Internet usage, devices, apps, and gaming systems parental controls. This topic can strike up various emotions in parents and in children. It is one of those hot-button topics that most parents will need to deal with at some point with their children. Whether or not you believe parental controls can help keep your kids safe is a personal decision. Our goal is not to tell you what to do but rather to provide insights into what is available.
Over the next several months, we’ll share insights and details on the various parental control options available – and there are many. This month, we’ll discuss parental controls developed to keep kids safe while they are browsing the internet.
Safe Internet Browsing Options
Kids browse the internet. Depending on their age, and access to devices, they may browse the internet frequently. And, as parents, we know there are a few websites out there that are truly not appropriate for children. Inappropriate and mature content, visuals, and language tend to be the websites we’d like to keep our kids away from. Sure, we could try to be next to our children 24/7 to watch what they are searching, but how practical is that? Instead, consider these safe internet browsing options that can help keep kids safe while online.
SafeSearch is designed to filter out explicit content when searching on Google. It filters out explicit images, videos, and websites. SafeSearch can be used on personal accounts, school devices, and supervised devices that your children use (ex: cell phone, tablet, etc.) if that device is using the Family Link app.
Turn SafeSearch On (computer)
- Go to your Google Search Settings
- Look for SafeSearch filters and check the box next to turn on SafeSearch
- Hit Save at the bottom of the page
Turn SafeSearch On (Android device)
- Go to Google Search Settings
- Look for the SafeSearch filters section
- Tap Filter explicit results
- Tap Save
Turn SafeSearch On (Google App):
- Open your Google app
- Tap More, Settings, and then General
- Turn the SafeSearch switch to on
Microsoft Bing SafeSearch
Microsoft Bing also has SafeSearch functionality, and it is intended to prevent adult content from showing up in your search results. SafeSearch can be applied to individual accounts and PCs.
Turn SafeSearch On (Individual account):
- On your Settings page, select one of the two SafeSearch options
- Strict: filters adult text, images, and videos out of search results
- Moderate: filters adult images and videos only from search results
- Off: doesn’t filter content
- Click Save
Turn SafeSearch On (PCs):
- In Windows, click the Windows key and type “Notepad”
- Right click on Notepad and choose Run as Administrator
- Click Yes when asked if you want this program to make changes
- Open your hosts file. In most Windows installations, this is located at: C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts
- Click the Windows key, type “cmd,” and then hit enter
- Type “ping strict.bing.com” and note the resulting IP. This will look something like this: 126.96.36.199
- Create an entry at the end of hosts file that looks like this: 188.8.131.52 www.bing.com
- Save the file. Windows will now use strict.bing.com to guarantee strict SafeSearch results on this PC
If you are looking for something more robust, take a look at Mobicip. It started as a safe internet search option, and has since added on multiple parental control options. Unlike Google and Bing SafeSearch, Mobicip requires an annual paid subscription with prices ranging from $3.99 per month for the Small package, to $9.99 per month for the large package. Package choice depends on the number of devices you plan to protect.
Mobicip enables parents to allow or block internet categories like alcohol and addiction, dating, weapons, violence, etc. There are defaults based on the child’s age, but you are able to make changes through their app. You are also able to block specific websites by adding the website URL to the Mobicip app. The app also allows you to view the most visited websites your child/children accessed in the Activity section. The detailed browsing history will let you know the category of the website accessed, and if your child tried to access a website in a blocked category.
There is much more to Mobicip than safe internet browsing, but we’ll dig into that in future articles.
Another paid app that includes website filters, as well as more features. Kaspersky Safe Kids provides parents with the ability to block access to specific web categories like gambling, weapons, violence, etc. It also includes the ability to monitor YouTube usage, and block search requests that also fall into categories that you may not want your child to see. The $14.99 annual fee includes one license that protects all kids in your household.
Kaspersky includes more robust parental controls, which we will explore in a future article.
Qustodio is an app that is downloaded and installed on specific devices that you would like to monitor. One of the primary features is the ability to block inappropriate web content through the use of smart filters (e: gambling, violence, etc., can be blocked categories). Their Premium plans also include YouTube monitoring, so you can monitor what your child is searching for, and viewing on YouTube. There is a Free plan with Qustodio that protects one device and includes basic protection, including internet smart filters. Their Premium plans include much more and range from a Small plan that protects up to five devices ($54.95 per year) and a Large plan that protects up to fifteen devices ($137.95 per year).
Qustodio’s additional features will be discussed in future articles.
Whether you decide to use parental controls to block content during internet searches is entirely up to you. We do, however, recommend that you have conversations with your children about how to safely use the internet, the types of inappropriate content they may encounter (likely accidentally), and that they can come to you if they come face to face with content they did not intend to see. Keeping the conversation going can help your child feel more comfortable and give you peace of mind when your child jumps online.
Stay tuned for upcoming parental controls articles that will explore options for managing screen time, recording time spent on specific apps, location tracking, and other features.