CONSUMER FILE

Smartphone Apps, Devices To Monitor Your Kids’ Online Activities

Jan 17, 2019, 7:26 PM | Updated: 9:07 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Keeping tabs on your children’s online activities keeps getting more and more challenging in this increasingly high-tech world.

Fortunately there is help.

Several devices and software can filter out inappropriate content and protect your children.

Circle With Disney

Ruth Horsley uses Circle with Disney, a $99 device linked to her wireless router. She says it helps the keep the seven kids in her home on track.

“I feel like it helps me establish safe boundaries with my kids, because what I want is for them to learn how to govern themselves,” Horsley explained. “Circle helps me create that kind of atmosphere in our home where they can learn to manage and have those safe boundaries set up.”

Circle oversees every device on her network, from the kids’ iPads to the Xbox gaming console, to the television in the basement. It blocks out unwanted content and prevents the kids from installing unwanted apps.

It also sets any sort of time limit a parent would like.

“We had a specific off-time during the day that they had to obey,” said Horsley.

She also can also review activity history.

“You can see what time of day this was, and where they were at and what they were viewing,” she said.

Horsley also subscribes to the Circle Go service for $5 a month. That brings filtering and time limits to her older kids’ cell phones when they’re not using the home wireless network.

Still, she says she’s found Circle is not a fix all.

“I’ve also had to flip on the parental screen-time feature on our iPhones which has been a huge, wonderful thing,” Horsley explained.

OurPact

Angie Johnson finally gave in and got smartphones for her three girls. With two in high school and one in junior high, she decided it was finally time.

“I was trying to hold back as long as possible,” she said. “We just decided we need to because in this day and age, we just need to have that communication.”

After trying a few monitoring apps, Johnson found OurPact. It can block questionable material and limit screen time on her kids’ phones.

“If you see them falling behind on homework then maybe they’re having too much screen time. They’re distracted. Maybe you limit that a little bit more,” said Johnson.

OurPact can also locate your kids.

“It shows the proximity of where she is. It’s not an exact thing, but if she is right around here it’ll say, ‘Addison has arrived,’” she said.

Johnson uses OurPact’s free version, which shows those proximate locations. After upgrading to the $7-a-month premium version, she’ll have precise locations, along with the ability to block individual apps.

Plus, it will send out new app alerts.

“I have seen a couple times they have installed an app (on their phones). I said, ‘I just saw that you installed this app on your phone,’ and we will decide if it is going to be ok or not,” Johnson explained.

OurPact can also block text apps.

“I’ve noticed my kids are texting a lot and on the phone a lot, and I feel like we need to limit it a little bit more,” said Johnson.

She says the only issue she has found with OurPact is when the cell service on her girls’ phones becomes poor, it’s harder to turn some features on or off.

Google Family Link

Abigail Webster loves Google’s free parental control software, Family Link. She can configure nearly everything on her three kids’ devices from what they watch to preventing adult content from showing up in searches.

“If they looked up something they shouldn’t, or they ask something (using Google Home), it will not come back with the query search result,” said Webster. “It works really good in concert with other Google products like Chrome and YouTube.”

Family Link also tracks her kids’ locations from their cell phones, can find lost phones and tablets, as well as overseeing screen time and schedules.

“It locks my kids’ tablets down, so every night they’re not sitting in their rooms or they’re not staying up late playing on their phones or tablets because it automatically locks them down,” Webster explained.

So far, Webster says she hasn’t found a drawback to Family Link, but she is always keeping an out for a new piece of software can help her protect to her children.

“Technology is always advancing,” Webster elaborated. “I feel like as parents we need to try to stay one step ahead of the game.

All three moms KSL spoke with said the most important tool for your kids’ safety online is not a tool or a filtering device. It is on-going conversations with your kids.

“So that’s the big thing as a parent. That’s where you can step in and use that as a teaching moment,” said Horsley. “Hopefully, they will they establish some good boundaries that will help them monitor and manage their life. I don’t want our kids to be so stuck in their screens that they’ve missed out on so much that life has to offer them.”

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Smartphone Apps, Devices To Monitor Your Kids’ Online Activities