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More protection for children

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A healthy dose of screen time.

Computers and the internet are endlessly fascinating for kids and teenagers. What’s more, not every website is suitable for young people, as every adult knows. Parental controls set up technology aids to restrict access to the computer and online media.

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How to make the digital world a safe place for children.

Teach media intelligence

This article will show you some technical tools that limit kids’ and teens’ computer and online use. However, teaching them to be media-savvy and to handle computers and the internet properly is an educational challenge that today’s parents have to face up to. Technology can help with it, but it is not a solution.

Every family has to answer the question of at what age their kids can begin using computers for itself. One thing is certain: The youngest, in particular, are best shielded from things that are unfamiliar to them or upset them needlessly. 
On the other hand, older children and teenagers also have privacy rights. Blocking programs often provide an opportunity to keep parents informed about their offspring’s computer activities, allowing parents to monitor their children. This may go hand in hand with a loss of trust. And when in doubt, teenagers are resourceful enough to get the content they want online or to gain access to a computer through their friends. 

To counter these evasive maneuvers, there are a few tips that have proven helpful

  • Do not leave kids alone with the computer, particularly younger ones. Take time to explore computers and the internet together.
  • Agree on time periods for use. This sets limits in advance. There are also technical tools that help to observe time limits.
  • Set up your kids’ own user accounts on devices. They should not have full access to things like the control panel or software installation functions. Windows and Mac security applications even require users to have their own accounts.
  • When your youngster gets the first device of their own, take time to set it up. For example, tablets often allow you to save the age of the user, and then filter some content accordingly. Remember that you are liable for whatever your children do online. This alone is enough reason for monitoring their online activities.
  • While you should completely forbid smaller children to shop and install things from app and media stores, you can be more lenient with teenagers and set security applications to require a parent’s consent for any purchase. 

Basically, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the question. When it comes to kids and computers, trust in your children’s maturity plays a key role. The “Schau hin” (German only) and “Klicksafe.de” portals offer advice and help.  

Set up parental controls in Windows

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Microsoft calls its parental control software “Family Safety”. It comes pre-installed and only needs to be enabled. One prerequisite for use is that every child sets up a Microsoft account. If the child does not have one yet, you will need to create it. 

  1. Go to Settings and choose Accounts.
  2. Click “Family & other people” and then “Add a family member”.
  3. Select “Child”. Then you will need to select the email address of your child’s Microsoft account. If you have not created this yet, click “The person I want to add doesn’t have an email address”. Follow the steps to set one up. An invitation to be accepted is sent to the address that has been set up. For younger children, then, you will do that yourself.
  4. Once the account has been set up, the family member will automatically appear in the list. Click “Manage family settings online”.

This will take you to the website where you can modify the various functions as you wish:

  • Activity reporting: Activity on the device can be viewed and analyzed. Remember, however, that the point is to monitor your child. It is only fair that you explain to your child that this function has been turned on. If you conceal this and your child finds out, the result may be a huge loss of trust.
  • Screen time: A time period may be defined for computer and Xbox use. This gives you the option of defining both the length of time and the timeframe during which the kids may use their devices.
  • Limit apps: You can block the use of apps.
  • Filter content: This prevents access to questionable websites. Microsoft classifies content centrally. However, you can also block websites manually or add exceptions. This block function only works in a Microsoft browser. This is why use of other browsers installed on the computer is blocked.
  • Limit spending: If kids are allowed to purchase something in the Microsoft Store, you have the option there of limiting the spending amount or insisting on the approval of a parent. 

Changes always take effect immediately. To ensure that the limits are obeyed, the child must log on with the Microsoft account that you set up or selected. 

Set up parental controls in macOS

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macOS has had parental controls for years. Only a user with administration rights on the computer may create and manage them. A user must be present for every child who uses the Mac.

  • Go to System Preferences and select Users & Groups.
  • Then click the plus sign to create an account for the child. The “Enable Parental Controls” option can be seen directly in the menu. Clicking it turns the account just modified into a secure account. Now you can modify the various areas as you wish:
    • Apps: This tab allows you to limit access to individual programs and system functions.
    • Web: This is how parents regulate which sites children are allowed to access. Both content filters administered centrally by Apple and exceptions can be defined. Filtering only works with Safari. For this reason, access to other installed browsers should be limited in the app controls.
    • Stores: Parents can limit access to Apple’s various stores (iTunes, the App Store).
    • Time: The options in this area allow you to assign a duration for daily use to the user account. Moreover, it allows you to define when the user may sign on to the system every day.

Routers often offer similar functionsIf you merely want to control internet access, it is best to check your router’s user guide, because many devices offer centralized parental controls that apply to certain devices. This is practical if the kids already have their own computers, but you want to prevent them from spending all night online. 
 

Further reading

FAQ