These days it can be said that parents have a whole new world to worry about besides the basic concerns because of the Internet and social media.
The Internet is an incredible development; however, with this new vast world comes lots of dangers to children on a daily basis even when they are safe and sound at home such as online predators, pornography, fraud scams, and cyber bullying.
Parents can't watch their children's every click, keystroke, and move, so that is where parental control software and programs come into play.
This article will discuss what makes the best parental control software, what to look out for, and the basic elements and features of this type of software.
Parents can't ban Internet use and social media exposure from their kids forever.
The truth is there are lots of benefits one can gain from Internet access; just the mere fact that we are connected to all four corners of the earth at the click of a button is astounding.
So, the reason to use parental control is to retain a sense of composure and peace of mind for a relatively small investment when children venture into the the big bad world.
With the best parental control software parents can closely monitor activities and block inappropriate and unsafe materials while still permitting children to enjoy the fruits of the endless online resources and knowledge and without being too invasive.
Parental control software and programs provide parents will specific controls to determine which games, websites and keywords their children can access.
It's all about prevention in that parents can block activities that develop into dangerous situations with sophisticated parental software that comes with file transfer blocking and message monitoring.
Some of the software has the ability log keystrokes so that parents can receive emails if kids try to browse dangerous or inappropriate content.
Whether parents want to receive warnings when their kids act up online or on their PC, tablet, and smartphone, or parents want to put a limit on screen time, or perhaps there is anxiety about kids' social media activities, the best parental control software and programs can certainly help.
Parental control software or child monitoring software usually offers several layers of protection, but the best parental control software will have sophisticated tools in an easy-to-navigate package.
The best software and programs are highly customizable so that parents can add or remove settings and restrictions as they see fit.
Before we get into each element to look out for in a software, it is worth noting that most parental controls tools have a content filter, which blocks websites that have matching unwanted categories and keywords. This kind of filtering will only work well if it's browser-independent, and for full coverage there needs to be filtering of secure HTTPS traffic. Without HTTPS filtering, a precocious kid can bypass the system using a secure anonymous proxy website such as AVG's HideMyAss or MegaProxy.
Another very common feature is access scheduling that allow parents to set a weekly schedule for Internet access, to control PC usage, or even a daily or weekly cap on Internet usage.
These are the elements to look out for in determining what makes the best parental control software:
It is worth your while to check the software, program, or application of your choice to see its blocking and filtering capabilities!
Filtering and blocking settings should include chat blocking, application blocking, social network blocking, and search engine filtering.
Some software is equipped to both filter and block website content.
Parents should opt for software that is easy to install, navigate, and manage.
The best parental control software will have the option to monitor kids' online activities without their knowing.
Some other features to look out for are easy password access and the ability to schedule monitoring times.
The best parental control software lists detailed recordings of kids' computer use with keyboard strokes, screenshots, and lists of online searches and websites that are accessed.
Some software can capture passwords and usernames for social media sites like Facebook.
The best software will have the ability to take screenshots and send them in emails to the parents so they can see the activities and stay informed.
Most households have more than one kid which means parents will need to monitor a number of phones and computers with different operating systems.
Long gone are the days when a single parental control utility on one family PC sufficed.
Kids of today have all kinds of devices that connect to the Internet, and the newest parental control software needs to keep up.
Parents should ensure that a particular parental control utility supports all the devices found in one given household.
It is also important to check there are no limits on the number of child devices. There are mobile-centric parental control apps for kids that just use phones.
If all this sounds too complicated and coverage for each device seems like a daunting task, then parents should look into a whole-network solution.
Whole-network solutions perform content filtering at the level of the router which means that every device on the network will be affected. This means that whole-network solutions don't offer the fine level of monitoring and control that a local agent on each device can provide.
Parents need to make sure that when the going gets tough and they don't understand some features, they can contact the vendor.
As children get older, content filtering might start to seem futile.
There will be a point when parents start to worry more about their kids' social media interactions and communication with other people, such as who they are chatting to and what they are chatting about.
This is where social media trackers become important!
There is the option to limit access to posts that contain phrases and words that might be part of something inappropriate and dangerous, or parents can get nasty and literally dig in and see everything.
In most cases, social media tracking requires the parents to know their kids' login details, which means parents need to somehow convince their children to log in and install this tracker application.
This is definitely the kind of feature parents should discuss with their children.
Most parental control software come with the option to receive notifications via email or text when a child posts a status with dubious language, happens upon a blocked site, or bends the rules somehow.
However, some parental control tools can be overridden remotely by kids who request a parental override in order to unblock sites or spend more time online.
Most of the time, parents can control a parental control system via one online console from which they can review activity reports, tweak settings, or respond to a child's override request. Any changes a parent makes will take effect on the kids' devices when they connect to the Internet.
Once we move past the basics mentioned above, there are parental control systems that start to broaden their horizons with very advanced features.
Some of these features include limiting the kids' access to games, movies, and TV shows based on ratings.
