To help protect kids from predators, parents might need to control, limit and track their devices

Young people and youth problems. Preteen girl left alone at home, sends text messages with phone to friends. Concept of potential victim of cyber bulling and absence of parental control(Getty Images/iStockphoto/diego_cervo)
Protecting kids from predators can be particularly challenging if they’re using apps for social media chats.

An investigation by The Washington Post on Apple App Store offerings, such as Yubo, ChatLive, Chat for Strangers, Skout and Holla, reveals that one of the most common complaints is minors being exposed to unwanted sexual experiences.

“There’s just no way to police everything,” Ken Colburn, of Data Doctors, said. “Despite everyone’s attempts to try to police what’s happening in app stores and within the apps themselves, ultimately it comes down to parents having some process of their own to review what’s happening on the devices their children are using.”

It has to start early.

“If you’re just going to suddenly try to have some kind of a process to manage your teenagers’ behavior on a device — that’s a tough one to do, out of the blue. So, you want to start early,” Colburn advised.

He recommends parents make agreements with youngsters that mom and dad can look at the phone, review content and discuss what’s being used.

And, if need be, Colburn said parents can control, limit and track what kids are doing.

Apple parental controls can do things, such as block or limit specific apps and features and restrict explicit content downloads and purchases.

Parental controls in the Google Play store allow parents to restrict what content can be downloaded or purchased based on a child’s maturity level.

Parental controls apps can do everything from setting time limits for use to blocking porn and tracking location.

When it comes to children’s safety, parents might not want to worry about invasion of privacy.

“If you’re letting your child loose on this virtual playground, you have to know who else is there,” Colburn said. “You can’t just drop them off and hope for the best.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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