Most parents want to ensure their children are protected from online predators and inappropriate content. And many of them have discovered easy to use parental controls that restrict access to questionable television content and Internet websites accessible with desktop and laptop computers.
But what about the threat posed by mobile devices?
These days it’s not uncommon to see kids of all ages surfing the web with mobile devices. And these kids are savvy, in many cases probably more so than their parents.
Case in point: My five-year-old daughter recently asked – as she frequently does – to play Angry Birds on my phone. I set the game up for her and left the room for a few minutes. When I returned, I noticed she was playing a version with graphics I didn’t recognize. I discovered she downloaded an application on her own – lucky for me, the free one. And there I was, minutes earlier, thinking she needed help starting the game.
It’s amazing what kids can do with technology. And scary.
Fear not, there are ways to level the playing field. For parents who want to control what their children see and do while using a mobile device, all five of the major U.S. cellular carriers offer some form of free parental controls, according to their corporate websites. Some of the services are free-of-charge but others incur a monthly charge, so be sure to check the details for each individual carrier.
- Verizon has content filters available that allow children to access a variety of forms of content – including music downloads – “with confidence that the content will be age-appropriate.” The Verizon filters have various designations that control content streams in three age-specific categories. The filters can be changed as the child ages to allow for additional content. Usage controls that are also available help manage time spent on the phone.
- AT&T provides restrictions on content that may be inappropriate for children and also includes a “Purchase Blocker” that prevents ringtones, games or other paid content from being downloaded.
- T-Mobile introduced “Family Allowance” as a way for parents to have control over what services can be used on their children’s phones and to what extent. The service sets limits on downloads and the number of minutes available in a given month.
- Sprint/Nextel allows the primary account holder to manage access by limiting browsing to about 100 pre-screened websites that are considered clean for all ages. Parents are also able to control which phone numbers may be called.
- Alltel parental controls allow content featuring pornography, gambling and violence to be blocked. A “dynamic rating” database updates the system so new or unrated sites, and those with mixed content, don’t slip through the cracks.
- Firefly, a mobile phone service manufactured specifically for kid use has built-in parental controls that restrict incoming and outgoing calls and texting.
For cellular users who don’t have one of the major carriers, there are products such as Net Nanny, Phone Sheriff, Mobile Sentry and Mobicip that offer universally compatible paid services. These vendors offer a variety of features including filtered internet content and restrictions on sending photos and video. They also have GPS locators, text monitoring, time management and purchase restrictions but each service is different so be sure to pay attention to the components of each specific plan.
Dona Collins loves to do concept art and design for tablet pc, mobiles, gadgets, cars. When she is free you can find her playing games on her tablet or working on Photoshop doing infographics. She also loves building her own custom tablets when free.
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