Parents can also control whom their children chat to with several instant messaging system settings.
Another advanced feature is the parents' ability to block specific applications like enforcing Safe Search on well-known and frequently visited search portals.
There are also standard features that are enhanced to make them advanced; for example: the best content filters are not just based on a database of categories, but they also analyze page content in real-time in order to allow access to a website minus access to the erotica.
Here are some tips to enhance the experience of using the best parental control software.
There are always some loopholes and it's important to be aware of how to overcome them!
Facebook and YouTube are two of the most popular websites.
When it comes to Facebook, security isn't so clear-cut.
There is the option to block people and applications in the settings options; however, most of the content users are exposed to comes from what friends are writing, sharing, and viewing.
Many of the family parental security software packages now come with special social media features to block certain elements of the social media platform.
Norton and Kaspersky collect the entire Facebook activity log and feed it automatically into their reporting functions to see what was posted on Facebook and when, much like the log and reporting capabilities which detail which websites were visited, which website a child intended to visit, and an entire search history.
With YouTube, Google does apply a safe mode option, that once activated, covers all activities of YouTube by someone that logs in with the same account.
PC users just need to navigate to the YouTube website and scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says 'Safety' box.
The settings provide an explanation of how the Safety box works and which restrictions apply and how.
Tablet users need to set up the safe mode slightly differently:
Android users need to launch the YouTube app and then tap the three dots on the top right-hand corner in order to open the settings menu.
The Safesearch option will then appear.
iPad or iPhone users need to launch the YouTube app. On the top left-hand corner next to the account name will appear a cog icon. Users need to tap it and select the Safesearch option.
Microsoft already introduced family security settings with Windows 8.
These settings allowed parents to restrict the kind of content children could access, the ability to create children's accounts, as well as to set time limits for when children can use the devices.
These settings still exist with Windows 10 and offer a good starting point for PC security.
The most useful elements of the settings is the choice to create a child's account.
Parents can create an email and add a phone number in order to create an account. Once that is done, parents can untick boxes that allow for targeted ads.
There is a setting called Add Money that puts credit into the child's account that he/she can spend in the Windows store on apps, games, music, movies, and TV shows.
Parents can also set screen time hours, and there is the Web Browsing filter which protects children from inappropriate sites and media. Other features to expect are Games & Media filters and Find your Child GPS.
There are many elements within a software or browser that can be tweaked in order to further secure Internet access, but there is a step you can take to guarantee Internet security: the center of it all - the Router.
In case you need a reminder, a router is a little box with flashing lights. It is the number one gateway to the Internet.
There are special applications like FamilyShield by OpenDNS which allows users to filter all the content that comes directly from the heart of the router. The issue is that this approach is a bit broad-brushed in that everyone who uses the Web via the router will have their content filtered on either high, moderate, or low filters.
There have been improvements to this all-encompassing filtering approach with offerings like Sky's Broadband Shield that allows users to set times limits so that access is opened up when the children go to bed.
The advantage to this approach is that all devices around the house that are connected to the same WiFi will have the same restrictions, so there is no need to set up each tablet, phone, or PC separately.
Bear in mind that the latter does not apply to 3G or 4G signals on mobile phones or other WiFi connections that are in range and don't have passwords.
If the router-based approach seems too nuclear and restrictive, then you can operate settings on an individual device level.
This depends on the operating systems set up on each relevant device and will dictate which approach to use.
There are countless parental control software programs out there that are dedicated solely to security settings for children controlled by concerned parents.
The top-rated one is called Net Nanny.
This program offers multiple options and real-time alerts for dangerous situations, cross-platform protection, and is completely customizable so that parents can choose what to filter out or allow.
Net Nanny incorporates profiles based on age in order to help determine the best-matched settings for each child.
Most kids are more computer savvy than their parents, and this means that the internet filter software needs to be easy to navigate, intuitive, and one which doesn't require much maintenance time.
The beauty of Net Nanny is that it is designed for those parents who are not so technologically advanced. The software gets to work as soon as it's installed, which makes it perfect for those parents who prefer a simple setup without the need to modify and tweak settings.
Net Nanny has the ability to control which content will be displayed, to block objectionable websites and applications, and to set up passwords to allow access to sites on an ad hoc basis.
Other things the software includes are remote management control, popup blocking, email filtering, and chat room monitoring that protects against online predators.
Net Nanny combines all the right features into an easy to navigate web filtering solution.
I have selected some our top antivirus providers' best parental control software that either comes as part of their package in the higher-tiered products or which can be purchased separately as a software.
Here are my top 3 choices:
Bitdefender never disappoints, and it is no different with the Parental Control software.
All it requires is 4 steps: the software is installed onto the children's devices, a profile is created for each child, devices are added to the created profiles, and then you're good to go with all the activity on these devices ready to be monitored.
