5 key ways to put parental controls in place on computers, smartphones, tablets, and games consoles: Internet Scambusters #940
Parental controls -- restrictions you can implement on your child's computer and other devices -- are more essential than ever.
But what's the best way to learn about and use the controls?
We have the answers for you in this week's issue, along with news of a spam blackmail threat to users of Zoom, the online tele-meeting software.
Let's get started...
How to Protect Your Kids Online with Parental Controls
Are you wondering about -- or maybe even desperate -- to restrict your children's online and viewing activities through parental controls?
Your kids may already feel like you restrict and spy on their activities too much. But controlling their access to certain sites is an essential element of protecting them from scams -- and, possibly, protecting you from losing a lot money.
Still, many parents are not sure of how to go about implementing these controls, just when many younger children may be about to fly solo online with their new Christmas tech gifts.
And as grown up as they may feel, restricting older kids and teens, or at the very least, sitting down and discussing the risks with them, should always be on the agenda.
We're here to help.
Why You May Need Parental Controls
Kids and teens are one of the main markets for games and recreational software. And these days, they are also among the main users of educational programs.
Like the rest of us, they're at risk of being scammed, lured into spending your money, compromised in some way or even cyberbullied. Using parental controls enables you to protect their vulnerability and, hopefully, your wallet.
But controls can go way beyond that, for example by providing location tracking or ensuring data is properly backed up.
But before starting on implementation, you need to give some thought to the activities you might want to restrict. For example: amount of time spent on devices, the types of sites they can visit, their use of social media, and their ability to make purchases.
These are flexible restrictions and should be set up taking into account the youngster's age, experience, and trustworthiness! As they get older and more experienced, your parental controls naturally may change with time.
Implementing Parental Controls
There are five main ways you can limit or monitor your kids' computer access and online activities:
1. First, as we mentioned, discussing risks and agreeing on both restrictions and your monitoring access. If this works, it's probably the most effective parental control there is -- but that's a big "If"!
2. Then, the two main operating systems found on most home computers -- Microsoft Windows and Apple's macOS -- both come with built-in settings for parental controls.
The same goes for Apple's and Android's various mobile devices.
These enable you to do things like restrict access in terms of both devices and time, block websites, and manage spending permissions.
They're easy to get to and activate, both on PCs and Macs.
Microsoft has its own downloadable parental controls guide, but we found this page from How-to-Geek to be clearer: How to Use Parental Controls on Windows 10.
For the Mac operating system, visit Set up content and privacy restrictions in Screen Time on Mac. But again, check out this guide from iMore: How to use Parental Controls on your Mac: The ultimate guide.
For mobile devices, simply go to settings/screentime (iOS and iPadOS) or on Androids, visit the Play Store and click on settings/parental controls. For games devices like Xbox, you'll likely have to access settings through your account on a computer.
3. Controls built into apps and other software. These can often be found in the settings for individual apps, but in some games, including certain popular ones, they can be either difficult to find or non-existent.
The simple route is to launch an online search with the name of the app followed by "parental controls." We recommend you also do this if you're researching possible apps to buy as a gift or with a gift certificate.
4. Controls on specific websites. This mainly refers to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on. But there are so many these days, and the site operators vary in the amount of help they provide.
Generally, you will have to visit the site's privacy settings on your youngster's device and work from there.
For the four of the most popular social media apps, here are some useful shortcut links:
- Facebook: How To Set Up Facebook Parental Controls
- Instagram: Updated for 2020: How to Set Parental Controls for Instagram
- Twitter: Is Twitter Safe For Kids? 6 Things Parents Need to Know
- Snapchat: How To Set Up Snapchat Parental Controls
5. Dedicated apps -- programs that specialize in monitoring or controlling a device's activity. These include apps like NetNanny, Norton Family, and Bark (provider of some of the information in the links above).
For a fuller list of the top-rated parental control apps, see 10 Best Parental Control Apps of 2021.
We started this list talking about the importance of discussing Internet scams and other privacy risks with your children. This is extremely important because, kids being kids, they may try to circumvent or unset controls.
If they more fully understand why you are activating controls, they're less likely to do that. Plus, they'll be better armed as they head into adulthood, supported by your safety advice.
The question of parental controls is so important; we urge you to pass a copy of this issue to friends and families with youngsters.
Alert of the Week
If you use communications software Zoom, which many of us have had to do in recent months, you've likely also seen headlines about individuals caught "misbehaving" on camera or outsiders hacking into and disrupting online conferences.
If you're a Zoomer, then you might be alarmed to receive a spam email alleging that a defect in the Zoom software has enabled the writer to access your camera and record activities you'd rather not see online. Not just from when you were using Zoom but all the time.
It's a blackmail threat. One, received by a member of our team, demanded $2,000 of untraceable cybercurrency Bitcoin to avoid the supposed video being sent to contacts or posted online. The threat even includes a helpful tip on how to get Bitcoin if you don't already know!
It's a scam. Whatever you've been doing in the privacy of your home -- or not doing -- has not been recorded by this crook. There was no Zoom software glitch that enabled access to your device. Ignore it and tell the police.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!