Kids these days are extremely smart. These are the digital natives. They grew up with this stuff, and can often use devices much more easily than their parents. This is why it is so important for parents to research things before allowing their children to have them. It is up to you, as parents, to learn everything you can about the technology your children are using.
I LOVE when my friends ask me questions about technology. They always act seem to feel bad about bothering me, but seriously, I welcome it! I would much rather help guide parents to the answers than to have them find false information elsewhere. So when my friend recently asked me if she should allow an app on her son’s phone I was super happy to help her.
The child in question was requesting an app on his phone called XVPN. I knew right away that I would never allow that app on my children’s devices, and let her know what it would actually do for her child. The son explained that the app would help his phone have a faster wifi connection at school. That sounds innocent enough.
While what he says is possibly true, there is a very specific reason for it. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. The technology was originally used as a way for business professionals to gain access to their office network remotely. VPN’s will make a connection that essentially uses your current internet connection and makes a tunnel back to a different network, as though you are actually on that network. So, for someone working from home on their laptop, if they connect to a VPN at their office, they will be able to access files and programs that are only available when you are physically at the office. It pretends like the device is sitting in the office.
These days, however, VPN’s are also being used to facilitate additional privacy. If you are on your office network, you can connect to a VPN to remove your device from the network to circumvent any monitoring or restrictions in place from the business. Devices like Circle by Disney are also using a perpetual VPN connection in their Circle Go service to force a child’s device back onto the family’s restricted network, even when they are away from home and the wifi.
Given all of this new found knowledge about VPNs, can you imagine why kids are currently installing VPN apps on their phones? They are attempting to remove the device from any restrictions placed on them from the network they are currently using for a connection. So, while at school there are very strict restrictions placed on a child’s device that connects to the wifi. By using a VPN the child can remove the device from those restrictions and gain free access to the internet and games.
While yes, removing these restrictions can make the wifi a bit faster, you are still just limited to the connection speed and bandwidth of the network you’ve connected to, so it’s not going to make a significant improvement. Apparently, the truth of the matter was that the school restricts access to specific games through their wifi, and he wanted to be able to access the game while at school.
If you allow your child to install a VPN app, they will be able to remove themselves from many restrictions you have put in place. If you have a parental control app on their phone like Boomerang Parental Controls, it will still work for reporting and restricting access and time, but you will lose an additional layer of protection by removing the device from the wifi settings.
So, be a mean parent, and don’t let your kids install a VPN app. You can throw me under the bus and tell them I said so.
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com