The Top 3 Tools to Protect Your Children Online
I have spent the last 20+ years of my career in the IT world, focusing primarily on Microsoft technologies. Windows 10 does have some decent parental controls, but when it came to my kids I needed something that would protect all devices.
As parents, we all want to protect our kids to some degree. Whether you are a helicopter parent or the laid back parent that only gets off the couch for blood and broken bones; no decent parent wants their children(s) to fall victim to the vileness on the internet. Porn addiction and human trafficking are extreme but realistic possible outcomes of not protecting your kids according to Truth About Porn. I will share my own stories of this in the conclusion.
Below are my top picks for ways you can protect your kids and what I do and do not like about each of them. If you delved into the specific features of each solution you will find that they are very similar with a few minor differences. I will conclude with what I have done for my kids and my approach to protecting them.
My Top Picks
Bark is a great tool to use if you just want to monitor for the worst content your kids can get access to, but you don’t want to see everything they do. Bark uses AI to monitor activity on devices (apps, SMS, etc) and cloud accounts (Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, etc) and notifies you if it detects something that you need to be aware of. It can detect content related to bullying, profanity, nudity, depression, drugs, and much more and all of the categories are adjustable.
In addition to monitoring, they recently released an update that allows you to manage screen time and filter which websites they can visit. You can also monitor the device’s location.
Bark supports Android/Chrome, iOS, and Amazon devices.
- Easy to use
- Hands off monitoring
- Only alerts you to subjects you want to know about
- No access to a log of activity
- Accounts can become disconnected at times and have to be
Qustodio is the robust tool of choice if you want to control and monitor everything your child does. It can actively block websites that are in categories you select and you can block or allow apps. It will monitor all of the apps, games, and websites and how much time you spend on each so you can view detailed reports on how much YouTube or TikTok you’re child is consuming.
While Qustodio can’t monitor nearly as many cloud accounts as Bark does, it can monitor some social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. There is also a panic button and the ability to monitor the device’s location.
Qustodio supports Android, iOS, Windows, Kindle, and Mac OS X.
- A complete log of all activity
- Control games and apps
- Extensive reporting
- Limited ability to monitor cloud and social media accounts
- Amount of information can be overwhelming
OurPact focuses more on-screen time and location monitoring, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve. Such as the ability to take random or on-demand screenshots of what is on the device’s display screen. This can be very useful if your child isn’t with you and you want to know what they are looking at.
OurPact works on iOS and Android.
- Set up a schedule for allowing/blocking apps
- Periodic snapshots of the device’s screen
- Basic web filtering
- No account monitoring
Circle is very similar to Qustodio and I have heard great things about it, but I haven’t used it personally. One nice feature that Circle has is the ability to ‘reward’ your child by giving them more screen time.
MMGuardian is very similar to Bark. However, I haven’t used it personally. I have heard good things about it, but Bark was usually recommended over it in my research.
I started out as a helicopter parent when it came to the internet. I was probably more protective then I should have been. Honestly, I was trying to protect them from the same pit of despair that I fell into. See my article below about my battle with porn addiction. It scarred me and I want to protect my children from the same battles I had.
While I wanted to protect them, I also wanted to have conversations with them about the vileness that is out there. I didn’t want them to grow up in a bubble because I knew they would likely run into the vileness just to escape. My goal was to protect them until they were mature enough to have those conversations. I highly recommend that you make your children aware of porn, human trafficking, and everything else when the time is right.
As promised, here is what I have done in my home. I took a multilayered approach to protect my kids. I started with integrating OpenDNS in my home network. This service blocks access to categories of websites and online services, but only for devices that are connected to the home network. I then installed Bark and Qustodio on most devices. This allows me to use Bark to monitor all of their cloud and social media accounts, but I can go back and look at specific activities on Qustodio if I need to. For my older teens, I just use Bark because I want to start trusting them to make good decisions before they go off to college.
My approach isn’t for everyone, but I hope this article has helped. What has worked well for you?