Inside: Unsure about whether you need to use parental control software? Find out how they work, which type to use, what they can do and whether you need them?
Read any article on the internet about how to talk to kids about porn, and they’ll tell you that you need to monitor and limit what your child sees and does online. Install software, buy a special modem or connect a device to your current modem, and it’ll give you parental control over your child’s access to the internet.
So we’re going to look at parental controls and how they can help you to protect your child from online pornography.
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What are parental controls?
Simply, parental controls are a way to monitor and control your child’s access to the internet. Which means they can stop kids from finding inappropriate content online.
What are the different types of parental controls?
Basically, there are two different types of parental controls.
Software that you install on your computer and every device (tablet, phone). These are usually easy to install and you can monitor and set controls from an app on your phone.
A router. This can either be a new router (the box that connects to your modem, that sends the wifi signal out to your home) OR a device that connects to the router. These are easy to plug in and you can monitor and set controls from an app on your phone.
Which type of parental control should I use?
There are lots of different options, and there is not one solution for everything. So I picked the brain of Cory Peppler from Parenting Digital for some advice on options to consider. His facebook group is worth joining, and he is the person that I turn to with my own questions!
For the devices in your home (tablets on Wi-Fi, PS4, other internet connections) Cory recommends getting a filter at the router level. Prices can vary and you may need to talk to your internet provider as they may need to adjust settings at their end.
For devices that leave your house, like the phone, the router devices above won’t help. For monitoring emails, social media, texts, and the like, you’ll need to consider apps and software filters like Qustodio, Bark, Norton Family and NetNanny. They all have monthly fees, rather than a one-off fee.
If you’d like to know how Qustodio works, you can read my Qustodio Review here.
For phones, it is worth taking a look at what your carrier offers. Most major carriers offer some form of parental/family tools, usually at a small additional fee.
TIP: Make sure you do your research as there are pros and cons for every type of parental controls, and what works for one family won’t necessarily work for your family. For example, I don’t use a router in my house because it slows down our ‘already slow’ internet.
What do parental controls do?
There’s a number of different things that parental controls can do.
They can filter and block access to specific websites, words or images. So if you don’t want your child visiting certain websites (eg youtube.com), using certain search terms like (breasts, sex) or finding sexually explicit images, you can stop it from happening.
They can block outgoing content which can stop your child from sharing personal information online or through email.
They can limit internet time, which allows parents to control when their child is online and for how long.
They can alert parents of their child’s online activity without blocking access and can be used with or without your child’s knowledge. Some software can record which websites a child has visited. Other programs display warning messages when children visit certain websites.
Why do you need parental controls?
So how do you know if your family needs parental controls or not?
It’s important to remember that every family is unique, and we all manage online time differently. So the rules in one family can be completely different to what may happen in your family.
And every child is different. Some kids are more curious than others. Which means they may accidentally find pornography. Or they may actively go and seek pornography.
Accidental exposure to pornography is a real threat for children. And as parents we should be working hard to stop kids from seeing sexually explicit content.
You can read this blog post, if you’re unsure about the current porn climate and it’s effect on children.
The best way to protect children from accidental (or deliberate) exposure to pornography is to prevent it.
It’s important to remember that parental controls won’t stop your child from ever seeing porn. They may see porn when visiting a friend (who doesn’t have parental controls set up), or be shown it by another kid on the school bus. Or you may not have set it up properly or your child has worked out how to get around it.
So parental controls can prevent your child from accidental exposure as well as (hopefully) delay their first exposure until they are old enough to respond appropriately.
TIP: Don’t make the mistake of assuming that parental controls mean that you don’t need to talk to your child about porn. You still need to talk to your child so that they know what to do when they see porn. You can learn more in this blog post, about how to start the porn conversation.
Which parental control app or device do I choose?
It depends on what you want it to do and how ‘technology challenged’ you are!
First of all, I would work out the different things you would like it to do.
