We all want to believe that no matter what once we put on parental controls our kids will be safe. We believe that these apps and settings will protect our kids from what we can’t see. Yet, I’ve had hundreds of clients run into the same issue: the controls stop working after a short period of time. Sometimes it’s a few days, weeks or months, but they always seem to stop working. Why do these parental controls fail our kids after only a short period of time? And how are we to keep up with them as parents?
If you’re like most people, when you first create the account to manage your parental controls you use a PIN or Password that isn’t exactly unique. It may be the same one you use for your credit card, phone or even your computer. All our kids have to do to hack our PINs is plug their devices in, look at the files, and search for the PIN. If that’s too much work, all your kid has to do is have you enter in the PIN a few times (after wiping the screen clean) to download some items for school or down time that they know you’ll approve of. When they’ve got time, your kids will test it out until they’ve figured out the PIN you’re using. We call this hack social engineering and it’s not something that is new since spies and conmen have been using it for centuries.
We want to make sure we’re changing and updating our passwords and PINs often. And let’s not be like the world leaders of Spaceballs and use the most common PINs either: 1234, 0000, 1111, 2580, etc. Let’s also not use the default passwords or PINs either. That’s just asking your child to try and guess it. While we can change the passwords and pins often, it won’t do us any good if we are the victims of a social engineering hack. If you don’t enter the PIN when they’re present, it can stop your kids from guessing your password or PIN as long as you wipe the screen clean when you’re done.
Another big mistake we see with parental controls is that they’re installed but never checked. As parents we are very busy and don’t always make the time to check that the controls on the devices are actually working. We’re often more concerned with what our kids are doing on them anyways. Oh, and let’s not forget updating the parental control software. Yep, if you don’t update it, the hacks your kids use to bypass the controls will still work.
Schedule a time, whatever is convenient for you, to check your child’s device. You can even arrange to have someone audit it for you to make sure the controls are working like they should. It’s always best to make sure the tech is doing it’s job, after all. Better yet, be the cool parent and go through the device with them (after you’ve checked it first.) Oh and always, always, always update the controls. Never wait on that.
We have a saying in the world of physics: An object is only as strong as it’s weakest point. The same thing is true for security measures. When you go into a bank, for example, they have multiple things in place to keep their building and it’s contents secure. With our kids, we simply put on a few settings and call it good. That will work just fine, until your child uses a common app to access the web browser (Safari, Chrome, Internet Explore, Mozilla, etc.) and bypass your parental control settings this way.
Use multiple layers of parental controls. I recommend using the 1) device settings, 2) Family Link/Family Share/Microsoft, 3) Parental Control Apps (always 2), 4) Antivirus, 5) The Router/Firewall (on all devices FYI) and 6) Y-O-U. If you configure them correctly it will make it virtually impossible for your kids to bypass those controls.
It’s not beyond reason to think that putting on multiple parental controls will protect your child from everything. Until you realize that your parental controls are canceling each other out. Yes, this can happen and isn’t super common on mobile devices. It is, however, very common with computer and laptop devices. It’s even worse when you purchase devices like Circle by Disney that do the exact same functions as your router. Yep, if you bought a circle you’re paying a subscription for what your router does FOR FREE. Adding to your security measures is different, but can provide the same effect, like installing a computer cleaning software and using antivirus cleaning software. Both do almost exactly the same thing.
My all-time favorite thing I’ve ever seen in my career was a child hacking the parental controls on their phone by restoring it to a back up. Yes you read that right. This client’s child took their phone and restored it to a point perviously where the controls were on, but had not been setup. They had full access to their phone, but mom and dad didn’t know that their controls weren’t working. We have to realize that we are not raising normal kids anymore. We are raising the generation of hackers. They know that they can buy a phone for free if you won’t give them what they want. They’re just not smart enough to know that that free phone gives up a lot of the freedoms and privacy rights they want.
Be open with your child and as diligent as possible. There are things that you are going to miss. Don’t be so strict that your child has no room to make mistakes and learn form them. It’s all about finding balance with your child. It also doesn’t hurt to learn the hacking techniques your kids can and may do. It’s something I make a point to teach my clients. The best way to beat a hacker is to know the hacker and all their moves first.
Now, let’s not forget that this is the day and age of technology. Our kids are surrounded by tech everywhere. This means that they can bypass your parental controls by simply using someone else’s device. The library, school or better yet a friend or acquaintance will let your child use a device and do whatever they want.
You have two options really: 1) Get the other people to take the device away and 2) educate the people in charge of the device. It’s actually against the law to bypass and violate any network security settings. Plus, if your child is doing illegal things-like sending nudes for example-it’s considered a crime and could land the owner of the device in trouble with the law. The laws always don’t cover for “who was using it”. They really only enforce on “who owns it”. Don’t believe me since I’m not a lawyer? That’s wise. Google it and see what comes up in your country and state. You’ll be surprised by what you find.
I know that many of you might be slightly freaked out right now, but I want you to know that there is more you can do. Enroll in my Keeping Kids Safe Online Course to learn the arsenal every parent needs to survive digital parenting.