Setting Boundaries for Technology

Having a smart phone has often been described as having the world in your pocket. While we know that’s not entirely true, it is true that technology has made it easier to build relationships previously hindered by geography and to answer any question we could imagine in just a click of a button. With all this advancement, however, comes the opportunity for misuse. Things like addiction, irresponsible financial practices, cyberbullying, and misrepresentation or identity theft are prevalent issues that plague our kids today, and you as their protectors need to have weapons in the arsenal to safeguard those little eyes and hearts from misusing technology.

Mike Bittenbender is an ICS parent and Youth Director at Faith Church Kingstowne. He has done the research on technology and has led presentations on empowering parents to help their kids make wise choices online. Below, he offers an abundance of resources on how to set restrictions on smart phones and tablets, as well as apps and sites that you may find helpful both in setting parameters for your kids and in understanding what content they may be interacting with on a daily basis.

Parental Controls on Smart Phones & Tablets

Setting restrictive controls on phones and tablets limits the damage that may occur when a child wanders off into the internet abyss. Setting up a couple restrictions on your child’s phone (or on your phone, should your child use it regularly) protects against your child making in-app purchases, aimlessly watching Youtube videos, or accidentally facetiming that client you’re trying to impress.

Parental Controls for Apple/iOS Users:

  1. Set your RESTRICTIONS PASSCODE. This is different than your “lock passcode.” This passcode will be used when someone wants to do something that is restricted.

For instance, if someone goes to a website that you set up to block, it will ask for this passcode to proceed. This is a nice feature if it blocks something you know is safe, because you won’t have to exit and change your settings. You can type in the passcode and keep going.

  1. Allow Apps: It lists many apps and tasks. Set these settings as you desire. We use another browser, so I deactivate safari. If you don’t want them to facetime, you can turn it off. I always turn off the options to: install apps, delete apps, and make in-app purchases. This way, your kids can’t drain your bank account buying gems for Clash of Clans or buying apps without your permission.

 ATTENTION: If you set these to ‘off’, you will have to turn these back on even to do updates to apps.

  1. Allowed Content: Below ‘Allow Apps’ on your screen, there is a section for allowed content. Go through these and set your preferences.
  2. Privacy: The next section is privacy. You may want to turn off LOCATION SERVICES. Some apps record the location (Facebook, for instance). If this is a concern, you can turn it off here under Privacy. You would leave this on for your teen with an iPhone, because it will allow you to track your child’s comings and goings via the Life 360 app.

Parental Controls for Android Users:

If you’ve got an Android tablet that happens to run Android OS version 4.2 or above, your device should have the power to quickly switch between different user accounts. The main benefit of this is that you can set up one user account for yourself and another for your children to use. With the release of Android 4.3, you can now restrict individual user accounts and block access to apps, games, and features which might be inappropriate for your children. Follow the steps below to find out how to create a second user account and exercise parental control over how the account works.

  1. Open your Apps List and tap on the Settings
  2. Scroll down the settings page until you find Users, then press on it.
  3. Choose Add user or profile. As we’re setting this up as a child’s account, touch restricted profile.
  4. At this stage you may be asked to set up a PIN or passcode for your user account. This will only appear if you haven’t already secured your profile, and is necessary in order to stop your children bypassing parental controls by simply logging into the phone as you.
  5. To add a name to the new account, tap on the Settings icon to the right of the new profile and type in a name of your choice.
  6. You are now presented with a list of all the apps currently installed on your tablet. Simply scroll down this list, pressing the on/off switch to the right of the app name to allow or deny access to that particular app or game. When set to on, the app is allowed.
  7. The account is now set up, ready for your children to use! To access the new profile, lock your tablet. When you go to unlock it again, the screen will display icons for each user profile you’ve set up. Simply tap on your child’s profile name to sign in as them. Any apps you turned on in the previous step will be accessible. Any others won’t appear and can’t be accessed until you switch users at the lock screen.

Guided Access on Smart Phones & Tablets

Guided Access gives you as the parent a little more control over what your child is viewing and how long he or she is allowed to view it. With guided access, you can keep your child’s screen locked to one app and/or give him a set time limit on how long he is able to play. To set up Guided Access on your child’s device, follow the directions below:

For Apple/iOS Users:

  1. Go to your Settings — General — Accessibility — Guided Access
  2. First, turn it on.
  3. Next, ask them to set up a password. This can be different from and should be different from your restrictions password, because you will probably end up giving this password to your child at some point. But, it’s easy to change. DON’T forget it!
  4. Click to turn on the “Accessibility Shortcut.” This is how you start and end the Guided Access process.
  5. Now get out of settings and go into most any app.
  6. Triple click the home button and this activates Guided Access.
  7. In the bottom left, there are controls you can turn off or on based on your preference. For instance, you can turn off the volume or keep the screen from rotating.
  8. In the middle, you can turn off the “touch” screen. This is good if you are giving your 2-year-old the iPad to watch a video, because when he touch the screen, it won’t do anything. But keep this feature off if you are letting your son play Minecraft.
  9. On the bottom right, is my favorite feature: setting the time limit.
  10. When you have the settings you want in place, click either “Start” or “Resume” in the top right. Now when your child tries to get out of the app, it restricts them and gives them a message at the center top of the screen, letting them know how much time they have left.
  11. To get out of Guided Access, triple click the home button and enter the passcode.
  12. Click END in the upper left corner.

