Monitoring Internet Activity: Spying On Your Kids

Monitoring your teenagers internet activity.

How Do I Monitor My Teen’s Computer Use?

Today, teens use computers as much as possible, in the classroom as students as well as at home. Yes, online is big business! In the USA it was reported by CNN that teens spend on average nine, even ten hours using computers, connecting with others and searching information.

While they do need to use online processes for school work, too much screen use is bad for health, it causes structural changes in the brain, even affecting emotion processing.

Obviously, there are the big dangers of the increases in abuse, lurking online as well.

As parents, how can we monitor our teen’s computer activity?

It’s all very well telling them to get stop using their tablets, to read a book or go outside and practice soccer but teens don’t tend to listen.  They prefer to shut their bedroom door and delve into their own virtual worlds.

Luckily, there are various things you can do to keep an eye on your teen and what they’re doing.  I’m not talking about just regularly checking their browser history (although you should do this too).  I’m talking about adding simple content filters or perhaps something stronger such as a home network protection solution.

With every new technological leap comes a new set of guidelines and better filters than ever before.

Every parent must get on-board with monitoring computer use because unfortunately, the risks are huge.   We already know the risks of abuse and bullying but there are also the dangers of unsupervised and illegal content including porn, violence and horror.

The internet is not a safe place.

The UK is set to ban porn from April 2018, this has just been announced and while Donald Trump has promised to crack down on internet porn nothing has been put into place yet but let’s hope that the USA follow suite as soon as possible.

Bearing the above in mind, let’s look at what can be done to protect your family.

Don’t Limit To Just Computers!

Firstly, remember the word computer is all-encompassing.  It includes tablets and phones as well as X-boxes and other gaming products.

Don’t forget that gaming is a problem too because children can join conversations with people they don’t know.

While many connections your teen makes online can be completely innocent, it’s best to turn these settings off so there’s no danger of an unknown person gaining unwanted access.

There are plenty of paedophiles online disguising themselves as teenagers. You must be vigilant.

Be Upfront

I am a big fan of talking to teens about why parents do things.  It’s very important to explain actions because otherwise teenagers automatically build up a barrier and you lose valuable trust.

You must talk to your teen about safety online.  It helps them to act responsibly and to question things that they suspect might not be good for them.

I actually believe that talking to children from an early age about online dangers is beneficial and indeed, my children were well aware of stranger danger online from the age of 7+.

You don’t have to scare them at this age but you do need to warn them that some people simply aren’t nice!  For early teens and tweens, this is a useful E book to give them:  Tom Tames His Online World by Nina Du Thaler. (Retail $3.98).

Additionally, do bear in mind that when you set up parental controls you should also explain to your teenager what you’re doing and why.

Remember, an honest relationship with your teen will go a long way to building trust and kids appreciate it when you’re open and honest, they’re more likely to do the same with you.

Even if you do regularly talk to your children about limiting screen time and behaving responsibly online, what they get up to when you’re not there is impossible to know unless you monitor it.

Parental controls are very useful and will help you understand what your child looks at and keep their internet use.

Here’s a useful YouTube video which was on CNN, it mentions the FBI and what you can do to monitor your teen’s online safety.

>  How Learning Disabilities Affect Our Children's Lives

Different protection is available for different devices.  So you might need more than one type, however, think of it as an investment in your child’s safety because there’s no doubt, multiple devices means more money.

iPhones/Smart Phones/iPads/Tablets/Mobile Devices

Almost all these products come with basic controls already installed; it’s up to you to activate them.  General safety includes turning off any app that can pinpoint where you are.  On iPads and

General safety includes turning off any app that can pinpoint where you are.  On iPads and iPhones this is found in location services, these services are already installed.  Make sure this is switched off because then the phone can’t be located.

Make sure this is switched off because then the phone can’t be located.

However, you should use trackable apps such as Find Friends on iPhone and iPad because they can pinpoint where your child is at any moment in time.  The Find Friends app will need its location service updated.  The app is private to you and other people who choose to share their location with you.  It’s very useful when your teen is out and about and you want to know exactly where they are!

The Find Friends app will need its location service updated.  The app is private to you and other people who choose to share their location with you.  It’s very useful when your teen is out and about and you want to know exactly where they are!

Tracking and controlling online activity such as social media interaction and text messaging is easy with apps such as Bark, Kidslox, Teensafe and Google’s Family Link.

For Kindle users, remember, up to date devices (such as Fire) come loaded up with Kindle FreeTime.  You can set the controls to monitor your child’s online activity.

Now, you’ll need access to your teen’s social media accounts to monitor them so they must share their passwords and usernames with you.

The problem is that many teens will have secondary account which is why it’s important to stay on top of their browsing history.

