Tech special: Childproofing your gadgets

Updated: Dec 10, 2014, 11:46 IST | Harpreet Kaur Sapra |

A recent survey has revealed that a whopping 83 per cent of children posted personal information online, although they knew it was a risky thing to do. It just might be time to monitor your child’s online behaviour

Take a look around you. Chances are, you will see many people engrossed in their gadgets. The Internet has its own advantages — from finding the place you want to dine at, to sharing pictures with your friends and family instantly. But there are downsides as well, especially when it comes to children who are tech savvy. If you are worried about the nature of the content your teen or tween (eight to 12 years) shares online, then you’re not alone.

Shocked parents

A recent study by McAfee shows a huge increase in the number of teens and tweens who have access to technology. The study made more startling revelations. Facebook (no surprises here) is one of the most accessed social media networks by the age group. Although Facebook requires you to be 13 and above to sign up, kids create fake profiles on the networking website. More shockingly, they even befriend strangers — according to the survey, 53 per cent of these kids went ahead and met such strangers offline.

Seventy per cent kids revealed too much information online — including their home address, or contact details. Although 83 per cent of these kids were aware about the risks of posting such information online, they still went ahead and did it. Sixty one per cent of kids were even candid enough to admit that they think they can outsmart their parents when it comes to technology. But the lowest point is, perhaps, this — children can also be found on Tinder, a dating app for adults.

Needless to say, things might be getting a little out of hand. Where does one draw the line? Yes, we want our kids to be global citizens, to have friends across the globe, and no, we can’t be peering over their shoulders to check what they are up to all the time. Psychologists and child therapists advise parents to watch, but not to comment. Instead, they say, engage kids in a conversation and ask them what is right and wrong, instead of telling them what is right or wrong.

And if that doesn’t work, there are other, high-tech solutions, like anti-virus programmes. Some of them even come even free with your next computer purchase. All they need is a specialised tool.

McAfee Family Protection: (Rs 2,270)
This is one of the most comprehensive products that we have come across. It comes with a full-featured parental control that not only blocks objectionable websites in up to 35 categories, but also monitors social media activity especially when profane or sexually explicit terms are used. It also allows you to monitor the time your children spend on the Internet. You can block file sharing programmes and even movies and music that are not appropriate for their age group.Advanced analytic reports allow you to record instant message conversations and monitor your kids’ online activities. You also get instant email alerts every time your child accesses a website s/he is not supposed to, or posts confidential information online. The only downside is that it works only on a Windows PC.

Enable built-in filtering on iOS devices
iOS devices such as iPhone and iPad come with in-built restrictions, so all you need to do is activate ‘General Restrictions’ (under ‘settings’). You can set restrictions for Safari Browser and control the websites your kids can visit. You can even block specific websites. Similar restrictions can also be imposed on the apps and books your kids download and the music and podcasts they listen to. You can also disable location services, contacts, calendars and reminders. What’s more, you can also restrict camera usage. This is protected via a pass code, so keep it a secret.

Norton Family Premier: (Rs 990 Per PC Per Annum)
The Norton Family Premier offers features similar to McAfee, at a slightly lower cost. In addition to this, the Norton Family Premier also allows you to install a version of the programme on your kids' Android mobile phone or tablet. It  screens text messages and alerts you if your child deletes these messages. You can also block inappropriate apps. Like McAfee, the Norton Family Premier works only on Windows PCs. Online behaviour on an Android phone can be monitored too with Norton.

Enabling Parental Controls in MacOSX
What if you want to get a Mac for your child? Macs come with in-built parental controls which help parents hide profane words in the in-built dictionary, limit kids from using the printer, and curb the time they spend online. Most of these settings exist in the MacOSX. You can also restrict the number of people your kids can interact with online, by monitoring their e-mail, chat and multiplayer online game activities.

Online safety and responsibility

Watch out for:
1. Cyber bullying
2. Sharing information that may put you at risk
3. Remember, anything you post remains online, even if you delete it
4. Inappropriate content
5. Strangers

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