Internet users are getting younger and younger: 7 years has been established as the average age of starting Internet use (Unicef,2017). For this reason, protecting their children in this environment is a growing concern for parents.One of the forms that have gained importance is parental controls in its different formats. These tools support and accompany parents’ efforts to educate their children about digital citizenship.

What are parental controls?

Parental control is defined as the set of tools that promote control over the use of the Internet and electronic devices, that is, that prevent minors from accessing inappropriate content on the network. It should be noted that many of these tools are only effective in the presence of the adult since minors can learn to eliminate them.

The use of parental controls is recommended from the moment the child has access to technology until the age of 12. In this way, the minor can be introduced to the use of technologies and taught to navigate safely in them. Parental control must evolve and adapt to the characteristics of the minor and his age. In this way, by analyzing the information provided by these tools, it will be possible to assess the learning and whether the conduct of the minor on the Internet is safe.

It should also be mentioned that it is advisable to have the agreement of the minor, explaining the purpose of these tools and that the parents or guardians understand that it does not consist of “spying” or invading their privacy (which would end up damaging trust and family communication). Instead, it is a tool that can allow you to anticipate risks and promote their autonomy on the Internet.

The main goal of these tools are: 

  • Protect children from inappropriate content on the Internet
  • Block specific websites or categories from search
  • Limit downloads to keep devices safe
  • Combat cyberbullying and other crimes committed over the Internet

Types of parental control tools on the Internet

Filters and restricted access: so that children cannot access certain websites. Some parental control programs and applications predefine these websites and others leave the choice in the hands of parents.

Outgoing content blocking: prevent children from sharing information online (filling out questionnaires on the Internet, for example).

Time limits: intended for parents to schedule power off and on times; or maximum time of Internet connection.

Monitoring: control of online activity, registering pages visited, notifying if the child accesses a restricted website, reviewing the browsing history, and analyzing how much time the child spends on each page visited.

Remote connection to the child’s computer or device: in this way, wherever we are, we can know in real-time what they are doing.

Some tools are already integrated into some of the most important websites, apps, or search engines, such as Google and Bing. For example, YouTube has a specific application called YouTube for Kids that restricts content, showing only that adapted to age. Another similar option is Google Family Link and Microsoft Family Safety that allow content filtering, control, or blocking of applications. Different antivirus vendors like McAfee and Norton also have parental control options. Even streaming majors like Netflix and HBO have the option of blocking access to certain content using access codes.