Tag Archives: children

Windows Family Safety – Free Web Filter/Activity Reporting Tool

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One of the most common questions parents ask me is, “How do you filter/monitor your kids’ Internet activity?” In our house, it’s through the utilization of Microsoft’s free Windows Family Safety software.

This only works on Windows PCs, but since my wife is the only one for which I’ve ponied up the money for a Macbook, the kids all still have basic Windows laptops, so this option works well for us. We’re also still using Windows 7, so I can’t quite speak to the cool new Windows 8 solutions either.  That said, I can tell you about my experience with Windows 7 and Windows Family Safety.

Overall, our family is very pleased with the experience. The kids do get annoyed sometimes when the filter gets a bit over ambitious on the Pinterest posts (almost anything with any sort of skin gets blocked – i.e. cute bracelets and ring photos). But I’d rather have it error on that side than the alternative.

Family Safety does an admirable job of filtering out all the bad stuff the Internet has to offer. It provides a number of “levels” of filtering, as well as a very comprehensive reporting tool listing everything your kids visit online. It’s cloud based, which lets you log on from any computer to check on things, and it even has tools to set time limits and such for each child.

And my favorite feature: it’s FREE! Yeah, I’m geeky and cheap.

Click here to learn all the details of Windows Family Safety, including how to install it on your computers.

NOTE: This only helps protect your kid’s computers.  Don’t forget about the rest of your Internet-enabled devices.  Read this post for more details on DNS Filters for your Internet router, and this post for more info on locking up your iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

And don’t be shy, please share this with other parents so they can learn how to better protect their kids from the nasty underbelly of the Internet.

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Instagram Adds Tagging to Photos – Change Your Child’s Settings to Avoid Unwanted Public Tags

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Instagram released an update to their app today featuring new “tagging” functionality. Dubbed “Photos of You”, the new feature is much like the photo tagging function on Facebook, allowing Instagram users to tag photos of themselves and other users. All of the photos you’re tagged in will show up in a new tab on your Instagram profile.

This is important for parents to understand because it means your kids may be tagged by others and those photos will (by default) automatically show up on your kid’s “Photos of You” tab. Now, if you’re already on top of it, your kid’s Instagram account should be set up as private (if not, here’s how). And if your account is set as private, only people who you accept as followers will get to see all the great “selfies” your child rushes to tag. BUT, if your child’s account is set to public, then any photo they tag of themselves AND any photo ANYONE ELSE tags of them will show up and be visible to the public.

Fortunately, Instagram allows you to control whether your tagged photos are added automatically or manually to your “Photos of You” tab. Unfortunately, they set the default to “Add Automatically”. So here’s a quick run-down on how to see the new feature, and how to change the settings to “Add Manually.”

Once you update your app, this is where you’ll find the new “Photos of You” tab:

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And, once you’re on the “Photos of You” tab, this is the button you push to edit your settings:

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In the settings area, simply select the “Add Manually” option and Instagram will now ask your permission before posting any photos tagged as you:

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For more information about “Photos of You” functionality, visit Instagram’s support page on the topic.

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6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Using Ask.fm

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Is anonymous posting encouraged?  Anyone – a classmate, colleague, ex-boyfriend, pedophile, next door neighbor, that creepy guy at the mall – anyone can post a question on your page, anonymously.

Are your questions/answers public?  There are no privacy settings on this site. ALL your “answers” are available for anyone with internet access (2.4 BILLION people!) to view at their leisure.

Are your answers permanent?  Those fun, goofy questions you’re answering may well come back to haunt you later in life (think of your future children, employers, spouse, the media if you ever become famous). You might also be surprised to learn that most web pages are “cached” or archived daily and old versions can be searched at any time (http://archive.org/web/web.php). So even if you “delete” an answer, it’s likely cached somewhere for life.

Is the site run by two Russian guys in the Republic of Latvia?  Do you really want to share your personal “answers”, connect your Facebook account, or trust your data with a company run in a former Russian province you probably can’t even point out on a map?

Were upwards of 6 suicides allegedly tied to bullying on the site?  This news article outlines the awful stories of several teens who were allegedly hurt so bad via the site that they ultimately took their own lives: http://bit.ly/10sLHAz.

Is it a magnet for sick, twisted, vulgar individuals?  Because it’s anonymous, people who have nothing but awful, hurtful, obscene things to say are drawn to it like flies to manure. Who wants to converse with gutless scum like that?

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iPods/Pads/Phones for Kids

About 4 years ago our family started a trend. Back then all the cool kids had a Nintendo DS. We, being the rebels we are, decided to buck the trend and got our kids snazzy new iPods instead. Our reasoning being they were actually cheaper than a DS, the games were mostly less than $5 each (DS games are stupid expensive!), and they could serve multiple purposes.

