Your Children and the Internet
Smartphones, social media, online gaming…. the whole subject can be overwhelming and stressful. We love and want to protect our kids more than anything! But technology is moving so fast that it is nearly impossible to stay on top of it and there is a ton of societal pressure to give our kids full access to these devices and apps.
And not only that, through all of the research we've been doing, we’ve seen that there are many platforms out there that are ACTIVELY opposing us parents — where we would try to put boundaries in place, they are providing ways around those boundaries!
The creator of Bark told a story where he was modifying access and placing limitations on his daughters phone. She in frustration, said to him, “But dad, I’m not looking for that stuff!!” He replied, “Honey, you’re not looking for it, but it’s looking for you.”
As your Riverwood Kids leadership group, we are committed to doing whatever we can to help you keep your children safe! We feel a tremendous burden for our children in this area and as a result have spent hours researching and going through some of the best websites that are out there, to help you make informed decisions about how you can teach your kids to live in the light when they are on the internet and so you can have peace of mind.
Freedom with Boundaries. We would never hand our 16 year old the keys to the car without going through a process. By the time they’re driving on their own they've gone through all sorts of training and have logged hours of practice with an instructor. The goal is to give them that freedom, but in time. We have boundaries set in place for their protection. The same should be done with technology and devices; teaching our children what an amazing tool they have, but placing boundaries around them for their protection, until they are ready and able to make informed decisions on their own.
Don’t be fearful. There IS hope! The relationships we have with our children will triumph! But let’s together be proactive in protecting our kids!
Below you will find the products and resources we have reviewed -- don't feel like you need to read it all in one sitting!
INTERNET MONITORING TOOLS
$9/mo. after a free 7-day trial.
Bark is an online dashboard for parents that monitors your child’s social media, texts, and email, flagging potential inappropriate content, as well as alerting you to potential predators, cyberbullying, self-harm situations, drug/alcohol abuse, sexting, and more. Pretty much every app that can be used for sharing messages, pictures, or information is covered.
You sign up for an account and take some time to enter your child’s messaging/social media/email account information to Bark. Now, whenever your child uses any of those accounts, Bark will filter and analyze the data for possible safety issues. If anything is flagged, you will receive a notification, including the actual message, and what the potential concern is. Bark will also refer parents to great resources on dealing with the concern at hand.
$39.99/year for one device
$54.99/year for 5 devices
$89.99/year for 20 devices
Net Nanny is an internet filtering and monitoring program. It gives you a complete picture of what your child does online and allows you to set limits to keep them focused on important things. It is easy to install and use. It is a subscription-based service. After buying the product, you receive a link for the download. Installation is straightforward and the setup wizard walks you through the process of creating user profiles, setting filters and blocking websites.
It has 18 filter categories - when you select one, the program automatically blocks any website with content that fits that classification.
Net Nanny records all visited websites as well as when you child accessed them and how long they stayed on the page. The program also snaps screenshots so you can view what your child sees. This is helpful since questionable ads and links can show up on legitimate sites. You can choose to filter content on a site rather than block it entirely. Filtering allows you child to interact with a good site, but the program blocks certain content such as dangerous ads.
$129 (initial purchase of hardware; includes 1-year premium subscription)
$9.99/mo. (for premium features, after first year)
Circle is one part hardware device and one part digital management software. The hardware can be purchased from Best Buy and is a smallish white cube that fits in the palm of your hand. This plugs directly into your wifi router at home. The purchase includes a one-year premium subscription to the Circle app, which is the control centre of the system. After setting up all the devices in your household, which can be named and customized with profile pictures, the Circle app is ready to do its thing, which is quite a lot:
The website has great videos giving an overview of Circle, as well as videos for each feature.
Individual Plan: $89/yr
Family Plan: $9.99/month or $119/yr up to 10 family members
Ever Accountable is also a tool to quit pornography through accountability. No hoops, no shame, just accountability.
Ever Accountable works on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chromebook and Amazon Fire tablets.
To create an Ever Accountable account you will need to register using Google or Facebook.
Whether it’s your children, your spouse, or yourself, individual online activity will be monitored and sent to a trusted partner along with a detailed report.
Each family member is set up using their own email address and has the option to pick their own accountability partner so that every member of your family can rest easy knowing that only the person they assign to receive their report will be keeping them accountable. Each family member can install Ever Accountable on ALL of their devices.
SETTING RESTRICTION RESOURCE
From the creators of Bark, this interactive website allows you to enter all of the technology and media your child interacts with — from apps and games to phones and tablets — and receive all of the parental control instructions in one convenient location. No more googling “How to restrict Netflix” or chasing down flimsy instruction manuals in junk drawers.
