Guest Post: Cassie, of Secure Thoughts, on Parental Control Tips for Holiday Gifts

photo credit: black.zack00 ho! ho! ho! via photopin (license)

Grace sprung for her own tablet recently.

guest postShe justified the purchase – and also a llama keychain made from real llama fur and a tiny Peruvian blanket – as good investments, the kind of thing she could pass down to her kids someday. (I love this idea.)

One thing I need to pass down to my own kids: A plan for cyber security, not just for the content she can access, but to protect her accounts online.

That’s where Cassie comes in. She writes for a website called Secure Thoughts. No, this isn’t a site that safeguards my dreams of pizza buffets with Katlyn Carlson. It’s Internet security for everyday people. You know, like you and me.

Cassie’s here today to talk about security and the gifts you might be considering (or have already bought – holy hell, Christmas is Sunday, isn’t it?).

Please give Cassie a warm CD welcome. And by the way, I miss this place. This space. I can’t wait to get back with some Go Ask Daddy action, some #GirlsRock interviews, random smartphone photos, and maybe even a plain oldblog post!

photo credit: JLS Photography – Alaska Holiday Bokeh . . . via photopin (license)

This Christmas, You Are the Best Parental Control

Are you excited (and a little nervous) about Christmas this year? I know I am. Let’s pretend for a moment that I know exactly what I’m getting my little ones for Christmas. All of the hot new toys blogs and magazines are telling me to buy and my kids are asking for are very tech-oriented (and expensive, but I’m not thinking about that).

I promise you, they aren’t the parental controls of yesterday that kids could work around in 10 minutes. The parental controls you can use today require passwords, can connect right to your phone, and notify you if something’s amiss. There is an option for you if you are planning on getting your child a phone or tablet. Chances are they won’t even know the controls are on there.

Some brief things you should know:

• If your kids are small and don’t need to use the Internet for much research, try simply getting them a kid-friendly browser.
• Older kids should probably be using a regular browser, but that doesn’t stop you from using useful browser plugins or simply adjusting the browser settings.
• If you want something with all the bells and whistles, NetNanny and Qustodio probably have any feature you could ask for, for a price.
• You might just want to investigate what your operating system has to offer in terms of parental controls. A quick search led me to uncover tools to protect my kids without downloading anything.

Another thing is that many of the toys you might get your kids just don’t have parental controls, only parental settings or options at best. As a parent, it’s up to you to establish boundaries and rules regarding the toys you give them. Just because you’re playing it safe doesn’t mean you can’t have fun playing! I know I feel easier knowing my children know their limits with toys that could be misused.

Don’t Take Unnecessary Risks

Don’t give your kids toys you don’t think they can handle. That drone can become extremely dangerous extremely quickly, especially when you’re not looking for just a few seconds. A few random buttons on the wrong toy can send a lot of information. A robot dog could just confuse and frighten some very young kids.

Video games are always a popular option for parents to get children for Christmas, but if you don’t play yourself, you should know what your children are in for. If your kids are young, I’d just recommend turning off all online features because some user-created content doesn’t always stay appropriate. You don’t want adult gamers unintentionally (or intentionally) molding your children the wrong way. Older kids you’ll still want to look out for while they game.

Other Security Tips

Here are some of the other tools and tips you might want for your tech for the holidays:

• If you don’t have security software for your home, please get it now. Without it, I’m surprised you’re able to read this with all the malware roaming about.
• If you’re concerned about people and hackers picking up on your children’s location, get a Virtual Private Network for your computers. It might not be compatible with the toys, but it will be compatible with the devices often used to control your toys, such as your smartphone and computer.
• Whatever you do, don’t give your kids financial information or a credit card. You might wind up with a $5,000 app bill.

What’s on your mind for the holidays? Going to get your kids anything new and tech-oriented, or are you thinking of something a little more traditional?

About the Author: Cassie is a technology and cybersecurity writer for Secure Thoughts, a cybersecurity information website. She takes her own children’s cyber security into consideration and hopes that yours will both have fun and be safe this holiday season.

