A while back my sister purchased an HP TouchPad for her 13 year old son for his birthday. The fire sale on TouchPad’s made them super cheap, and it was the perfect gift. Before she gave it to HIM, she gave it to me, so I could set up ways to track his activity on the device, and keep him safe. I didn’t have a whole lot of options at the time, but here’s how we made it work.
The first thing we did is set up some parental controls on her wireless router at the house. This allowed her to shut down internet access to everything in the house during certain hours of the day. I like the Cisco-Valet Plus Wireless Router for it’s EXCELLENT parental control features! This way, my sister could sleep easy, knowing that no one could get online inside the house while she was sleeping.
The second thing we did was create a Google account for him, and enabled the tracking of his searches within Google. You can even set up the “Account Activity” within the Google account to see reports on various activities within Google. This worked pretty well for us too. We knew exactly what he was looking up! (I always say that this poor kid won’t get away with anything on technology with me as his aunt!)
Sure, you can set up parental controls on the wifi in your house, but what if the device is on the cellular network?
Sprint T-Mobile AT&T and Verizon all have great family safety controls you can sign up for and use for devices on their networks. Most networks will allow you to set up times the device can be active or inactive (like you can shut it down for during school hours), and you can also set up web content filters.
You can also use an app that will help protect the phone or tablet like NQMobile.
Another thing that parents worry about when handing over expensive equipment to their children is the fact that they can/will break the device. There are definitely solutions to this as well. First, protect the device with both a screen cover (check out xoskins.com), and a case (to help with drops). The second part, which is really one of the most important parts… is to teach your kids the proper care and use of the products. Even my 3 year old knows that he can’t stick a cell phone in the sink. There may have been a time he did NOT know this, and something MAY have happened with a loner HTC One X… but that’s neither here nor there. Which leads me to my next point, that yes, something may end up happening to the device, so the last line of defense is to get the accidental damage warranty or the insurance on the device! Best Buy has a great warranty program if you purchase your devices there.
The bottom line is that I’m a firm believer that our kids can do amazing things with mobile technology. There is so much for them to learn and create with the various apps and technology. There are definitely risks involved, but if you take the time to protect your kids, they will be able to reap the benefits of these devices. My next project is going to happen around Christmas time when TWO of my sister’s kids will be getting cell phones.. EEEKKKK!
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