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Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Apps to regulate your child’s online activity during lockdown

Whether you are sharing a device with your child or you have separate devices, it is always wise to enable the search setting for safe browsing

With children spending so much more time on smartphones, tablets, and laptops while at home, it is important to draw boundaries around what they can access and when they can access, be it while working on school projects on Microsoft 365, or watching a movie on Netflix.

Whether you are sharing a device with your child or you have separate devices, it is always wise to enable the search setting for safe browsing. This would filter out any explicit results and ensure the child isn’t exposed to any unwanted images or videos while browsing the web for fun or study. Putting an ad blocker on the web browser can block ads and reduce distraction. Privacy oriented browsers such as Opera have such tools in-built into their browser clients and apps.

On mobiles, one can enable safe search in Google app and in any other browser app. This is available in search settings. To ensure that the child can’t download any app on the device without your knowledge, there are parental control apps that give far reaching control over devices.

A case in point is Google’s Family Link, which can be used to set screen time limits for children. You need to download the Family Link on your phone first and then the Family Link for Children and Teens app on the child’s phone. The app can be used to control activities on Google Play store such as purchasing and downloading apps and to restrict access to websites on Chrome and set filters on Google search. The recently announced Microsoft 365 includes a new Family Safety app for subscribers. Available on Android and iOS, the app can be used to set screen time limits for Windows PC, Xbox consoles, and Android apps and games, in addition to limiting access to explicit online content as well as games that may be inappropriate for children. While the feature is not enabled yet, a preview is expected soon.

In addition to gaming and learning, children have been spending a lot of time on video streaming platforms. YouTube has a Kids version, which only shows content for children, but it also filters out a lot of relevant content that may not necessarily be inappropriate. YouTube has a safe search filter called Restricted Mode which hides mature content.

There is also a Kids profile on other platforms such as Netflix. However, it is very common for teens to wander off to the adults’ profile. To limit that and give more control to parents, Netflix recently added the option to protect a profiler with a pin number. Parents can now also limit screen time, disable autoplay, and access the viewing history to keep track of what the child has been watching. The Disney Hotstar app, which offers a treasure trove of all Disney’s animation and other movies for children, has got a Kids Safe button, which when enabled blocks out every other content on the platform except that which is appropriate for children.

If your child is into music, all leading platforms such as Spotify and Amazon Prime Music have an option to restrict songs with explicit language. Songs with explicit content are also labelled with an E tag on Spotify. For video calls with teachers or classmates, it is important to use apps that offer two factor authentication, single-sign-ons, and also encrypt data.

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