The average American teen spends up to seven hours a day in contact with others on electronic devices, and a recent survey by AVG Technologies found that almost one in six 6- to 9-year-olds and one in five 8- to 9-year-olds have experienced what parents consider objectionable or aggressive behavior online. Other research revealed that 43 percent of kids in grades 4 through 8 were the victims of some form of cyberbullying. Although girls are more likely to be targets than boys, boys are quick to spread the bullying messages. Bottom line: It's never too early to take precautions.
To protect you and your growing child, here is a list of mobile apps, social monitoring software, Internet browsers, and other Web-based products to prevent cyberbullying on computers and cell phones.
In 2010 Mobicip was awarded the 2010 Parents' Choice Silver Honors Award for top mobile app for kids. It includes a wide array of parental controls, including category blocking, time limits, Internet activity reports, blocked phrases, and YouTube filtering. There are three restriction levels: The elementary school level blocks social networking, gaming, shopping, entertainment, clothing, and news content. The middle school level blocks online shopping, gambling, dating, liquor, and chat sites. The high school level blocks adult, sexual, weapons, violence, proxy, virus, and hacking sites. ($4.99; iPhone, iPad)
NearParent allows families to build a trusted network of adults who can assist children when they are in need. The app has three views -- "kid's," "alert," and "helper's." In the "kid's view," a child who requires assistance clicks either a "small alert" or "urgent alert" button on the app, which then notifies adults in his network that help is needed. The "alert view" reveals the adult helper who will provide assistance and the "helper's view" reveals the child's and the helper's locations to determine how far they are from each other. (Free; iPhone, iPad)
This app lets you see posts from your kids containing drug references and vulgarities, know when they post photos and profile details that should not be public, and check when they add new friends that are out of a predetermined age or geographic range. Parents can also print social media Emergency Reports, developed with the help of law enforcement. (Free; iPhone, iPad)
Control your child's Internet usage while she's on the iPhone by blocking questionable sites. This app has YouTube filtering and media player blocking. You can also customize it by choosing from 35 different categories (e.g., nudity, profanity, etc.) to block or allow content. ($19.99; iPhone, iPad)
Get alerts on your mobile phone and computer that include updates about questionable texts, photos, videos, and unauthorized phone numbers. Parents can work with their child to create a master contact list for his mobile phone, but only parents can add or make changes. ($9.95 per month for one child; $4.95 for each additional child)
CyberSynchs is an innovative service that allows mobile users to back up, share, and synchronize data between the phone and the computer. Its Parental Mode setting allows parents to receive reports that have blurbs of content with flagged words that indicate bullying, sexual behavior, and violence. Parents can also prevent access to certain synchronized data and view the child's last GPS location. ($2.99 per month)
Notification monitors send alerts when alarming keywords are used. The best part: You program those words in advance. There is time control, to limit when and for how long kids can access the internet, plus a setup assistant that allows parents to determine which online sites are appropriate by the child's age. A mobile app version is also available for Android phones only. ($39.99 per year for computers; $19.99 per year for one mobile device; $29.98 per year for three mobile devices)
A mom who witnessed her daughter being cyberbullied started Online Guardian, which contains extensive controls (on an easy centralized dashboard) for tracking social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and MySpace), instant messaging management, and malware protection. ($49.95)
Track your child's activity on social networking sites, and monitor text and instant messages. Parents can receive a free sample report after typing a child's email address on the product's site to see what comes up in an Internet search. The site offers a money-back guarantee, and subscribers have free access to the mobile version. ($10 per month or $100 for one year)
Founded by two men who heard their friend's daughter received unwanted attention from a male adult on Facebook, SocialShield monitors social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter) to protect a child's online reputation. By using cloud-based software, it can be accessed anywhere via computer and phone. Reports provide a safety score on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the safest) that is determined by reputation-harming watchwords in posts and discussions, photos, videos, and friends. ($10 per month)
Awarded the Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) seal of approval, Cyber Patrol has several computer software programs that protect kids' Internet safety. The Online Protection software sends "Bully Alerts" that scan for language that indicate cyberbullying. Parents can set up time limits for when children can go online; block questionable sites and programs; and receive daily and weekly summaries of Internet activities. ($49.95 for a 3 PC family pack)
Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each service provider for updated information.
Linda DiProperzio is a mom and a freelance writer covering a variety of topics, including parenting and pregnancy. Her work can be viewed at www.lindadiproperzio.com.