Chrome browser can be a valuable parental control

ChromeI used to be, and probably still am, skeptical and distrusting of Google’s Chrome browser and it’s ability to store your bookmarks, browsing history and passwords in the cloud. Having it stored there, just in case you opened a Chrome browser on another machine and wanted all your junk there automatically, seemed a little excessive. Well, I’m a convert after finding it fits a great little niche in my family safe internet regime.

When last did you actually look at your kids browsing history? I bet you haven’t, at least until some status-quo busting moment occurs and prompts/forces you to check.

Well, I did and was shocked to see where they had landed up by just following links around, but more to see what they were actually Googling themselves. That gets even more revealing when they have friends over and the power of peer pressure starts being applied and boundaries start being pushed.

Well, this is what Google Chrome has given me to add to my peace of mind.

  • A locked down browser that allows me to keep Safe Search on for YouTube, Google Search and other Google apps.
  • The ability to log on  as them, on my own browser and see their browsing history.
  • Have any useful plugins you may have added and configured, automatically get installed onto any Chrome browser they log into (give eSafely a try).

 

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Is being online all night reasonable?

 Almost everyone I speak to still have their kids “connected” up to and often after they get to bed at night. So, no… it probably isn’t reasonable or even justified when you think about your kids. It probably is time to think about rules and technology assists, but before that, let me tell you how this became a necessity for me.

There was an occasion when I noticed my youngest son was not sleeping very well and I could hear him tossing and turning into the early morning hours. I assumed it was just a bad sleep week, until I found his iPhone hidden under his pillow. Being the “dad from hell”, I do know their device passwords (it’s a condition of use here), so proceeded to investigate.

It seemed he had been Skyping with complete strangers all around the world, that he had met through playing Minecraft. That on its own would have been enough, but most of these were not kids and too much conversation had been had for my liking.

I made sure there was nothing in those conversations to be alarmed about, blocked those users that warranted it, made sure chat logs were kept forever and then invoked an Acceptable Use Device Policy for home. With that, I also started to use technology to assist in managing those little indiscretions. 

Most parents do not realise that the home gateway device, that connects your to your broadband provider, very often has parental controls within it. In my case, I have a scheduler that can be used to restrict particular devices within the home network from having access to the Internet between certain times.

ParentalControls

With this in place, the kids can use their PCs, iPhones or tablets, but can only get connected to the outside world within reasonable hours (or with parental exception). This works a treat, and reinforces the home use policy, removing almost all of that debate and whining… (well, most of it)

Remember, you need to make sure you manage your family access and tools, so make sure you learn about the safety settings you can use to make your life easier and safer.

 

Am I the world’s strictest dad, ever..?

ContractJust in keeping with my title of world’s strictest dad, tonight I printed, talked through and got them to sign their first serious agreements. Yes, there may have been a bit of pressure applied and they probably didn’t get the right to proper legal representation… 😉

I’ve got tired of having the same old debates about why they can’t be online now, or why I may need their passwords.  We’ve even had those slightly awkward conversations about over-sharing and sexting. So, we put into place a rudimentary contract that served as both a framework around which we could talk about the various topics and rationale behind each, as well as get a commitment to uphold these expectations. Theoretically, this is an end to all those debates… (yes, I know, but let’s just imagine how good this could be)

Here’s our Device Acceptable Use Policy for our home. Feel free to re-use and re-purpose for your own use, or just to use it to frame a conversation.

Device Acceptable Use Agreement

This is our agreement established, between ______________ (“You“) and ______________ (“I“,”Mum“,”Dad“,”Us“,”We”), for the use of, and respect for, the communication devices that are provided to You, by Us.You will abide by the terms provided herein, for the term of this agreement.

  1. It is Our device. We bought it. We pay for it. We are loaning it to you.
  2. We will always know the password, no question.
  3. If it rings, answer it, say hello, and use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”, ever.
  4. The device gets switched off and You disconnect promptly at 7:30pm every school night and every weekend night at 9:00pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again, no earlier than at 7:30am the next morning. If You would not make a call to someone’s home phone where their parents may answer first, then it is also not appropriate to call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families, like We would like to be respected.
  5. If it goes to school with You, it is only for communicating with Us and only out of school hours. When at school, have a conversation with the people You text in person. That is a life skill.
  6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, You are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Whatever that cost may be.
  7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others or not want to receive yourself. Be a good friend first, or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
  8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device You would not say in person. Cyberspace is not a mask and You will face the consequences sometime, or perhaps the rest of your life.
  9. No porn, ever. Google and I have ways of knowing.
  10. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the device to turn you into one.
  11. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts, or anyone else’s private parts. Someday, You will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage and adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than You, and it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation and those pictures.
  12. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences and they will be stored in your memory for eternity for You to enjoy.
  13. Leave your device at home sometimes and feel safe and secure that this is a good decision. It is not alive, nor an extension of You. Learn to live without it, be bigger and more powerful than the fear of missing out.
  14. Download music that is new, or classic, or different to the millions of your peers that all listen to the same stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
  15. Use the device to play a game with words, a puzzle, and a brain teaser or learn something every now and then.
  16. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around You. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Take time to wonder about things, without Googling.
  17. You will mess up and I will take away your device. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, are always learning and We are in this together.
  18. This agreement will continue until You terminate it through the action of permanently leaving Our home or until We chose to terminate it for convenience. At this pointYou are ready for the world and don’t need this agreement anymore. Our job is done.

Agreed by

 You:  __________________ on ______________

 Us:  __________________ on ______________

 

So, am I the worlds strictest dad, ever?

Let me know if you have any other ideas to challenges you have faced.

What are your kids watching on YouTube?

Chances are, at some time you may have stumbled upon or been shocked by what you have found your kids watching on YouTube. Not yet? Well brace yourself, it will happen.

It starts innocently enough. They probably got there after watching a tame video and then followed some of the recommendations offered when it finished, and “whamo!”, they’re watching a softporn outtake… 

Did you know that you can set up parental controls that will provide a level of safe searching for your kids?

Well, you can.

If you have a Google account to use for your kids, you can enable Safe Search. This will mean that on that browser (or even on the mobile YouTube app), when logged in as that Google YouTube user, all unsafe items will not show up, or be recommended, to your child. This includes those often vile comments that seem to also gather around these videos nowadays…

safe-search

Remember, that you need to make sure you have a Google (YouTube) account so that it knows who is viewing and you need to switch on Safe Search on any browser where your child will be using. Don’t forget mobile browsers, mobile YouTube apps or even other machines in your house that they may occasionally use.

This will provide some comfort that your child will not easily stumble upon anything inappropriate. These protections will never completely protect your child, but cover much of the content there.

As a parent, take the time to teach your kids how to react to things they feel are inappropriate, help them understand what is inappropriate and how to recognize it – keep an eye on them, that’s your job.

So, do you actually know what your kids are watching on YouTube?

 

Do let us know if you’ve found a better way of managing the endless YouTube watching, we want to hear ideas and experiences.