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The truth is most parents do not begin using parental controls soon enough. They incorrectly think that their kids are too young to need them. First, let me say that parental controls in this context simply means taking steps to make sure that your child does not come into contact with undesirable or harmful content while using a computer or hand-held device.
My kids are nineteen and nearly eighteen now. When they were preschoolers “the internet” pretty much just came into homes through Internet Explorer, Netscape and AOL. It didn’t take pornographers long to take full advantage of that medium and it didn’t take long to discover how easily a mistyped word or unfortunate click could give you an eyeful of horrible content that I never wanted my kids to see.
I was not yet The Computer Monkey, but I was a computer geek so I was excited about the educational software that was available. Both boys played Reader Rabbit, Blue’s Clues etc. But, even though I was close by, I remember being so afraid that they were going to somehow hit the right keys to get out of their safe software and onto the internet. So, I watched them carefully and turned on the few parental controls there were back then.
When my kids were old enough to play some of the educational online games, the parental controls for Internet Explorer were still awful. They worked in the sense that they would block, but they would block too much and cause so many password overrides that my kids and I would both be exasperated. Luckily, parental control products like Safe Eyes came along and the choices and products continued to improve. Even before starting Sensible Cyber Parenting, I was always on the lookout for the best parental control software because it was important. I wanted to protect them and find something that worked but wasn’t burdensome to use and that is still my goal for other parents with this website.
The bottom line is your kids are never too young for you to take the steps necessary to protect them from inappropriate or dangerous content on the internet. If they have the use of an internet-connected device, they are at risk so you need to protect them. It may just mean setting up and turning on the Restrictions on your iPhone/iPad when they are using it. I recently heard a horrific story from a lady who is a counselor about a little child who had been handed his mother’s phone while she was driving and he was in the back seat. One day he managed to get to pornography. By the time the mom discovered there was a problem, he had been accessing it on a regular basis for a disturbing amount of time.
I’ve seen three-year-olds that can zip around an iPad faster than a lot of adults I know. It only takes a click or two in the wrong place for a child’s innocence to be shattered. Nearly all of the common devices come with basic controls (see below) that would protect a young child playing educational apps but they have to be set and turned on to work. For older children who have their own devices the parental control products continue to improve. If your kids currently have unfettered internet access, I hope you will search this website to get information about why and how to protect them.