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  1. ksbeth says:

    all great things to think about when we purchase things for our children/grandchildren. it’s sad, but it’s a reality. as for you on your blog, looking forward to your future posts )

    1. Thanks for reading! You are right, it is sad, but if we teach them young it will come second nature for them to keep these things in mind when they are older. Unfortunately, in today’s world, it seems that the elderly are at more risk than our kids 😦

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      These ain’t Lincoln Logs, are they, Beth? due diligence. I can’t wait to write again!

  2. Lyn says:

    Oh my yes! And if your little one loves playing educational games on your phone or tablet, buy them downloadable games that need no access to the internet otherwise you could end up with a hefty excess access bill 😮

    1. Lyn, correct! Though there is a way around this, you can change settings on your phone so that you cannot play those games on cellular data and have a password to make a purchase. With that being said though, there are plenty of educational games that do not require internet access and children don’t really need the internet at a young age.

      1. Lyn says:

        LOL so my daughter found out…and almost had to pay for it 🙂

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      Kids and credit cards don’t mix.

      1. Lyn says:

        Fortunately, no credit card was involved. It was a case of a pretty bright flashing number and Little Miss (2) clicked on it and ended up online. Data blew out 😦

  3. drkottaway says:

    As a family doctor, I would add that tech needs to stay outside the child’s room at bedtime. No phone in the room, no television, no tablet and no computer in the room. Keep the computer public, where you can look over a child’s shoulder. Check in. Kids are on the phone at night texting their friends: no phone in the bedroom after whatever time you thinks is reasonable. We have an epidemic of sleep difficulties and part of it is all the screens. Music after bedtime is ok for an older child, but not streaming with their phone.
    My son eventually bargained for unlimited computer time in high school. Our agreement was that he had to keep his grades up AND do all the dishes, because with increasing power comes increasing responsibility.
    My son also worked trail crew when he was 14. He announced that he was buying a television for his bedroom. I thought about that for a while and then said, “Of course you can do that. As soon as you can afford to move out and rent a room. Meanwhile it is my house: no televison in the bedroom.”

    1. Great points! Especially about keeping the computer in a public place. The same should be true of phones and tablets, at least until they are older. You should always have passwords to your child’s devices in order to protect them. Keeping electronics out of the bedroom is also a great way to help with the sleep issues we have in this world.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      Probably we grown-ups could benefit by taking tech out of the bedroom at bedtime, Doc!

      1. drkottaway says:

        ….but of course! But don’t all the wise grown ups refuse a television in the bed room and stash the phone in the hall and turn off screens an hour before bed at least?

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Not ALL wise ones … or maybe I’ve overestimated my wisdom!

  4. artistpath says:

    Great advice for a tech savvy world. I was just watching a documentary on cyber wars and realized how vulnerable we all our with our various tech devices- kids especially need protection. Great post!

    1. Thanks for reading! Glad you liked the post. Our children are often innocent and don’t realize there are bad people out there, mostly because we want to protect them, but in the end it just hurts them more. Hopefully these tips can help any parent keep their child safe!

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      The threats keep evolving, too, so some awareness on our part as parents goes a long way, too.

  5. stomperdad says:

    Definitely worth the read! We can never be too safe when we’re online, especially with our kids. Thanks for the tips!

    1. You are welcome, glad you like the post! You are right, we can never be too safe when it comes to our children!

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad you liked the post, Eric!

  6. Wow, already some amazing comments and some great points made by everyone! Thanks for sharing my post!

  7. pilch92 says:

    Excellent post. The only child I am buying for is my 1 yr. old great niece so no worries about the internet yet. 🙂

  8. mocadeaux says:

    Excellent tips. It’s a real balancing act, isn’t it? We want our kids and grandkids to be comfortable using technology but they don’t always have the skills or knowledge to keep themselves safe.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      A lot of us grown folk struggle with it too, Mo.

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