CNN Parenting

How to get the most out of parental controls

Story highlights

  • Focus on the key areas you want to tackle; that will make whatever parental control you choose more useful
  • Simplifying and sharing these goals will help your kids understand what they're working toward

You'd probably love to have a little more control over your kids' online lives. And sometimes -- like when they play multiplayer games, join social media, or binge-watch YouTube -- you'd like a lot of control. If you've purchased or shopped for parental controls, say a hardware device like Torch or software like NetNanny, you know about the tradeoffs involved. On one hand, they can be costly, complicated to use, hackable, and a stumbling block in your relationship. On the other hand: control.

Here's the thing: Actually using parental controls -- just like parenting -- is a process. And the devices and software aren't a solution on their own. What these products do -- manage screen time, block inappropriate content, and make sure kids are behaving on online -- is ultimately what we want kids to be able to do by themselves. In other words, at some point, we want to hand over control. Easier said than done, right?
The solution is to focus on the key areas you want to tackle. That will make whatever parental control you choose more useful. And simplifying and sharing these goals -- when you can -- will help your kids understand what they're working towards.