Starting in the Spring each year, my wife Mary Beth and I go camping and hiking once per month. We’ve been doing this for years. If we are going on a serious hike, we often take our binoculars. Although it is used to see various animals in their natural environment, it is also used to see into the distance, to avoid any dangers or unforeseen difficulties managing the trail ahead.
Last year, we attempted to tackle a long, difficult trail. The payoff would be a beautiful view of a waterfall about 3 miles up a long, rocky, and winding trail. We left our binoculars back at the campsite and figured, “It can’t be that bad.” In fact, what we could see in the distance –about 1000 feet ahead — was clear. It should be fine. Guess what? It wasn’t.
It was also late in the day, and the sun would be down in about 2 hours. We turned around and climbed down what seemed to be another two miles of irregularly shaped bowling balls, getting back to our truck just before the sun was about to set. I’d like to say that I didn’t complain about not having water, food, and our binoculars. But that would not be true.
Even when you think you are prepared in life for challenges, often you are not. This is when complaints and frustration start.
Nothing is more daunting (or important) than being prepared for what lies ahead of your child on their digital hike through the maze of apps and websites they will seek out or accidentally encounter. You must be prepared to help mitigate their risks. To do so involves parental controls. It is and will be frustrating.
One of the top complaints I receive when speaking to parents about the very devices that they gave to their children, i.e., iPhones — — is frustration using Apple’s Screen Time Manager. Although it’s a good first step along the rocky trail of parental control challenges – the various workarounds that kids have found are incredibly aggravating for parents who have spent so much time and energy setting the controls in an effort to keep their kids safe.
With that in mind, here are a few tips that I hope you will find helpful along your digital trail with Screen Time Manager for IOS.
- Set a strong Screen Time passcode: When I talk with kids, many of them will tell me that it’s easy to get around passcodes on their phones because their parents use a birthday, address, phone number, or other easily discovered number. So, make certain your child doesn’t know or can easily determine the passcode. You can change the passcode regularly to ensure that it remains secure .
- Disable Siri & Dictation: If only they spent as much time on their studies as they do backward engineering your parental controls. For example, kids can use Siri to send messages by voice, which circumvents the need to use the Messages app and makes the limit you implemented useless. You can disable Siri & Dictation by going to Content & Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps in Screen Time .
- Remove Messages from the list of apps: This one is really clever. In fact, I was thinking as I wrote this article, “I wonder if the engineers at Apple have teen/tween kids?” If they did, they would know how intuitive this technology is to them. Here’s a great example. Kids can take a screenshot of a message and then use the Share button to send the picture and an attached note to someone else.
Similarly, if an old Message notification remains on the lock screen, it can be used to open the app, even after the time limit has been reached. Both situations can be prevented by going to Content & Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps in Screen Time and removing Messages from the list of apps .
- Disable Changing Time Zone: Did you know that kids can control time? Well… kind of. Maybe not in an H.G. Wells kind of way. But they can change the time zone on their device to bypass Screen Time limits. Here are some tips provided by Family Orbit. To prevent this, go to Screen Time > Content and Privacy Restrictions > Location Services > System Services > Setting Time Zone .
- Use third-party parental control apps: For years I have told parents that they’re are many good parental controls, but no GREAT parental controls. There are many third-party parental control apps available that offer more advanced features than Apple’s Screen Time. I hope these tips help you keep your child safe online!
TOP PARENTAL CONTROLS
I hate parental controls as much as I hate going to the dentist. They are often awkward, painful, — and like the dentist, expensive. (My apologies to the dentist who is reading this article. I’m sure you are a very nice person.)
However, much like the dentist in the physical world, your child needs parental controls in order to have a healthy, online life.
There are many parental control apps and software available, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Again, these can be painful – but helpful. To that end, here are a few for consideration as reviewed by A Wired Family, PC Magazine, and Ablison.
- Norton Family: Norton Family is a comprehensive parental control software that offers features such as web filtering, time supervision, and location tracking. It also allows parents to monitor their child’s social media activity and set limits on screen time . However, it can be expensive compared to other options.
- Qustodio: Qustodio is a user-friendly parental control app that offers features such as web filtering, time supervision, and location tracking. It also allows parents to monitor their child’s social media activity and set limits on screen time . However, some users have reported issues with the app’s accuracy.
- Mobicip: Mobicip is a parental control app that offers features such as web filtering, time supervision, and location tracking. It also allows parents to monitor their child’s social media activity and set limits on screen time . However, some users have reported issues with the app’s accuracy.
- Bark: Bark is a parental control app that focuses on monitoring social media activity. It uses artificial intelligence to analyze your child’s online activity for signs of cyberbullying, depression, or other issues. However, it does not offer web filtering or time supervision features.
- Boomerang Parental Control: Boomerang Parental Control is an app that offers features such as web filtering, time supervision, and location tracking. It also allows parents to monitor their child’s social media activity and set limits on screen time . However, some users have reported issues with the app’s accuracy.
But let’s step outside of parental controls that manage where your child can go online — and look at Life360, which helps manage where they go in the real, physical world. There are other parental controls that come with IOS, or still others such as BARK that can track your child. But Life360 is much more robust — and developed for families to know the location of Mom, Dad, the kids, Grandma and Grandpa, and other willing participants.
What is it? Life360 is a location-sharing app that allows you to track the whereabouts of your loved ones, set geofencing alerts, and communicate with them instantly. Here are some benefits and weaknesses of Life360:(Full disclosure, I really like this parental control.)
- Safety and Security: Life360 offers a sense of security and peace of mind for families by providing real-time location tracking and safety features. This might be important for families of young children when visiting friends or at sleepovers. Parents can easily monitor their children’s whereabouts and receive alerts when they arrive at or leave designated places like school or home. This can be particularly beneficial in emergency situations or when family members need assistance.
- Driving Behavior Monitoring: One of the key features of Life360 is its ability to monitor and track driving behavior. This can help parents keep an eye on their teenagers’ driving habits, promoting safe driving practices and reducing the risk of accidents.
- Family Communication: Life360 offers a platform for seamless family communication. Users can create private groups, send messages, and share their locations with each other. This can be especially useful for coordinating plans, staying connected during outings or trips, and ensuring everyone is aware of each other’s whereabouts.
- Privacy Concerns: There are concerns about privacy invasion and helicopter parenting tendencies that come with using such technology. It’s important to weigh both sides before deciding whether or not to use Life360 in your household.
- Cost: Life360 can be expensive compared to other options .
Going back to my dentist analogy, you take your child to the Orthodontist today in order to make their life easier in the future. The same is true with parental controls. However, you need to shop around. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Talk to neighbors and friends and listen to their experiences. Do some additional research. Make a decision and move forward.