Some of the top-notch features that the software includes are:
Activity Reports: Parents can track their kids' online activity, which includes all visited websites or attempted visits, and they can block dangerous and offensive content.
Activity History: Parents can choose daily, weekly, or monthly activity reports or hourly notifications that detail the children's activities. The report includes which websites were visited or which were attempted to be visited, and chat and SMS records, including who sent and received a message.
Activity Alerts: Much like the reports and history features, this element sends alerts on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis about everything the kids do on their devices and online.
Social Network Tracking: This attribute tracks children's activities on all social network platforms. From new friend requests, to comments, pictures, videos, and privacy settings, all is under the watchful eye of the parent.
Mobile Phone Tracking: To avoid harmful conversations, mobile applications, and sketchy contacts, this feature keeps parents in the loop at all times.
IM Monitoring & Blocking: Cyber bullying is a real thing! This element of the software lets parents block online bullies, blacklist specific contacts, as well as the ability to block incoming messages with specific keywords.
SMS & Call Monitoring: Parents can block suspicious contacts, calls, and text messages at the click of a button.
Website & App Blocking: By selectively filtering content, parents can control which websites and applications are allowed ahead of time and track which ones were added and accessed by the children.
Location Tracking: If a parent can't reach his/her child, this attribute allows one to check up on where the kid is located and to make sure he/she is in a safe area.
This software comes built in with the higher-tiered Internet Security suite, so I recommend purchasing this instead of the parental software on its own.
Your PC should also be protected; not only your kids!
For more information, take a look at our comprehensive Bitdefender review.
Norton Family helps your kids enjoy the world of the Internet in a safe and secure environment.
Online predators exist and kids need to be safeguarded from their sophisticated tactics and tricks.
Norton has created a software whereby kids can explore the web safely in a balanced environment of restrictions and freedom.
These are a few of the product features that stand out:
Time Supervision: Parents can stay on top of how much time children spend on their various devices and encourage healthy habits by scheduling particular times of the day and week allotted to device and online usage.
Web Supervision: Kids can explore the Internet safely with built-in tools that block unsuitable websites and alert parents about which websites their kids are visiting.
Search Supervision: With this attribute, parents can see the keywords, terms, and phrases that their children use in order to monitor and protect them from inappropriate content.
Social Network Supervision: This allows a parent to check how often kids are logging onto Facebook and other social media platforms as well as the name and age the kids use on these platforms.
Location Supervision: It is important to stay informed about the whereabouts of children and this tool lets parents map out where their kids are. There is a 30-day history to show where they have been on both Android and iOS devices.
Personal Information Protection: This prevents children from giving out personal credentials and private information such as phone numbers, addresses, school addresses, and more.
Access Request: Kids can communicate with parents via Norton Family if they disagree with a blocked website or house rule.
Reports: There are weekly or monthly report options to see what the kids have been up to. The reports are sent directly to the parents' inboxes.
Support for 10 Devices: This software protects up to 10 PCs, Macs, iOS, and Android devices with a single subscription.
It's essential to protect yourself against malicious malware besides for looking out for your kids. This means that Norton's Premium package is the way to go because it includes all of Norton's top features including parental control.
If you want to learn more about Norton Security, then visit our Norton review page.
Kaspersky believes that there are safer ways for children to explore the digital world and for parents to be aware of what's going on.
Kaspersky Safe Kids offers real-time protection for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS devices.
The software includes these attributes among many others:
Real-time Notifications & Alerts: Parents will receive automatic, on-the-go notifications about their kids' activities so as to keep track of any suspicious behavior.
Manage Internet Activities: This feature can select and block certain websites and applications based on dubious content.
Manage Applications: Parents can decide which applications are safe with filters and settings.
Manage Devices:There are also scheduling options for allotted usage time of devices and Internet usage.
Monitor Social Media: Parents can monitor Facebook activity and all public posts on social media platforms that the kids access.
Monitor Calls and SMS: This is to keep an eye on what is being said and to whom.
Monitor Location: With GPS safe zones and location detection, kids will remain safe at all times.
Kaspersky is definitely one of the top antivirus providers in all areas, including its Parental Control and Kids Monitoring features.
In this case, I recommend you opt for the Total Security package for the ultimate value for money. This package offers Kids Monitoring and not just parental control, and therefore you would be getting the full Kaspersky Safe Kids benefits.
Learn more on our Kaspersky review.
If your main concern is filtering websites, then the Internet Security protection package suites perform just as well as the dedicated parental control software application software.
If you are looking to fine tune every single feature to each individual child, then the dedicated parental control software application software is probably the way to go because there are more functions on them.
The same goes for reporting functions and additional controls, because the dedicated software will be more detailed and comprehensive.
If, as a parent, you want to balance the tight-rope of controlling your kids' Internet access and device usage with overall antivirus control and value for money, then I would opt for the Internet Security package of the top antivirus providers.
In this way you are protecting yourself and your children from all kinds of cyber threats and getting a great deal on the best parental control software simultaneously.
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