Kids are being introduced to technology at much younger ages these days. Over half of all children between the ages of 8 and 12 already have their own cellphone. Almost 40 percent of children younger than 2 years old have used a mobile device for entertainment.
Children using gadgets and exploring the internet can be a great educational experience. However, the digital world could also be a scary place for them (and you), especially with reports of adult predators targeting children through innocent-seeming websites.
There are dangers seemingly lurking around every corner of the internet. As parents, it's our responsibility to be aware of what our children are doing not only in life but also online. That's why you need to know how to snoop on your kids.
Google's parental control app
Children can spend too much time plugged into their gadgets, which can lead to health problems. More time spent plugged into their gadget means less time out doing physical activity. Obesity isn't the only health concern brought on by this phenomenon. Some doctors say that too much screen time can also lead to depression or anxiety.
Google has introduced a parental control app that will help alleviate this problem. It's called Google Family Link, and it is available from Google Play for Android devices and iTunes for devices with iOS 9.0 or later. If you don't have a smartphone, Google has a version that works with computers and laptops.
The parental control app helps parents stay in the loop as their kids explore on gadgets. You need to create a Google Account for your child that's like your own. The app helps you set certain digital ground rules for your family. Best of all, it's free.
Here are some of the features Family Link provides:
- Manage the apps your children can use - You are able to approve or block any app that your child wants to download.
- Keep an eye on screen time - Monitor how much time your children spend on their favorite apps with weekly or monthly activity reports. You can set daily screen time limits to help avoid health issues.
- Set gadget bedtime - You're able to remotely lock your child's gadget when it's time for bed, or time to take a break.
App to monitor family's whereabouts, screen time
The parental control app FamilyTime monitors your child's whereabouts, as well as their internet and smartphone activities. With FamilyTime, you can get daily activity reports with your child's location history and phone usage, get SOS and panic alerts from your kids, get notified when they are ready to get picked up, and that's just the start. You can also monitor their call logs, contact lists, the apps they are using and for how long, and soon, you'll be able to monitor the text and SMS messages they send too.
With the location tracker, you can get detailed history reports of where your child goes, and if there's a certain place you don't want them, you can set up geofences to exclude questionable locations and get instant alerts when those borders are breached.
If you're worried that your kids spend too much time on their gadget, you can remotely lock their phone, keeping them from using it.
FamilyTime comes with a free 3-day trial, and then its fees range, depending on how many devices. Their pricing can be a little confusing. On the day we visited their website, the lowest price was $1.15 per month for five devices, or $69 per year (so, there's not really a monthly fee; it's $69 per year and you can use it on five devices). There were also a lot of pop-up offers going on while we visited, offering additional discounts.
FamilyTime includes 24/7 , which will come in handy if you're having any installation problems. Speaking of installations, knowing which app goes where could get a little bit confusing. Here's a brief rundown:
Apple: Download the FamilyTime app on the parent's device. Next, install the FamilyTime Jr. on the child's iPhone or iPad. You'll have to give permission for the apps to connect to each other, then you can create the account using the activation codes you got when you created the master parent account.
Android: The process for Android users is a little bit different. To begin, you'll want to install the FamilyTime app on the parent's phone. Once you've downloaded the app and created an account, then you'll go onto your child's gadget and go to http://download.familytime.io from inside a web browser. Use your activation credentials to get access to the app to download to your child's gadget. Install the app and give all the permissions.
Monitor your children's social media accounts (and more)
The MamaBear Family Safety app will let you keep in close contact with your kids while they're out with friends. It also monitors your child's social media accounts so you can be alerted to online dangers as well. Be sure to read the user reviews for MamaBear, as well as the developer responses. We noticed users reported glitches, but the developers responded with solutions, such as making sure your Wi-Fi and data are enabled for the app on the device. (That said, it will use up your phone's battery life, because it runs in the background.)
To get started with the MamaBear Family Safety app, a parent will need to install it on their smartphone and register your family's account. Next, you will need to add family members and set a family password. Then, when adding your children, you will need their various social media logins to connect you to their social interactions.
Here are additional app features:
- Set up notifications to receive need-to-know content like new friends, restricted words on your customized words list, uploaded photos and tags.
- Know your child's current and recent location.
- Set up custom Safe Places, like home, school and sports practices with automatic arrival and departure notifications.
- Receive automatic notifications about your child's game times, snack duties and coach's messages from your TeamSnap account built in the MamaBear app.
- Find out when your child has exceeded a customized driving speed whether they are driving or a passenger of someone else.
On the social media side, parents can monitor Instagram photos and Tweets in one place. This section of the app will also tell you details about their Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr followers. You can see new friends being added, as well as set up alerts for keywords. For example, you can know if your child posts questionable language.
Monitor your family's safety at home
Parents not only need to keep track of what their kids are doing out in the world but also inside the home. Think about the things you don't want your children getting into. Liquor cabinets, safes and private drawers to name a few. You need a way to monitor these sensitive areas. Did you know that our sponsor SimpliSafe is able to help you with this? Not only will you be getting the best home security system with 24/7 monitoring, you can also see if your kids are getting into places they don't belong. SimpliSafe's Secret Alerts give you the power to know everything that happens at home, like your own private eye. Alert-only sensors will let you know when a sensor is activated, without triggering an alarm, allowing you to secretly keep tabs on what your children are rummaging through.