The Ultimate Guide to Parental Controls

| 10 min read time

Managing screen time and what your kids see on the Internet is at the top of the to-do list for parents in the digital age. Fortunately, parental controls exist. And they’re one of the most effective ways to tackle those issues.

What Are Parental Controls?

Parental controls allow parents to filter and block unsuitable Internet content, limit the amount of time spent on online devices, restrict screen time, and even track browsing history minute-by-minute.

Why Are Parental Controls Necessary?

You can find anything anytime you want on the Internet. From funny cat videos to recipes and everything in between—if you can think it up, it’s out there. You can also stumble upon content you didn’t mean to find. So for children, unmonitored Internet access can turn into a dangerous freedom, especially when it’s served up as an unlimited, immediate content buffet.

Internet parental control tools allow you to establish healthy limits on your kids’ Internet access as well as review their history, so you can track when and where restrictions need to be set.

When screen time turns into a problem

Restrictions are important because screen time can quickly become addictive. A 2019 report by Common Sense Media said that about two-thirds of parents of tweens and teens believe that their child is addicted to mobile devices. And children as young as 2 years old up to age 8 are already using screens for at least an hour a day.

Studies also show that too much screen time before the age of 3 can stunt frontal lobe development, which affects a child’s ability to develop empathy and healthy social responses. This informative video explains how a child’s cognitive system develops when exposed to screen time.

Kids need a healthy balance between screen time and real life

The World Health Organization released guidelines on screen time, recommending that children under the age of 5 not view screens for more than one hour per day.

Excessive screen time can lead to health problems such as poor sleep patterns, a lack of energy, and getting less time outside or exercising.

According to Dr. Fiona Bull, program manager for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases at the WHO, “Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical health, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life.” By combining parental controls with clear family rules on when devices are and aren’t allowed, your family can avoid these kinds of health risks.

Teens need Internet restrictions to stay safe

The dangers of unlimited Internet access to tweens and teens are much different than younger kids. Social media platforms are a bigger focus for this age bracket. Meanwhile, studies link the overuse of social media (2+ hours per day) to mental health issues in kids between grades 7-12. And cyberbullying on social media can quickly become an issue for kids this age.

Explicit content rears its ugly head around this age as well. In a recent Psychology Today article, Carolyn C. Ross M.D., M.P.H. talks about the effects of early exposure to sexually explicit content. She says that kids as young as 8 or 9 are coming across sexually explicit material on the Internet and in other media. It’s never too early to get ahead of what’s out there.

Screens aren’t going away, but that doesn’t have to be a bad (or scary) thing! There are tons of opportunities for learning and entertainment on the web. The key is to find a way to balance screen time with other activities—because kids need a balance to thrive. Internet parental controls are a great place to start.

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Parental Control Basics

Whether your kids enjoy screen time in the form of video games, binging shows, or scrolling social media, parental controls allow you to manage time and access to content on their Internet-connected devices.

How parental controls work

As long as devices are connected to the Internet through Wi-Fi or a cellular network and are paired with a control source like Circle, parental controls allow you to monitor and limit each individual’s ability to utilize those devices. You can even set “off times” for family time, homework, or bedtime.

What types of content can be restricted

A parental controls device allows you to prevent a variety of content. Here are a few specific examples of ways you can set up Internet restrictions:

  • Filter web browsers allowing only pre-approved websites to show up
  • Prevent your kids from using particular apps online
  • Enable search engine tools like SafeSearch and Restricted Search on YouTube
  • Limit which videos are searchable
  • Block online video games

Can parental controls work on every device in the home?

If the devices are connected to the Internet, parental controls can be set up to individually manage content access on those devices. With Circle, each personal-use device can have its own profile with customized access. Whereas devices shared by multiple family members can be set to have specific limits that are unique to just that device. You can read more about the options for shared device controls here.

No matter how light or heavy the restrictions your family is looking for, parental controls are easy to customize to your unique needs.

You can set parental controls for smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and more.

Setting up parental controls through Wi-Fi

The great thing about setting up parental controls through a device like Circle connected to your Wi-Fi router, as opposed to each connected device is, you can block specific content across all devices connected to the Internet at once. Talk about saving some time.

Enable notifications

Your kids would never try to get around parental controls...right? Enabling notifications is one of the simplest ways to stay aware of when your kids reach their screen time limits, or, if they try to get around controls.

