Why Parental Controls Don’t Let Parents Off the Hook

May 9, 2017

Parental controls allow us as parents to control many aspects of our child’s online and social media experiences, from restricting what’s not age appropriate to blocking entire apps. These controls can be helpful, but they’re limited.

In a recent article, New parental controls are great, but don’t let mom and dad off the hook, ConnectSafely Founder Larry Magid expressed a similar thought. Magid stated, “No matter how hard a parent tries, it is almost impossible to use technology to completely protect a child from anything that can go wrong with their use of technology.”

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be involved in and aware of what our children are doing online. On the contrary, good parenting means being more engaged than ever, but the majority of that involvement should happen offline. We need to do more than block what our children have access to; we need to model and teach. “The best internet filter is the one that runs between the child’s ears,” said Magid.

Many social networks, After School included, have parental controls that allow us as parents to set restrictions inside the app on our children’s phones. But instead of simply blocking apps from their phones, which is possible but not ideal, we can have a lasting impact by talking to them about proper social media use, which we know as digital citizenship.

Blocking apps also overlooks some of the real problems and struggles our children may be having and going through according to Magid. “Studies have shown that kids who get into some type of trouble online are often risk-takers in other aspects of their lives as well. And if you think a monitoring program will stop cyberbullying, consider that most bullying takes place in person and not online, and even when it is online (or mobile) it is often a reflection of what’s going on at school or wherever kids are hanging out.”

Technology has changed our job as parents, but it hasn’t changed our role in actively raising young people with values that will serve them well in life. “Remember that our role as parents isn’t just to raise kids, it’s also to raise adults…That’s why, even if you use controls, I urge parents to wean their kids off them during their teen years and encourage that filter between their ears to take over,” Magid concludes.

By working to get through to them with conversation and being involved in their lives, we can have a very real impact greater than what would come from blocking an app or taking away their smartphone. Technology will always be a part of their life, and it’s our responsibility to help them use it responsibly.

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This post was written by After School Communications Manager Michael Luchies. Follow the After School Safety Team @SafetyonSocial.  

After School uses proactive moderation, a Zero Tolerance Policy against cyberbullying and threats, and digital citizenship efforts to guide teens towards positive and healthy use of technology and to keep After School a fun and safe online space. Learn more about our safety efforts on the After School Safety Page here.

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