So for my family, I wanted to protect my kids from online pornography. As well as use it as an easy way to manage the amount of time they spend online, and where they go. I also wanted to know where my ‘super curious’ 10 year old son goes online, and to receive alerts of what search terms he is using. For my 14 year old daughter, I wanted to stop her from playing Sims or watching videos on Netflix, whilst pretending to do her homework. So we went with Qustodio, as it does everything that I want it to do. Plus it is pretty simple to set up. You can read more in this blog post for my Qustodio Review.
TIP: My advice with software that allows you to ‘spy’ on your child, is to let your child know that you have installed this software. So tell your child that you have installed it, and let them have a look at what you can (and can’t see).
Make sure you sign up for a free trial first. So that you can work out what it can (and can’t do). As well as whether you can actually install it or not.
Don’t forget to look at the costs. Is there a monthly or annual fee? Or just one upfront fee? Do you need to pay extra for more features?
Test out their online support. Is it staffed 24 hours a day? How long does it take for them to respond to your questions?
What if I’m hopeless with technology
That’s totally fine! I still can’t change channels on our tv (and we’ve had it for 5 years). So I totally understand.
All of the providers offer online support and are able to help you with any problems that you have.
Or you can refer to this super helpful guide from Internet Matters on how to set up parental controls. I love this guide as it is very user-friendly! You just select your device or what you want to block and follow the instructions.
Installing parental controls is a great way to start conversations about internet safety and pornography.
So make sure you let your child know that you have installed parental controls, and what it means. Let them have a look at the type of information you can see. My 14 year old daughter was very keen to see how much information was private (or not).
Internet safety is a conversation that needs to start early. So that it becomes just another fact of life that your child accepts.
And remember, parental controls are not a replacement for open and honest conversations about porn. Conversations still need to keep happening!
Resources to help with talking about porn
My mission is to create resources that will help you to naturally talk to your kids about sex, all while respecting your personal values.
Which means that inside this website, you’ll find lots of resources to help you with talking to your child about love, sex, relationships and growing up.
My Sex Education 101 page includes all of the information on sex education. You’ll find lots of different blog posts to help with getting started, on a wide range of different topics – bodies, consent, diversity, porn, sexual intercourse and more.
You’ll find videos about sex ed in my Sex Education Videos resource page that you can watch with your child or to learn more about sex education yourself.
You’ll also find an extensive range of sex education books for children, for kids of all ages. There are even some books in there for parents!
If you’re looking for some ideas on how to talk to your child about bodies, How to Talk to Kids About Bodies, will help you to start naming the private body parts and to have shame-free conversations with them about bodies. It is filled with lots of different ideas on how to have natural conversations with your child about their body.
You’ll also find some child-friendly anatomically-correct cartoon illustrations of the genitals and internal reproductive organs that are appropriate for children from the age of 3 and up. Let’s Look at Different Body Parts is a printable that will help take the awkward out of talking to your child about their body, so they grow up feeling educated, confident, and comfortable in their own skin.
Or if you’re looking for an activity that you can sit down and complete with your child, then you may want to look at my activity books. They are perfect for starting natural conversations whilst your hands are busy.
If you need some help with explaining sexual intercourse to your child, then How to Talk to Kids About Sex, will help you explain sex to your child in a way they will understand. It breaks sex down into simple steps that take the stress out of explaining!
If you’re unsure about how to answer your child’s questions about sex, then I have a number of different resources that will give you word-for-word answers that are age-specific.
If you want a printed book to hold in your hands, then The Sex Education Answer Book will give you age-specific answers to the most common questions kid’s ask parents about sex. Which means you don’t need to worry about finding a child-friendly explanation that your child understands.
If you want the answers to questions about a lot more than just sex, then Sex Ed Quickies is your best option. This web-based app has answers to 300+ questions that kids commonly ask parents, including how babies are made, sexual intercourse, body parts, puberty, relationships, pregnancy, birth, masturbation, sexual diversity, gender, pornography, STIs, contraception and much more.
And if you get stuck, feel free to get in touch! You can contact me here.