Parental control is a set of applications and programs that help parents protect their children from harmful content. These tools were invented to make working on the Internet productive and useful and to protect the child from everything that could harm them on the Web. Parental control tools include computer software, smartphone apps, TV programs, smart devices, and more.
Manufacturers of such protective equipment promise that with the help of a parental control app for parent, you will save your baby’s health (so that they do not spend too much time in front of screens and do not come across dangerous content) and your money (so that the child does not accidentally buy anything through the same browser you use for online shopping).
This seems to sound great, but parental controls are subject to the same risks as any other attempt to restrict a child. Parents have to solve a difficult task: how to protect the baby and, at the same time, not invade their personal space.
Researchers believe that controlling behavior in the worst case means interfering in the privacy of children, forbidding them to make their own decisions, to think for themselves.
Abuse of control in the digital sphere is expressed in the restriction of freedom of access to devices and the Web, the punishment of depriving this access, and even outright surveillance of children. So, let us try to find out if parental control has more pros than cons.
The Benefits of Parental Control
Undeniably, every parent is afraid for their children. And there are objective reasons for this. Using the tools and gadgets for parental control has the following advantages:
- Parents can find out if their kids are at school and if they get there by an approved route. This is only possible if a watch is equipped with a precise geolocation signal.
- A kid can send an emergency signal if something dangerous is happening around.
- A parent can hear what is going on around a child and if anyone is trying to offend them.
As for the special software used to control the access of kids to different kinds of content on the Internet, the benefits speak for themselves. Of course, it is impossible to completely protect kids from the irrelevant information they can find online. However, with the help of parental control software, kids get access to this content later. The later this happens, the better it is.
The Cons of Parental Control
The effectiveness of parental supervision, especially on the Internet, has not yet been sufficiently studied. Scientists speak directly: we do not know how well this protects against harmful information and how it affects the development of children. Technology is advancing too fast to draw long-term conclusions.
At the same time, it is known for certain that excessive parental control undermines family trust, which will be difficult to restore even by the time children reach their adolescence. Starting from the age of 10-12 years, children enter their teenage years, and this is the time when the process of separation starts.
If in this period, the supervision of parents becomes too intrusive, this might lead to a negative reaction to such actions. UNICEF has also acknowledged the problem. The organization has released a report on how excessive efforts to protect children from violence, exploitation, and harmful content violate their rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
How will Parental Control Change in the Future?
Despite all its dangers, parental control will not disappear and, most likely, will only improve. The amount of information grows, so do the real threats to children. No matter how rapidly technology develops, scientists recommend adhering to three main principles of parental control:
- Avoid extremes. Bans on using the phone, social media, and resources are likely to lead children to do this in secret. Even passwords will not stop them, they learn fast enough how to bypass the restrictions imposed by parents.
- Do not forget about the ethical side of the issue. Discuss with children, even toddlers, the terms of parental control. It teaches trust and independence.
- Use control means to communicate with children. Don’t interfere in a child’s life with the intention of following every step.
The desire to protect kids from the negative influence of the ambiance is natural for parents. However, if you manage to build a relationship based on trust and respect, your child will highly likely ask you for help in case of problems. So, try to be a friend, not a strict police officer.
Using smartwatches and other trackers is relevant for primary schoolers, while medium-school students will unlikely appreciate this approach. Focus on teaching your child the basic rules of safety, this is more effective than 24/7 control.