2 Easy Steps to Save Your Child from Digital Addiction & Filth

Life lessons

Picture made by the author using free pics from pexels, iconscout and SketchWow

It was ‘Open Day’ at our son’s school last week, where we get to see his results and meet his teachers. His 9th Standard class teacher said he was well-behaved and doing well in his studies. I mentioned that, as we had discussed last Open Day, I had further restricted his mobile phone and PC time. She said that was excellent and wanted to know how I do it. This had come up before with friends who were parents. So I promised her I would write it up and share it, which I am doing here, too, as it may help others.

The Problem

We can’t only be friends with our children while they are under 18. We need to be parents first. At this point in our evolution, one of our most important responsibilities is protecting our children from the dangers of the digital revolution.

Playing video games, watching youtube, chatting online, posting pictures and videos, etc., is not all bad. Studies indicate that indulgent kids can show improved visual-spatial skills, reading ability, connections, problem solving and creativity.

The first problem is excess and addiction. Like a bit of wine, a little digital is good. Otherwise, the time lost for other health-giving activities of our bodies and brains is lost forever.

The second problem is harmful content. And we know how much of that’s there in the web and digital world. It’s a miracle if a child doesn’t see or hear something which is age inappropriate from several contexts — violence, sex, bullying, shaming, racism, grooming, harassment, hatred, and foul language.

Once the child is addicted or scarred, it becomes too hard to recover the mind and body. It can affect your child’s entire life in small or big ways. Not to scaremonger, but isn’t prevention better than cure, especially for our children?

So what should we do?

So let’s assume that we don’t want to make monks of our children but want to strike a balance between the digital world and real sports, reading, spending time with family and friends, sleeping regular hours, and other ‘traditional’ activities.

There are two things we need to do —

  • Restrict the amount of time spent online and with screens
  • Prevent exposure to content that is age inappropriate

Let’s see how we can do this with the most straightforward tools available today at no cost. All it takes is a bit of knowledge and time, one of the best few minutes you can give your child, trust me.

(Why do I know all this? Simple, we have a daughter who’s become an adult and a son who’s only a few years from there. I’ve been doing this for a while now!)

We will see how to restrict time and content in two steps for four typical device situations.

#1 Restrict Time

In each of the situations below that may apply to you, you can restrict —

  • When and for how long your child can use the laptop/PC
  • When and for how long your child can use apps and browsers (gateways to unlimited harmful content and interactions)

Step 1 — Use native OS parental control facilities

Situation 1 — Windows laptop/PC

Use a Microsoft account as the user account for your child on the laptop/PC. Then use Microsoft Family Safety mobile app and website to manage PC usage remotely.

See the screen grab below for an example of limiting the time for discord.

Situation 2 — Android device

Use a google account as the user account for your child on the Android device. Then use Google Family Link mobile app or website to manage the time schedules and maximum durations allowed.

See the screen grab below.

Situation 3 — iOS and macOS devices

Parental controls are set up locally on all Apple devices. While this makes it simple, ensure you remember your PIN! It is a hell of some sort if you do. You can restrict when and how long the device and apps can be used. Please read more here about Apple Families and do the needful.

Situation 4 — Streaming device

Amazon Fire Stick, Google Chromecast, etc., have built-in parental controls. See the content restrictions section below, for that is easy and effective. Read here for Amazon and here for Chromecast. They don’t have time restrictions yet but be alert, as they may have them soon.

Optional Step 2 — Use your router/modem’s parental control settings

All modern routers provide parental controls. They allow the selection of individual devices or groups for different rules. One use I find for this is to cut off all wifi internet access during the night. Of course, phones have 4G and 5G internet access, but this does add to the protection. See the grab below as an example of a typical setup screen.

#2 Restrict Content

In each of the situations below that may apply to you, based on addictive power, age ratings, etc., you can restrict —

  • The apps that can be used on the device
  • The internet sites that can be accessed

Step 1— Block content via remote parental control portals and mobile apps

Situation 1 — Windows Laptop

Use a Microsoft account as the user account for your child on the laptop/PC. Then use Microsoft Family Safety mobile app and website to remotely manage the PC content allowed.

See the screen grab below for an example of setting the appropriate age for apps and games.

Situation 2 — Android Device

Use a google account as the user account for your child on the Android device. Then use Google Family Link mobile app or website to remotely manage the device content allowed.

See the screen grab below.

Situation 3 — iOS or macOS Device

Parental controls are set up locally on all Apple devices. While this makes it simple, ensure you remember your PIN! It is a hell of some sort if you do. You can restrict content by blocking, age group, etc. Please read more here about Apple Families and do the needful.

See the screen grab below.

Situation 4 — Streaming device

Amazon Fire Stick, Google Chromecast, etc., have built-in parental controls. If you aren’t using them, start as soon as you finish reading this article. They are straightforward to set up. No excuse for not protecting your child from all the violence and explicit sex, etc. that is there in many streaming series and movies.

Step 2— Change the DNS setting of you your central broadband router-modem

Go to the settings of your home’s central modem that connects to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) servers and update the DNS entries to one of the free DNS services that provide the facility of blocking all unsafe sites classified as pornography, violence, extremism, etc. Note that everyone on the wifi network will get this blocking, but it may be a good thing!

OpenDNS is one of the most popular, and I use its DNS server settings:

  • 208.67.222.123
  • 208.67.220.123

You can read more here, for example.

Home Internet Security | OpenDNS

The easiest way to make your internet faster, safer, and more reliable. OpenDNS settings apply to every device …

www.opendns.com

If you need to learn how to access and set up your wifi modem, please take help from your ISP and modem guide. You can read more here about the TP-Link Archer C6, a typical router modem.

Archer A6 & C6 V2 User Guide

1. Use Quick Setup Wizard The Quick Setup Wizard will guide you to set up your router. Tips: If you need the IPv6…

www.tp-link.com

Optional Step 2b— Block content via the router modem your central broadband router-modem

All modern routers provide parental controls. They allow the selection of individual devices or groups for different rules. It can be helpful if you find it challenging to block websites on every device and operating system in the home. It will allow blunt force stoppage of URLs at the entry point. See the grab below as an example of a typical setup screen.

Vigilance is vital

Don’t think for a moment that you’re smarter than your kids. Always assume they are outsmarting you at every step, spending too much time online, and seeing bad things. In other words, be mildly paranoid about this. Once they become adults, you’ll have all the time to relax and take it easy. But do what you have to do now.

Keep checking the reports you get from Microsoft, Google and Apple about your children’s activity on their devices. They show the time spent, apps accessed, and websites browsed. See the example screen grab below.

Ensure your kids don’t know your passwords and PINs and be alert for logins from new devices.

End Note

In short — Restrict your child’s time and content using native apps from Microsoft, Google and Apple, plus your router/modem settings.

Here’s a summary table.

Picture made by the author

Do let me know if you have any questions. Or, even better, ask Google. She knows a lot more than I do and is always willing to help those who want to do anything.

Take care of yourself and your kids.

Ciao.


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