Your teens use their smartphones for so much more than just talking and texting. There are new apps becoming available and popular every day. Some of them are fun, educational, or practically useful. Others are potentially dangerous, putting your teen at risk of encountering cyberbullies, objectionable material, or even online predators. How can you tell the difference, and how can you keep apps you don’t approve of off of your teenager’s phone? Take a look at what you need to know.
Get to Know Your Parental Controls
Parental controls are a good place to start with setting limits on your teen’s phone use.
Both Android and Apple devices offer parental control features that parents can use to block objectionable content and monitor which apps your child is using. On Android phones, you can download Family Link, an app that allows you to set up a Google account linked to yours that you can use to monitor your child’s activity and set screen time limits.
You can also create a child profile on your own device, then block your child’s access to the Google Play store or restrict the content they have access to in the play store.
Apple smartphones have a restrictions feature under settings that allows you to block apps as well as various features like AirDrop and FaceTime.
Monitor Your Child’s Activity
Most parental control settings won’t block all objectionable material, and some, like Family Link, only apply to children under 13. And as your child gets older, they’ll learn how to turn off parental controls on their own or go around them if they choose to.
Parental monitoring software can help you get a more detailed view of your child’s activity and catch things that parental controls might miss. You can also use it for children of any age. Once you install it on your child’s phone, you can monitor your child’s activity remotely from your own computer or device.
It doesn’t hurt to physically pick up your child’s phone and look at it every so often as well. You can do this without snooping or prying. Let your child know that accepting your oversight is one of the conditions of them having a phone to use, and check it in front of them, not behind their back. You don’t need to read every text or social media post – just scan for new apps that you don’t recognize and any potential signs of trouble. The goal is not to invade your teen’s privacy, just to ensure that they’re safe and not engaging in risky online behavior.
Keep The Conversation Going
Your teen’s phone habits should be an ongoing topic of conversation between you and your teen.
The reality is that if teens want to hide something from their parents, they can usually find a way. Some teens have gone so far as to have a second, secret phone with content or apps that they don’t want their parents to see. The best way to ensure that your teen isn’t hiding things is to foster an open, honest relationship with them.
Talk to your teen about online safety and smartphone safety. Ask them about the apps they’re using, and the apps that their friends are using. Have conversations about how to deal with tough issues like cyberbullying, sexting, and unwanted contact from strangers. Make clear what kinds of things you don’t want your teen doing online, and explain why. Establish a family media use plan that everyone agrees to, and include consequences for breaking the rules. With clear boundaries and consequences and an open line of communication, your child is much less likely to run into trouble online.
To find out how parental control can play an important role in keeping your teen safe online, get our free trial.