When I was growing up, the only way for a kid to talk on the phone was to sit in the kitchen next to the wall and talk into a giant handset. I remember walking in to the kitchen many times to see my oldest sister on the phone while our mother was "cleaning". Later, I learned my Mom really had much better things to be doing. However, like a good parent, she was keeping an eye (and ear) on my sister while she talked to her friends and potential boyfriends.
A few years later, we had the luxury of a second line in my Mom's bedroom. Each time my sister would get a call, she'd run into that room and close the door. My Mom would then send me or another sibling or two or three into her bedroom to "play". That way, my Mom could get her job done and let our snoopy little selves act as her eyes and ears.
Parents today face a much greater challenge than ever to keep their kids safe. It seems there are "phones" in every room of the house. However, these "phones" are really iPads, iPods, Android devices, Surface Tables, etc - and are much more dangerous than the average teenage boy chatting up your sister. Parents are finding it virtually impossible to keep an eye on their kids.
Many times, parents are overwhelmed with technology and simply hand a device to their kids. This is a very serious mistake that must be corrected immediately. It's your job to do everything possible to ensure your child's safety - not just in the park, but online as well. If you don't "get" technology, then find someone to teach it to you. Here are some great resources for learning about online child safety:
Even after following some of the advice from the child safety experts, you can't always be there to supervise your kids. Sometimes, you need a little bit of help. You need a comprehensive monitoring and prevention tool to make sure your kids are safe online - NetSanity.
NetSanity is a service that you install on any device your child has "private" access to. If your family shares an iPad or other device, you need NetSanity. If your kids have their own iPhone, iPads, or iPod Touch, you need NetSanity.
NetSanity works by installing a "configuration profile" on your child's device. This configuration profile creates a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that forces all internet activity to go through NetSanity's servers. This allows NetSanity to inspect the traffic and prevent your child from accessing adult oriented sites, gambling portals, and any of a huge variety of other content that you might not be ready to let your child explore.
Another feature of NetSanity is app blocking. They've created a list of specific apps that most kids simply should not have access to. For example, you can block Yik Yak, Tinder, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Whisper, and Secret. Most of these are "ephemeral" messaging apps that have a high frequency of bullying, sexting, and other usage patterns that children and even older teens should not have access to.
The best NetSanity feature is "TimeBlocker". You can configure NetSanity to lock down the device's internet access. If you only want your kids to have access to online content from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, you can do that. Maybe all day is fine, but you want internet access stopped from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am. You can do that too.
With NetSanity, you get some great access controls. Even better, you get insight and supervision. When you log into the NetSanity admin center, you can see all the internet activity for your child's device. You can find out if they attempted to access any inappropriate content. You can review the access logs and block anything that might currently be allowed.
NetSanity does have some limitations and issues. First and foremost is that NetSanity is currently only available for Apple devices. If you have an Android or Amazon device, you'll need to consider other solutions or wait until NetSanity offers tools for those platforms.
NetSanity also requires at least some degree of "tech savvyness". You have to walk through a process of installing the configuration profile. The company provides comprehensive video tutorials for this process, but be prepared to spend about 30 minutes signing up, reviewing tutorials, and implementing their safety features on your device(s). Again, the goal here is protecting and prevention. It's a lot easier to spend some time setting up this safety shield than it is recovering from a child being stalked online or explaining to a young child what some particular parts of human anatomy are really for.
I am very tech savvy and still ran into some issues. This was back in December 2014. At that time, Apple had released a software update that caused some confusion with the installation. The NetSanity tutorials were not yet updated to walk users through the new process. Fortunately, I received immediate assistance from the NetSanity support team and was able to get rolling again. The NetSanity support team is very responsive and helpful in the rare instance where a user runs into trouble.
NetSanity currently can't outright stop your child from using the device. If they sneak their iPad into the bedroom at night and play games that don't reuire internet access, NetSanity can't prevent that (yet). Be sure to "Tuck In and Take Away".
Neither NetSanity nor any other tool is a panacea. No single app or service can protect your child from all online dangers. However, NetSanity gives you one more way to help keep your kids safe online. You still need to be a responsible parent and supervise your child's online activity. You still need to lock down their device so they cannot install apps without your supervision. Fortunately, NetSanity is there to stop the worst online offenders and help make you aware when something starts to slip by.