When you first launch the Barkomatic, you will enter in all the devices and platforms your child/household uses to access the internet. You will then receive an email with a personalized link providing you with step-by-step instructions on setting up and activating all of the built-in parental controls to every device, browser, app, or gaming platform you have selected. For example, if you entered that your child has an iPhone 6S, the Barkomatic will inform you of all of the built-in parental controls and safety features that come with iOS (especially if anything is unique to that particular device), which version of iOS is best to use, and how to set them up and activate them.
Free By Donation
Focus on the Family - Plugged In exists to help you and your family make family appropriate entertainment choices. Plugged in offers access to movie reviews, game reviews, music reviews and TV reviews through their website or app.
COMMON SENSE MEDIA
Common Sense is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21 century.
Common Sense Media rates movies, TV shows, books, and more so parents can feel good about the entertainment choices they make for their kids.
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS
PROTECT YOUNG EYES
Protect Young Eyes (PYE) is a faith-based organization dedicated to keeping kids safe online. Their website offers tons of resources for parents and people who work with children, including tested and recommended parental controls, books, and videos. A particularly useful resource is SOCIAL MEDIA, GAMING, PHOTO, AND VIDEO APPS EXPLAINED (link HERE), which features an alphabetically-arranged grid of over 80 of the internet’s most popular apps and websites, any of which can be clicked on to reveal a complete breakdown of what it is, who is using it, what the pros and cons of using it are, and suggestions for navigating its use.
The organization is made up of a team of researchers and speakers who do presentations at churches, schools, conferences, and other events on internet safety. These presentations can be requested through the website, and they also offer a suite of templates for organizations to make their own internet safety policies. In 2019 alone, they gave over 350 presentations across the US and Canada.
PYE has also come up with a comprehensive “Digital Citizenship Curriculum” called Virtue in Media. Based on scripture, it’s a streaming video curriculum that teaches about the latest digital trends and how to be a good “digital citizen”. They do this through a library of short videos, in-class discussion guides, at-home conversation guides, at-home video content, teacher professional development sessions, church and school policy examples, newsletter and social media content, and more. Their stated goal is “to help schools and homes create a Christ-centered view of using technology.”
Courses can be purchased individually by grade/age group for $49-$75 apiece, or in various bundles ranging from $199 to $349. There is also a free course for training teachers and church leaders about digital culture.
FIGHT THE NEW DRUG
1 in 10 kids under 10 have viewed pornography. Most parents would be shocked to learn that Pornography is just 2 clicks away on some of the most popular sites and apps our children’s may be visiting.
Fight the New Drug is a non-religious, non-legislative, nonprofit organization that is raising awareness and educating on the harmful effects of pornography using only science, facts and personal accounts. They encourage individuals to make informed decisions about pornography. FTND is a source of a ton of good resources about the addictive effects of pornography and its connection to human trafficking. One of the advantages of visiting this website is that they shed light on a lot of things we might not think of. As Christians we don’t need to be convinced that pornography is harmful, but what FTND reports on the dangers of porn - on a number of different levels - is useful and eye-opening.
As parents navigate through this very sensitive and difficult subject, it is encouraging and empowering to have such a tremendous tool for education at our fingertips - and to know that the facts and science are supporting us.
RESOURCES FOR KIDS
Free By Donation
NetSmartz is the National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) online safety education program. It provides age appropriate videos and activities to help teach children to be safer online with the goal of helping children to become more aware of potential online risk and empowering them to help prevent victimization by making safer choices on and offline
1. Free Resources: tip sheets
2. NetSmartz Videos on cyberbullying, online exploitation, and more
3. Blog with child safety experts’ about today’s technology, threats, and more
WAIT UNTIL 8TH
Wait until 8th is an online pledge that empowers parents to rally together to delay the smartphone at least until the 8th grade. By banding together, this will decrease the pressure within the child’s grade to have a smartphone.
By signing the online pledge, you promise not to give your child a smartphone until at least 8th grade as long as at least 10 families total from your child’s grade and school pledge. Once 10 families have pledged to delay the smartphone, you will be notified that the pledge is in effect!
The pledge is anonymous until the pledge becomes active.
There is a reason why top Silicon Valley executives are saying no to the smartphone until at least 14 for their children. In fact, there is a long list of reasons and parents need to know them:
Smartphones are changing childhood
Smartphones are addictive
Smartphones are an academic distractionE
Excessive smartphone use is altering children’s brains
Smartphones impair sleep
Smartphones interfere with relationships
Smartphones increase the risk for anxiety and depression
Smartphones put your child at risk for cyberbullying
Smartphones exposes your children to sexual content
TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVES ban smartphones for their children