Column: Apps for managing a child’s smartphone

Q: What would you recommend I use to manage what my kids are doing on their smartphones?

A: Parenting in the digital age has become very complex because of the ubiquity of the smartphone.

You don’t have to look very far these days to see a 2-year-old adeptly navigating a smartphones or tablet that many parents have turned to as digital pacifiers.

This has led to digital natives who are far more comfortable and aware of today’s technology than their parents as they grow.

As such, many parents then seek a magic app to solve a problem that has been developing over a long period of time.

Parents just don’t understand

The lack of time spent trying to keep up with the changes in technology puts many parents behind the eight ball when it comes to trying to manage something that they themselves don’t understand.

Unfortunately, the “I don’t have time” excuse is not something any parent can afford to use if they want any chance of successfully navigating this unique parenting challenge.

Building a relationship with your children such that they want to share what they’re learning about technology is a good way of keeping the communication channels open and keeping up with the constant changes.

Setting guidelines

If you’re going to give a child a smartphone, you have to take the time to setup the built-in parental controls, discuss the guidelines for usage and decide what level of privacy you’re going to allow.

If you have clearly discussed what is permissible and what isn’t, installing monitoring or management apps will help you to maintain those rules.

A friend of mine even created a contract with his children before providing them with their smartphones, then used apps to manage the phones based on the contract. (I’ve posted a generic version of it on our Facebook page.)

I suspect parents that think that they want to monitor their child’s every keystroke, especially if they are older. Not only can this cause issues with your relationship, you’ll likely drive them to use their friend’s devices to avoid your oversight.

Building filters into an older child instead of into their technology is the key to success because you’ll never be able to control every device that they come in contact with.

Why Android may be a better choice

There are a large number of platforms and apps that allow parents to monitor and manage their child’s smartphone, but your choices and capabilities will be greater with an Android handset.

Apple’s closed iOS platform doesn’t allow as much flexibility to app developers as the more open Android platform does.

Suggested apps

There is no one-size-fits-all solution; parenting styles, the child’s age and number of children are just a few factors that come into play.

OurPact is an app that my friend raves about because he can easily manage multiple children from the parent app on his phone. The parents must have an iPhone, but the control app works on either Android or iPhone devices.

Others apps to consider include Net Nanny, NetSanity, MamaBear, Qustodio and TeenSafe. Many of them offer free trials so you can test them out yourself.

Editor’s note: Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services

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