When it comes to keep your children safe online, there are various methods of doing so. By utilising parental controls on devices which are accessed by young children, the risk of your child accessing inappropriate content can be drastically reduced.

Parental controls are usually included in digital television services, video and computer games and handheld devices, such as mobile phones and tablets. As mentioned in our introduction to parental controls page, the features help assist parents to restrict certain content which is not age appropriate for their children.

Many parents ask the question: what parental controls are available? While there are differences between specific controls on different devices according to brand, parental controls typically fall into three categories: content filters, usage controls and monitoring.

Below we discuss the anatomy of these categories and explore example features for parents.


Content Filters


Content filters are a popular method of keeping children safe online. This particular feature can often be referred to as ‘web filters’, or even ‘content filters’. This method of parental control limits the content your child can view, so as a parent, you’re able to block unsafe content and websites from young eyes.

Content filtering is provided by individual operating systems, so can vary depending on the OS your child has access to. For example, if using a Windows computer or phone, Microsoft Windows users have access to “Family Safety”, which offers profile-based web filtering.

There are several content filtering apps and methods available for mobile devices, such as those running on an iOS or Android operating system. These will be explained in detail in a series of posts which will examine specific content filtering systems for iOS and Android.


Usage Control

Applying a usage control to a device is an ideal method of setting a time restriction on devices. This allows you to really monitor the amount of time your child spends on electronic devices, so you’re in control of their usage.

Usage controls can be applied to a variety of devices including mobile phones, games consoles and even your broadband. Nintendo recently announced the launch of their Parental Controls app for their Nintendo Switch games consoles. The app allows parents to set time limits to game play and can even set an alarm or interruption to the game when the time limit has been reached.

There are many third party apps that offer usage controls for parents, as well as other parental control features such as content filtering and monitoring.


The final type of parental control is monitoring. Monitoring is a hardware or software tool which can track location and activity when using electronic devices. This is an ideal tool that puts parents minds at ease by keeping a track on their children’s location when they’re out and about.

A well-known example of monitoring is “Find My Friends”, a feature available for iOS users. The monitoring service allows you to share your location with friends and family, as well as set up location-based alerts that can notify parents automatically when their child arrives at a specific location.

As well as in-built monitoring features on most mobile devices and tablets, there are also apps that specifically allow you to track a child’s location, so these are worth looking into if there’s no monitoring feature built in your child’s device.


To Review

After reading up on what parental controls are available, you should now have a strong grasp on the different formats that controls can be presented in. If you’re a parent and you’re looking to set up parental controls on the electronic devices your child/children have access to, please read our parental controls FAQs.


Which Features are the Best?


Matt Powell, Editor of Broadband Genie, has a broad knowledge of parental controls and filtering technology. He believes that ISP filters are the best option for most people but also sees the benefits of device controls. He says:


“ISP filters are the best option for most people because they’re free, easy to configure and they filter the entire broadband connection, rather than having to be set up on each individual device. That said, because they’re so broad they’re not always ideal for families with children of very different ages. In that situation, it may be best to mix the ISP filters with parental control software…


Android offers the ability to create multiple user accounts with different levels of access, which is really useful for shared devices as you’re able to quickly switch between accounts. Apple also makes it very easy to restrict app access and block sites. Simple timers and activity reports are one of the most powerful tools parents can use. Monitoring how much time children are spending online and how that time is spent, can be very useful for parents.”


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