Friday, March 14th, 2014
Ever worry about what your children are looking at online? Or worry they are spending too much time on the Internet? Of course you do!
There is so much to fear in the digital age, from online predators to cyberbullies to unwelcomed pop-ups and risqué advertising. But as consumers of the World Wide Web, we also know that so much good content is out there for children as well.
A new product just hit the market that may make it easier for parents to control the content as well as the amount of time kids are viewing it online. PowerCloud Systems, in partnership with Common Sense Media, launched a new parental control feature in Skydog (their home networking monitoring system), named webRover. The control is designed for monitoring kids between the ages 2 and 10. Through the Skydog-connected system, parents can set up multiple user accounts that can be controlled across all devices (including mobile and tablets).
“Kids can easily get exposed to age-inappropriate content,” says Caroline Knorr, the Parenting Editor for Common Sense Media. “They can do that by typing something into the Internet that seems like an innocuous search term, and they can arrive at a website that is not age appropriate.”
“Let’s face it, there’s no way that you can prevent your kids from being exposed to age-inappropriate content or content that you don’t approve of, but there are ways to manage their online activities so they are funneled into sites where they have a greater chance of finding age-appropriate, positive, nourishing websites versus what they might find on their own,” she continues.
Each webRover user profile can be customized based on what each parent deems appropriate for each child. For example, parents can schedule designated study hours during the week for school-age children where only approved websites can be accessed during that time. So even though kids may need the Internet to research a homework assignment, you won’t have to worry that they are wasting time playing an online game. For even younger children, parents can allow access-based categories, including learning potential. This is where Common Sense Media comes in.
The organization rates and reviews media across multiple platforms (like movies, TV shows, video games, apps, etc.) and assesses the appropriate age for each product. Multiple factors come into play, including violence, sex, cigarettes and drugs, language, positive role models, and learning capability. So, even though some websites may be kid-friendly, they may not necessarily promote learning. Through webRover, parents can customize the sites they want to allow, like ones with a higher educational rating. For sites that don’t have a ranking (like religious and regional websites), parents can manually enter in their own information and ratings. Parents can even override Common Sense Media’s ratings if they decide their young child can handle websites aimed at older children, or if they find something age-inappropriate based on their own values.
“Often parental controls are blunt instruments that block out too much good stuff,” Knorr says. “That’s been a real downfall with the controls up until this point. So the way Skydog has implemented it…they are saying, ‘You know what, we want to just curate the good stuff for kids.’”
The big key here is that although there are different recommendations about the what, how, and when children can access the Internet, the webRover feature allows ultimate control to be left up to the parents. And that deserves a little sigh of relief!
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