Benchmarking of Parental Control Tools & Online Safety

Parents and caregivers are responsible for shaping their children’s level of interaction with media. They play a pivotal role in providing young people with the opportunity to learn, socialise and play through screen technologies, and also protecting them from the potential risks associated with them.

Understandably, many parents choose to manage their children’s media use through parental control tools. Yet, according to a recent study – entitled ‘Benchmarking of parental control tools for the online protection of children – which was prepared for the European

Commission, “most parental control tools fail to sufficiently address the needs of the parents to protect children against online risks”.

In this article, we will take a closer look at this report in order to understand which parental controls work, which ones don’t, and why…

What Are Parental Control Tools?

The Australian Office of eSafety defines parental control tools as being technologies that “help parents monitor and limit what their children do online”. What is important, however, is for parents to be mindful that not all parental control tools were created equal, with some being inordinately intrusive or excessively restrictive.

How Do Parental Control Tools Work?

According to the European Commission’s report, there are four primary functions of parental control tools. These include the ability to:

  • block addresses: to avoid access to specific URLs

  • filter content: to prevent access to inappropriate content

  • manage usage: to limit Internet access by setting time limits

  • monitor activities: to check, through alerts and reporting, children’s activity on the Internet.

There are three conventional ways to use a parental control tool:

  • install software on the device

  • download an app on the mobile device

  • subscribe to an online filtering service offered by an Internet Service Provider.

The ‘benchmarking of parental control tools’ report assessed four main areas of performance for each tool. These were:

  • functionality

  • effectiveness

  • usability

  • security.

You can view the results of the report here but in summary, it was found that the most common weakness among filters and blockers was the ease with which the tool could be bypassed or uninstalled. A further problem was posed by inordinately intrusive spyware tools, which often create a state of distrust and resentment between parents and their children.

The report summarised that, in order to be effective, parental controls tools need to offer the following functionality:

  • the ability to work no matter what browser the child uses

  • time-scheduling that lets parents define a weekly schedule for when the child is allowed on the Internet, the computer, or both

  • produce reports that lets parents easily check on the child’s online behaviour.

It then went on to make the following parental recommendation, “parental controls are useful tools to protect children and youngsters going online. However, they cannot be regarded as a substitute for open communication and dialogue between parents and

children about: restrictions on what is allowed and for how long; which games and apps they may use; with whom they can play games or interact online; why it is important not to share personal information, and how to deal with inappropriate behaviour online by usual or new contacts”.

Family Insights: Your Family’s Online Safety Solution

Here at Family Insights, we strongly believe that relationships should be built on trust. When parents use parental controls that over-block internet access or spy on their children’s activity, they not only risk eroding parent-child trust, but they also lose the opportunity to educate and empower their children to safely navigate the Internet.

Our approach to online safety is anchored in trust, honest communication and ongoing family education. Working closely with local and international cyber safety experts, we are committed to providing parents with expert information from world-leading sources so that they are armed with facts and have insight into the online lives of their children.

Our groundbreaking cyber safety app passes the aforementioned effectiveness test with flying colours: by utilising our fast and secure VPN, Family Insights will work no matter what browser your child uses; it also offers a network scheduling feature which enables you to restrict Internet access on your children’s devices at chosen intervals, and it issues real-time alerts to parents whenever a threat is identified.

Our new and improved parent dashboard provides parents with a comprehensive overview of their children’s device usage, displaying household statistics such as: hours spent gaming and on social media, most-used apps, and time spent on messaging services. This information enables parents to have tailored conversations with their children about their media use, without invading children’s privacy.

Click here to learn more about our innovative online safety app and to claim your 30-day FREE trial.

References & More Information On Parental Control Tools

(1) Office of the eSafety Commissioner. iParent: Parental controls.

(2) European Commission, 2017. Benchmarking of parental control tools for the online protection of children.

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