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Apps to Monitor Kids' Phones

Digital media has created an important new job for parents, whether we want it or not, and that is to help our children learn how to be responsible digital citizens.

How to Monitor Your Child’s Phone

It’s a scary world for parents today with cyberbullying, sexting, porn, identity theft, scams, false information, and violence all just a touch of a button away on our phones. We struggle to discern what information is trustworthy online, what reviews are legit, and what sources are reputable. We then have to pass this information on to our children.

Digital media has created an important new job for parents, whether we want it or not, and that is to help our children learn how to be responsible digital citizens. children copy what they see, so make sure you have a healthy relationship with your mobile devices

Monkey See, Monkey Do

It starts with taking an honest look at our own digital media usage. Parental behavior is the single biggest influencer in a child’s life. How many hours a day are we on our devices? Does our device distract us from engaging in family conversations or activities? Do we keep our own phones out of our bedrooms at night so we can get enough sleep? Your kids will mirror your behavior, so be mindful.

Set Expectations

Next, we must have open, honest conversations with our kids about the content that is available to them and which content does and does not match up with our family values. Reputable organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and Common Sense Media offer independent, nonprofit, research-backed information to help guide these conversations and educate both parents and children.

Cell Phone Monitoring for Parents

Finally, we must closely monitor our children’s digital media usage, particularly on their phones, and teach our children about safe usage. When is the last time you picked up your child’s phone and scrolled through their text messages and browsing history to see what they’ve been up to? Your child is a minor and it is your right to control what they see and use. You aren’t spying on them and most experts will tell you that you should never secretly monitor your children’s activities. You should let your child know that you are monitoring their activities on their phones or tablets because you are the parent and that is your responsibility.

Start the process of protecting your child by using the parental controls provided on the phone’s operating system. Microsoft, Apple, Google Chrome, and Amazon Fire all have settings that allow parents to prevent access to certain web sites and limit exposure to inappropriate content.

protect your kids' activities online

Phone Monitoring Apps

If you want to help your kids manage the amount of time they spend online, Apple ScreenTime and Google Family Link are two options available.

If you feel like you need to take it a step further and want to monitor the content of your child’s text messages or social media posts, you can look into investing in a third-party parental monitoring app. Apps that have appeared in numerous reviews, including Digital Trends, PC Magazine, and Common Sense Media are Qustodio, NetNanny, Bark, and MamaBear.

Qustodio – This app works on iOS, Android, Kindle, Mac and Windows devices. It allows parents to block inappropriate content, balance screen time across devices, control games and apps, monitor time spent on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and others, and view your child’s phone calls and texts. You will need to know your child’s social media passwords in order to monitor activity. To access all of Qustodio’s features, you’ll need to purchase a Premium Subscription, which runs anywhere from $4.58 to $11.50 a month, depending on how many devices you want to protect.

NetNanny – The NetNanny app also works on Windows, Android, iOS, and Kindle. Some of the features it touts include giving you instant reporting of your kids’ online searches, gives you visibility into what apps your kids are using, allows you to block pornography and other adult content, and allows you manage the amount of screen time they have. Net Nanny doesn’t have prices listed online, but does mention that you can cover 5 or 20 devices for as little as $5 a year per device.

BarkBark monitors Android devices, Apple devices, Amazon devices and computers. It can monitor a variety of different apps, as well as text messages, photos, videos, and web browsing. For a full list of everything it monitors, click here. You can get automatic alerts via email and texts when Bark detects a potential risk. It costs $9 a month per family according to its web site.

MamaBear -  MamaBear features include location tracking services so you can be alerted when your kids arrive and leave places like home or school, social media monitoring of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook activities, and an alert that lets you know when your child is driving, or riding, at a faster speed than you would like. It also has text messaging monitoring for kids on Android devices only. Pricing ranges from free accounts to $24.99 for a six-month plan.

Stay Vigilant

These parental control apps are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many others out there, so you’ll need to do your homework to compare features and pricing to find the plan that’s right for your family. Most importantly, stay educated and vigilant about monitoring and talking to your kids about safe and appropriate digital media use.

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