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How Kids Get Around Parental Controls

What types of content can be restricted?

  • Filter web browsers allowing only pre-approved websites to show up
  • Prevent your kids from using particular apps online
  • Enable search engine tools like SafeSearch and Restricted Search on YouTube
  • Limit which videos are searchable
  • Block online video games

How to Talk to Family About Parental Controls

Parents of kids in the digital age have a challenging balancing act: how do they encourage independence while setting healthy limits on screen time and Internet access?

The first step to creating a healthy balance for your kids between screen time and real life is communicating with them, especially now, when home life and school may both include more screens. Create a safe space for open communication, whether that’s one-on-one or as a family.

The key is to allow your kids to be part of the conversation, rather than being told what they can and can’t do without their input. Here are some starting points for the parental controls conversation.

Be real with your kids

Remember when you were a kid? If your parents sat you down to have a talk, it always felt serious. And while these are serious topics, the screen time talk should be a two-way street to get the collaboration going. Be honest with them about online dangers and the concerns you have. Give them an IRL example of an issue you’ve had on the Internet.

Listen to what they have to say

Just like adults, kids want to be listened to and taken seriously. Ultimately, you’re the parent, and what you decide goes, but genuinely listening can be helpful for you and your kids. Understanding each other better never hurt anyone.

Set clear boundaries

Once you’ve both heard each other out, it’s time to make the rules clear. What will be the repercussions of not following the rules? Will there be rewards for meeting the expectations? Consider writing the rules down and posting them in a public place, so there’s no confusion later. And finally, check in with everyone to make sure your kids and partner all agree: this is what we have decided together.

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The Benefits of Parental Controls

You can’t put a price tag on peace of mind. As a parent, parental controls allow you to cross off screen time management on your list of worries, knowing that your kids can browse more safely and not spend all their time online.

Parental controls provide a snapshot of what your family is doing online—so you don’t have to guess what your kids might be up to. Here’s the rundown of all the perks you can look forward to with parental controls.

Set screen time limits

Not all screen time is bad, but setting healthy limits on screen time is key to keeping your kids healthy, both mentally and physically. Parental controls allow you to pre-set daily screen times or decide on the fly to Pause the Internet® with the touch of a button. You can also track your family’s usage without asking intrusive questions every time you see your kids pull out their phones.

Monitor your kids’ devices

Circle’s History feature shows you exactly which websites they’ve been visiting. The handy Usage feature provides you with a detailed report of where your kids are spending their time, broken down by apps and categories. You can even break that info down further by day, week, and month.

Manage what your kids find on search engines

The Internet wasn’t built for kids. But by using filters and enabling SafeSearch, you can make it a safe place for your kids to browse around.

Through Circle’s Filter feature, you can customize each family member’s profile limitations by age-appropriateness. Circle comes equipped with preset ages for kids, teens, and adults that block content that can be custom-modified.

Manage online video games

Video game creators are great at finding ways to suck kids in. With Circle, you can outsmart them and protect your kids. Set limits for online gaming apps or even the gaming console in your home. Check out this helpful blog about how to navigate the most popular games kids are playing right now so know what to be on the lookout for.

Track your kids’ location

You can stop worrying about if your kids are where they should be. When you enable location services through parental controls, you’ll be able to track your kids’ mobile devices.

Keep parental controls rolling when your kids aren’t home

iOS and Android devices can be managed by the Circle Parental Controls App wherever they go, even when connected to data plans or guest Wi-Fi networks. No matter where your kids are, you can know they’re safe.

Circle provides parental controls at home and away. My favorite part is filtering the Internet and controlling multiple devices across family members.

-HILARY

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Circle’s Parental Controls

Circle’s parental controls keep things simple. The first step is to download the app, and the second step is to set up the Circle Home Plus device on your Wi-Fi router.

Circle will detect all your family’s Internet-connected devices. Once you install the Circle App on each mobile device, you can manage them away from home as well.

The real question is, what’s stopping you? Setting up parental controls may sound intimidating at first, but it’s a simple process, and the end result is peace of mind. Every parent deserves a little bit more of that, right?

Circle is very easy to set up and use. Customization features by age are great. And, I love that I can pause screen time whenever and wherever I want.

-MIRANDA

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