Being the geek I am, I researched the iPods pretty extensively prior to giving them to my kids. The fact is an iPod is pretty much a small computer, complete with unfettered email, Internet, video, and chatting straight out of the box. Fortunately, Apple includes pretty extensive controls to restrict access to all these scary apps and settings. You just need to know what to restrict.

The purpose of this post is to help you identify all the settings and restrictions you may want to consider as you set up your iOS device for your young child.

Settings > General > Restrictions

Pretty much all the restriction settings can be found by opening the “Settings” app and selecting the “General”, then the “Restrictions” menu options.  Once here, click the “Enable Restrictions” button and enter a passcode.

Once you enable restrictions, the first settings to adjust are which apps you want to disable.  I’ve tried to share a quick reason or two as to why or why not to disable a particular app.

Safari – This app lets you browse the wide open Internet.  I highly recommend turning it off for children.  There are a number of great kid-safe Internet browser apps you can install later if you want to let your kids surf the Internet using their iOS device.  One of the best ones I’ve found is available for free from AVG.

YouTube – Supposedly you can set age-specific restrictions which should apply to this app, but in my house we just keep it turned off to be safe.

Camera – If you’re worried about your kids taking inappropriate pictures, then you may want to turn off the camera app.

FaceTime – This app lets you video call people.  This can be a great experience with grandparents and when Mom/Dad’s gone on a trip, but it’s also a wide-open tool for anyone to see and communicate with your child.  I’d recommend only turning this on when you are there to supervise use of it.

iTunes – This app is also supposed to abide by the age restrictions we’ll cover below, but unless you want your kids buying movies and songs unsupervised, I’d recommend turning this off.

Ping – This app is a social media add-on to iTunes where you can talk with others about your music preferences and such.  If you’re going to leave iTunes on, I recommend keeping Ping turned off for kids.

Installing Apps – If you set up your age restrictions, you should be able to let your kids install apps without too many concerns. I prefer to supervise and approve all app installations, partially because I worry about the effectiveness of the age restrictions and partially because I want to be sure they aren’t overloading the device with so many apps it affects the device performance.

Deleting Apps – This is helpful with young children who may inadvertently delete things.

Siri – This app lets you ask the device for advice (only certain iOS devices have this option). Keep in mind, it will answer ALL sorts of questions. I’m old fashioned in that I believe parents should be the only ones answering certain kinds of questions.

 

 

Additional settings include the ability to restrict content based on specific ratings. These age-specific restrictions apply primarily to Apple apps such as iTunes, YouTube, and installing Apps. You’ll want to be sure to turn off  “In-App Purchases”. Otherwise you may get some fun surprises when your next Apple bill arrives.

 

And finally, you can restrict the ability to make changes to the device’s “Location”, “Accounts” and “Find My Friends” settings. If the device is GPS enabled, you can lock down the location settings. This comes in handy with older kids who are lucky enough to have their own iPhone. With the Location and Find My Friend settings locked down you have the ability to keep tabs on their location and they don’t have the option of selectively turning this great feature off. By restricting the Accounts settings your child will not be able add additional email accounts, nor change any of the email settings. In this post I describe how to setup a Gmail account for your child to use that lets you monitor all their email activity. By locking down the Accounts settings, you can set-up the email for your child on their iOS device, enter the password, and then they can use email all they want without having access to the Gmail settings online.

Now you know how to make your iOS device safe for a child of any age.  Hopefully your kids enjoy them as much as mine have.

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My Kid Wants Email

Have your kids been bugging you for their own email account? Are “all the other kids” getting one and leaving your child in the dust? What are you waiting for?

My kids have had their “own” email account since the 3rd grade. You’re probably thinking, “Wow! You are braver than I am!”

Notice how I put parentheses around the word “own”? That’s because, while my kids are able to send and receive all the email they want, they are technically using a Gmail account I own. This is a second Gmail account, separate from my primary account. One that I manage and monitor using a few easy-to-access Gmail tools and settings. If you’re worried about child predators (and rightly so), this email method lets you keep a close eye on everything your child sends and receives, right in your own inbox.

The following video shows you the specific steps you can take to set up two Gmail accounts, one as your primary email and another that sends copies of everything sent and received to the first. Using this method you can set-up any iPod, iPad, Kindle, computer, etc to send/receive email using this second account, giving your kids safe, reliable, monitored email access.

The video details a number of very specific steps. I recommend opening it in a 2nd window so you can pause it and follow along. Once you’ve completed the steps described in this 10 minute video, you can return to this blog post to read instructions on setting up your respective devices as listed below.

Links to instructions for setting up Gmail accounts on different devices and email clients:

Mail Clients

Wireless Devices

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