 For Android Users:

For you Android users, you can have almost the same thing with a free app called Kids Place. Download the app from the Android store to enable most of the same protections on your child’s device.

More Apps & Websites to Help Protect Your Family

  1. Net Nanny SOCIAL ($12.99 subscription/year)
  • Available for purchase on your child’s or family’s computer.
  • Alerts you of pictures posted, photos tagged in, who she became friends with, etc.
  • Takes you right to any post she makes.
  • Shows you all her friends on all the sites and take you right to their “page” to view who they are, what pictures they are posting, etc.
  • Alerts you if she becomes friends with someone older.
  • Puts most of your children’s social media platforms all in one place and keeps you from having to go to each network to view everything.
  1. Life 360 Family Locator (Free) iOS & Android Location App
  • Everyone in the family can know where everyone is and can locate each other.
  • Get a notification every time your child arrives or leaves home or arrives or leaves school.
  • Creates peace of mind knowing you don’t have to rely on your teen remembering to call when they arrive at their destination
  1. NQ Family Guardian ($4.99 subscription/month; $35 subscription/year for all your Android phones) Android only
  • Through an online dashboard, parents can pull up all of the phone’s activity: view contacts, monitor location, Geofences, and check in abilities. Geofences are virtual perimeters around a location.
  • Controls the schedule of each individual app.
  • Reads text messages sent/received.
  • Turns app downloads off.
  • Sets time limits and schedules, either for certain apps or whole phones. For instance – you can turn everything off except your child’s ability to make or receive phone calls.
  • Web filter is not great with this app, so do not rely on it.
  1. Ignore No More ($5.99/device) Android only
  • This mom-made app allows parents to lock their child’s phone until they call back.
  1. Kids Place (Free) Android only
  • Parent Control restricts kids to apps you have approved.
  • Prevents children from downloading new apps, making phone calls, texting or performing other actions that can cost you money.
  • Timer feature to lock Kids Place after specified amount of time.
  • Supports Multiple User Profiles (for different children).
  • Capable of disabling all wireless signals while Kids Place is running.
  • Home, Back, Search, and Call buttons are locked so that child cannot get out of the Kids Place or make phone calls.
  • Unlike Guided Access, Kids Place does not lock the screen.
  1. Canary (Free Trial/$14.99 lifetime subscription) Android, iOS

DRIVING AND TEXTING? #1 killer of teens!

  • Trusting your teen with a car is a bit of a rite of passage, but it can also be nerve-wracking moment for anxious parents. Canary (Android, iOS) will notify parents if their teen’s iPhone or Android device is being used (such as for texting, calling or using social media) while the car is traveling at more than 2 mph, as well as when the car is above speed limits. You can also create geofenced “safe areas,” blacklist others as off-limits and define a curfew time.
  • Parents receive reports through notifications and email.
  • The app is free to try for 7 days, and then costs $14.99 for a lifetime subscription.
  1. K-9 (Free) iOS, Android, Mac, PC, Amazon Fire
  • Web filter only
  • Pro: Very effective, free, great settings and controls on computers ONLY.
  • Con: No control settings on Android/iOS apps. No web based dashboard.
  • Blocks Youtube completely, so user cannot even access Youtube through the K9 browser. (This is fine for our family; they can watch YouTube on our PC in the kitchen, where it is in view.)
  • If you just want a filtering browser for free on your PC or Mac, this is it. (Or, Mobicip would be your best paid app. It has an online dashboard, but does almost the same as K-9.)
  1. Screen Time (Free or option for remote access $39.99/year)
  • Protects your kids from spending countless hours on their devices.
  • Limits the amount of time they can play and even gives them an opportunity to earn more time by doing extra things you set up, like: chores, more homework, their quiet time, etc.
  1. Mobicip ($39.99/year for up to 5 devices) iOS, Android, Windows PCs ($39.99/year for up to 5 devices)
  • This app is only a web filter.
  • Great reviews.
  • Probably the best solution if you have all three devices listed in the heading above and only want good filtering with an online dashboard for setting controls.

Sites to Help You Stay Up on Current Viral Trends Targeted at Students

  • CPYU: Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. Walt Mueller runs this and does a phenomenal job bringing youth culture to parents to help them engage with their students, pushing backing on the cultural narrative using the biblical narrative.
  • HomeWard is another website which has culture updates and each Friday they release a What’s Hot Top 10 which brings to light 10 viral/cultural trends for parents to know about.
  • Reformed Youth Ministry has put together a couple of free resources for parents regarding gender, reading scripture, and discipleship for kids which would be great to get into the hands of parents.

Technology Contract

Has your teen been hounding you for an iPhone, and you feel your resolve beginning to buckle under the weight of the scheduling demands of your busy family? If you’re still hesitant but know the time has come, you may ask your child to sign the Digital Kids Initiative Technology Contract. Put out by CPYU, this contract clearly lays out the rules for your child’s technology use, to include things like obeying all age limits, obeying school rules for cell phone use, keeping personal information private, and understanding that any infringement on these rules may result in loss of the cell phone. It may sound formal, but it puts the boundaries clearly in place and holds your child to a high standard for online conduct.

We hope there is something in here that you find useful for helping your kids navigate the ever-evolving world of technology!