Are parental controls worth it?
Whether you block your kids from certain television shows or websites, it's hard to know if they're 100 percent protected from content you don't want them to see.
Parents and experts disagree — is there really "control" with parental controls?
Do parental controls really control inappropriate content?
When parents think about parental controls, they usually think about the internet. The web can be a scary place for sure — but what about television? Let's start there.
Parents can set parental controls on TV, and even block certain channels depending on what type of TV or cable system they have. That said, television ratings — the content kind, not the viewer kind — can be hard to decipher. I usually block anything rated "MA" for mature audiences from my kids, but have come across more than a few "TV 14" rated programs that were what I considered really inappropriate for my kids to watch. I just finished watching an entire series of an "MA" rated show with my teenager that, save for a few choice words in each episode, wasn't objectionable at all in my opinion. So much for ratings, it really comes down to specific content — and what I deem appropriate for my kids may not be the same for yours and vice versa.
Are parental controls worth it on the web?
Absolutely, according to Nicki Klinkhamer, a mom who works for TrueCare.com, a social media monitoring tool. She says setting parental controls doesn't mean you're spying on your kids. "It's keeping your child safe. A lot of parents get that wrong and think their child needs privacy," she says. "Well, the internet is not private, and the world is watching. Each day I am swamped by stories that horrify me and have made me a strong advocate for monitoring. Kids are living their lives online, and parents need to realize this — they need to be involved."
However, Dr. John Duffy, a clinical psychologist and author of The Available Parent, cautions parents that parental controls aren't perfect.
"By and large, parental controls do not tend to be very effective," he says. "Kids today are highly tech-savvy, and many know their way around parental controls. Also, so much material is available online, and if they cannot find exposure to some material at home, kids can certainly find it outside the home, typically either at a friend's house, or through a smartphone."
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The best parental control is you
Duffy says, "I find that the most effective measure parents can implement to keep their kids safe is to talk to them about what they watch, what draws them to it, and the risks associated with it. This kind of open discussion will not provide an immunity to a curious mind — I don't think anything will, to be honest. But it will help your child to be prepared for what they will undoubtedly be exposed to. It also lets your children know you're available to talk to them about it should they need you. And these are critical conversations to engage in to keep your kids safe."