Girl on the internet

Do your kids need to know?

In this digital age, it’s difficult to manage what our children view on the internet, and that’s why a lot of parents rely on the assistance of parental control software to monitor their child’s activity online.

This brings about the question — Should you tell your children about parental controls?

Contributed by Julie Myhre, NextAdvisor.com

According to the results of a Pew Research Center study published in January 2013, 72 percent of parents who have teenagers are concerned about how their children interact online and 50 percent of parents with teenagers have used parental control software to monitor, block or filter their children’s activity online. Those parents who resort to parental control software can find themselves at a crossroads when deciding whether or not to tell their children about the controls. So how do you decide whether to tell your children or not? Here are some things to consider before you make your decision.

Is it possible to set parental controls without your child’s knowledge?

The simple answer is “yes,” there are ways to set parental controls without your child’s knowledge. However, it depends on the software you decide to use, according to Ken Myers, president of Morningside Nannies. “If you want to control internet access for instance, most home routers already have that capability built into them,” he said. For example, some parental control software can block internet access on multiple unique identifiers (MAC addresses, IP address, etc.) allowing you to block based on the time of day, and these controls even allow you to block certain websites, such as social media sites or sites with adult content, Myers explained.

Are there risks associated with not telling your children?

As a parent you’re not required to disclose parental controls to your children, however it’s important for parents to recognize that their children can access technology outside of the home and without adult supervision, Myers said. At places such as a friend’s house or a local coffee shop, parents cannot control what their children access — so it’s essential for them to explain what is and is not acceptable. “They need to know what you want them to avoid and why in order to make good choices for themselves,” he said.

How should you talk to your children about media and technology?

Sometimes it can be awkward or uncomfortable talking to our children about media and technology. That’s why Michelle LaRowe, editor-in-chief of eNannySource.com and executive director of Morningside Nannies, suggests that parents handle technology in a certain manner. She said that parents should keep technology in public areas of the house, set expectations and make sure they stick to them.

“I believe that children should know that the media gadgets and computers are ours and they are borrowing them,” LaRowe said. “As such, as parents and owners, we have the right to ‘police usage,’ set parental controls and set expectations and rules for use.”

LaRowe also said that parents should make sure their children know that using technology is a privilege and not a right. She also feels that your child is never too young to talk about appropriate technology behavior. “I think parents need to internally set controls in their children from a young age — teaching them what is and is not acceptable or appropriate according to their family values,” she said.

To share or not to share?

The decision to disclose (or not disclose) parental controls to your children is completely up to the parents, and when making this decision it’s essential that they realize they can’t always protect their child. So even if they decide to keep the parental controls a secret, it might be wise for parents to discuss what standards they expect their children to uphold.

Myers said if parents decide to talk with their children that he believes it’s beneficial for parents to explain why they are blocking certain types of media or technology. “I think the more you can arm them with good reasons to avoid potentially harmful activities the more likely they are to carry that information with them everywhere they go,” he said.

About the author

Julie MyhreJulie Myhre is a NextAdvisor content manager who covers identity theft protection, VoIP, virtual phone, online college, photo cards, parental controls and people search services. She is an alumna of San Jose State University, and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. When Julie's not typing away at a computer, you could find her walking long distances, playing with her cats or spending time with her family.

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