Quick Guide To Setting iPhone Restrictions

Remember that it’s not just web content and location that you need to protect your teen from, it’s also stuff like explicit songs and podcasts, strangers being added to games and making in-app purchases.  Do use restrictions, here’s how:

  • Go to Settings and select General
  • Select Restrictions and follow the PIN prompt
  • Once you’ve enabled Restrictions you can turn off whatever you want
  • Turn off Siri and scroll down to “Allowed Content” where you can place restrictions on downloadable content

How to Lock Your Teen’s Phone

  • Go to Settings and select General
  • Then select Accessibility and scroll to Learning
  • Click Guided Access and hook it on
  • When you want it in use, launch the app your teen wants to use and click the home button thrice
  • ·You’ll need a password to disable Guided Access

Disabling Safari

To keep your child’s browsing safe on a tablet or iPhone, restrict Safari in the Restrictions area and download a new child-friendly browser (see below).

iTunes

Don’t forget that iTunes can give your teen access to explicit content.  You need to hop onto your computer for this and go to the iTunes store.

  • Click Edit on the top of the menu
  • Select Preferences
  • Choose Parental and follow the guide on what you can and cannot download

Locking Down an iPad

You can also lock down an iPad.  Here are some steps:

  • Use the passcode, to set it up go to Settings, select General and then Passcode Lock
  • You can limit it to one app, go to Settings, select General followed by Accessibility
  • Choose Guided Access, launch the app you want and tap the Home Button three times

Software Parental Controls

Your software does have built-in parental controls.  Whether you have Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac they both have systems.  Chrome also has parental controls.

Make sure you update your software to the latest systems as technology moves so fast; you need to ensure parental controls keep up.  They don’t cost anything either – they’re built into their operating systems.  If you just want basic control, they’re excellent.

>  How To Stop Bullying 101

Browsers

As already mentioned, Google Chrome can be set to parental control as you wish but other browsers also have filters which you can switch on to remove unsavoury websites from view.

If you use Mozilla Firefox and Safari, then all of these browsers are safe to use when parental controls are activated but be savvy, your teen can also download a different, less secure browser if he or she is determined enough.

For younger teens it’s even safer to restrict them to children’s only browsers.  Google has one specifically for children and others include Zoodles, Kido’z http://kidoz.net/ and Tweens Browser.  They are excellent because they fill the entire screen which means that children can’t get out of them.

These browsers offer pre-approved websites, email access, games and other safe activities.

Generally, they’re free but you might have to pay if you want a premium upgrade – it’s worth it for younger teens.

Older teens definitely need better access to websites particularly for school work.

Setting Up Parental Controls On Browsers

Here’s a quick guide on how to set-up parental controls on certain browsers:

GOOGLE

  • SafeSearch is great at filtering but you need a Gmail account to do it so set this up first
  • Click menu on Google Chrome on right hand side
  • Click settings
  • Go to Search and find “set which search engine is used when searching from omnibox”
  • Click on your account and then select Personal Info and Privacy
  • Under Personal Info scroll down to Search Settings
  • Under SafeSearch select turn on SafeSearch and then LOCK it
  • You can password protect as well

SAFARI

  • Go to settings and select Safari
  • Click Search Engine and select Google
  • Go to Safari icon and find Google.com
  • Scroll to settings
  • Select “Search Settings”
  • Under SafeSearch, select “Filter Explicit Results”
  • Save this setting
  • Enable this setting for all paired devices

FIREFOX

  • Click Menu (top right of browser window)
  • Click Options
  • Click Search
  • Select Google from drop down menu
  • Go to Google.com
  • Scroll to Settings
  • Select “Search Settings”
  • Under SafeSearch, select “Turn on SafeSearch”
  • Save this setting by using your password

Home Networking

One of the safest methods of monitoring your teen’s online activity is with a home network solution which works with your devices at home and your WiFi.

Something such as OpenDNS which is easily downloadable and works with your router, filtering out unsavoury internet content.

There are other versions such as CircleHome which is extremely easy to use.  Using something like this means you can switch the internet off at certain times or turn it off entirely and use in conjunction with an app so use it when you’re out and concerned with what your child is doing (although be aware that it doesn’t switch off 4g).

You can also use Qustodio and NetNanny, both of which can block certain websites and see what your child is doing online (but they only work on laptops or PC’s) they also supply you with a summary of what your teen is looking at.

Both of the above are very useful at imposing screen-time limits too, which is excellent when you’re concerned about the amount of time your teen spends online.

They work with a monthly subscription.  These are probably the best types of home networking controls to use for home as they are suitable for all ages, so really focus on the family.

As a summary, here are some useful pointers:

  • Explain to your teen the real dangers that lurk online (even if they know already, it doesn’t hurt to remind them)
  • Be open with your teen about parental controls that you are going to impose, explain it is for their safety as well as for the rest of the family’s too
  • Choose parental controls for all devices, don’t just limit them to computers and laptops, other devices also carry significant dangers
  • Keep an eye on browsing history, game boxes and try and limit their screen time as too much has its own hazards to your teen’s health
  • Be aware that your teen might have a second social media account unknown to you
SHARE

Emma Crossick is a writer, mum of two, wife of one living in London. Emma spent 13 years working at Head Office for a very well-known high street retailer, three of those years were spent working for the food side of the business and subsequently, she worked for a food supplier where her passion for all things edible further developed.