Health & Wellness

Parental Controls: Cutting Screen Time and Safeguarding What Kids Are Doing

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A troubling trend: American kids spend an estimated 6 hours per day – or more -- on electronic screens from television sets to the Internet and tablets/mobile devices. Credits: Infographic via OOMA.com
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Maria Sikoutris Di Iorio, clinical director of the Hellenic Therapy Center for individual, couples and family counseling says excessive screen time is becoming an issue with kids in society today. Credits: Hellenic Therapy Center
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NATIONAL -- American kids spend an estimated 6 hours per day – or more -- on electronic screens from television sets to the Internet and tablets/mobile devices. Further, 56% of children between eight and 12-years old own cell phones, and more than 1-in-5 children under eight-years-old use them.

“It is becoming more and more of a problem in society today,” said Maria Sikoutris Di Iorio, clinical director of the Scotch Plains-based Hellenic Therapy Center for individual, couples and family counseling. “The problem with children using computer and being on social media is that they learn to socialize without being in person and they develop this internet dependency. It’s a way of isolating themselves – it sets up superficial relationships online, which are less beneficial than real-world relationships.”

Di Iorio works with children as young as 9-years old that are addicted to their electronic devices, which can provide a gateway to inappropriate material and dangerous behavior such as talking and meeting up with strangers.

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So what can parents do to keep kids safe while they’re browsing?

Ooma (www.ooma.com) -- a leading VoIP provider that offers cloud-based Internet security -- has compiled a detailed new report to help parents keep their kids out of trouble online.

1. Choose The Right Device 
Android and i0S offer different security features. Pick the one that is right for your child.

2. Filter Content for Your Entire Home 
Some Internet service providers offer filtering options, while cloud-based services, such as Ooma Internet Security, interface with your router and protect all devices on your network. This allows parents to restrict access to dangerous websites.

3. Install a Parental Control Tool 
Parental controls are  designed to help parents keep kids safe, but the tricky part is that they must be installed on each individual device. Top-rated tools include ContentWatch Net Nanny 7, Qustodio Parental Control, and Symantec Norton Family Premier.

“Technology enables parents to be in control with the types of websites that their children have access to and effectively limit their risks of exposure and potential cyber bullying,” added Di Iorio, who suggests parents set limits and family discussions on the usage of electronic devices.

4. Monitor Media Streaming Services
Many apps offer parental-control settings.

  • Netflix allows parents to set up filtered profiles. There are four maturity levels that can be applied to individual profiles: little kids, older kids, teens and adults.
  • YouTube Kids is a kid-friendly app that presents limited content that is safer for kids. Just set your child’s age to determine the content on the homepage. A built-in timer can limit how long your child spends on the screen.
  • Hulu: “Family” and “Kids” genres can help you find age appropriate content to watch, but there are no customized parental controls available through Hulu.
  • Amazon Video: Parents can block video content based on audience categories: general, family, teen or mature.

5. Talk to Your Kids
Technological fixes only go so far. Good communication and an open dialogue with kids about online risk concerns and privacy helps them make good decisions online.

“Let your children know your fears as a parent because sometimes they don’t even know the risks,” explained Di Iorio. “I can’t stress that enough.”

For more details on how parents can keep their kids safe online, read the full Ooma.com Parental Control Report here.

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