Using Parental Controls - Tip Sheet
Many Internet providers provide tools and services to help you manage your child’s online experience. Check with your provider to see what they offer that will allow you to block different sites, monitor your kids’ online activities and set times when the Internet is not available.
Operating systems are the “toolbox” that your computer, phone or other digital device uses to run programs and apps.
On Android phones and tablets, you can set what content rating you want your kids to be able to access. Android allows you to set different content ratings for different types of content (movies, books, music, games, etc.) For information on how to do this, see https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/1075738?hl=en.
Android and Chrome OS also allow you to create a managed account for your children, which gives you more direct control over what content they can see and how much time they can spend using the device. For information on how to do this, see https://support.google.com/families/answer/7101025?hl=en.
On iOS devices like iPhones and iPads you can disabled different features (like Camera and AirDrop), prevent your child from making in-app purchases, block access to content with specific ratings, block access to websites with adult content, and adjust privacy settings such as whether apps can share your child’s location. For information on how to do this, see https://support.apple.com/en-ca/ht201304.
On computers, phones and tablets running Windows 10 you can prevent your child from accessing content above a certain age rating, require them to get permission from you before buying apps or making in-app purchases, and limit how much time they spend using the device. For information on how to do this, see https://support.microsoft.com/en-ca/help/12413/microsoft-account-what-is-family.
Browsers are the programs your computer uses to access websites. Your computer may have more than one browser installed, so make sure that you have set the parental control options you want on all of them.
There are no parental controls built into the Chrome desktop browser. There are third-party plugins available in the Chrome Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions.
On the Chrome browser for tablets and mobile phones, you can turn on SafeSearch, which blocks explicit images, videos and websites. For information on how to do this, see https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/510 and click on “Android.”
Edge’s parental controls are set using the general controls for the Windows operating system.
Firefox does not have any built-in parental controls. However, when used on a computer using Windows 10 it will reflect the parental control settings you have chosen for that operating system. You can also install third-party add-ons for a variety of parental control functions: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/search/?q=parental+control&cat=all.
When using Apple’s Safari browser, you can limit access to adult websites and also to specific websites of your choice. For information on how to do this, see https://support.apple.com/kb/PH25529.
Search engines are the tools you use to find websites. Any search engine can be accessed through your browser, and some can also be installed as apps on a mobile device. Most browsers and devices have a default search engine that they automatically use for searches.
If you have a Google account you can turn on SafeSearch, which blocks explicit image, videos and websites. You can also lock SafeSearch to prevent someone else from turning it off (though they can turn it off if they log into a different Google account). For information on how to do this, see https://www.google.com/preferences.
Bing has three levels of Safe Search: Strict, Moderate and Off. You can select the one you want at https://www.bing.com/account.
DuckDuckGo has three levels of Safe Search: Strict, Moderate and Off. You can select the one you want at https://duckduckgo.com/settings.
One of the most popular online activities for kids is watching video. Here’s how you can limit what they can watch on two of the most popular video sites – whether they’re visiting the website with a browser or using an app on a mobile device.
Netflix lets you set parental controls to require anyone to enter a 4-digit PIN of your choosing before watching content above a particular maturity level. (The available options are Little Kids Only, Older Kids and Below, Teens and Below and All Maturity Levels.) You can also create a separate limited profile for your kids, but keep in mind that they can leave this just by clicking on Exit Kids. For information on how to do this, see https://help.netflix.com/en/node/264.
If you have a Google account, you can set YouTube to Restricted Mode, which blocks some inappropriate content and also prevents you from seeing comments on videos. For information on how to do this, see https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/174084.
If you’re using YouTube Kids, you can also block specific videos and channels. For information on how to do this, see https://support.google.com/youtubekids/answer/7178746.
Some commercial products and services allow you to directly monitor what your children are doing online, as well as to block different kinds of content. While these can be useful with young children, and may be an appropriate consequence if your kids have misused digital tools, it’s important to keep in mind that they are only ever part of the solution. Kids are very good at getting around tools like these and using these tools can lead children to try to cover up when things go wrong, rather than coming to you for help. If you do decide to use monitoring software because you are concerned about your child’s safety, it’s important you be upfront about it rather than spying behind their back as this will erode trust.
Most of these settings can be changed by your kids if they know how: the most secure are the operating system settings, which you can require a password to change.
Remember that no parental controls are perfect, and they should never be a substitute for talking to your kids about what is and isn’t appropriate and how you expect them to behave online.
When kids are exposed to inappropriate content, it’s often by accident – and kids say that’s one of the things that bothers them the most. Make sure you’ve told your kids to come and tell you if they ever see something, and reassure them that they won’t get in trouble if they do.