your family does – and doesn’t – see and hear, so everyone can enjoy worry-free family time.
ClearPlay has settings for Vulgarity, Nudity, Substance Abuse, Sensuality, Violence, and more. And the controls stay in place even when you’re not around.
I just recently invested in this myself and, so far, it is awesome. In case you haven’t noticed, “PG-13” is the new “R.” This really allows me to watch the movies I want to enjoy with my kids without cringing and feeling like I have done them a real disservice as a parent.
Another excellent product that I recommend is Covenant Eyes. The best way to change or avoid bad online habits is with the help of relationships, accountability, transparency, and healthy conversations. And that’s exactly what Covenant Eyes software provides.
The way it works is pretty simple. You pick an accountability partner who gets a confidential report of your activity. Only the people you trust will see your report. It works for families, individuals, and at the office. For example, you can set it up to see the report of your kid’s online activities or the activities of your accountability partner. You also have flexible content filter settings that you can enable as well.
If you or your kids need an extra layer of protection, you can also apply Internet filtering to block inappropriate web content based on age-appropriateness. You can even create custom block-and-allow lists, or block the Internet completely at certain times of day.
It works for all age groups. Your 16-year-old can handle different content than your 5-year-old, so you don’t have to keep them at the same level. You can easily update the filter settings for their unique usernames as their needs change.
Covenant Eyes is easy to install and use on Windows, Mac and smart phone devices. In most cases it works with your stock browser, with no changes needed.
Social Media and Texting
This is probably the most complex of all. The choices are seemingly endless – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, iMessage, etc. The best advice I can give here is to know which your kids are using and restrict the use of others.
Each of them generally has a way to ensure that you don’t have a public profile and you can secure your personal information. At the very least, this should be enforced with children.
I would also strongly encourage that if your child is on one or more of these social media, that you also participate with them. That is, if their “friends” or contacts can post it or say it in front of them, then they should have no worries posting it or saying it in front of you.
Last but not least: Don’t be fooled by some of these outlets that appear to put everything out in the open. Most of them have an integrated private messaging mechanism as well. Direct messaging or private messaging, for example, in Instagram and Facebook, allows folks to communicate one on one or in a smaller group setting without it being seen in public. This is something you should be aware of.
I’ll close by reminding everyone that all tech gadgets and devices are man-made. And as with everything that is man-made, they have the potential to be used for good or for bad. This isn’t anything to be afraid of, but it is something to be aware of.
The online community and tech boom can sure be a lot of fun if we take the time to educate ourselves and be accountable to the good things while holding our families to the same standards. I hope you find this helpful, and that it allows you as a parent or loved one to have an even greater peace and security this holiday season.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!