smartphone safety for kids and teens
smartphone safety with kids and teens

It’s becoming more and more common for kids and teens to have smartphones now. We broke down and got our kids smartphones when our daughter started middle school. Giving my kids a device that would allow them to access anything they wanted on the internet quite frankly scared the crap out of me. Not so much because of what they would search for, but what they mind stumble upon by accident. 

My job as a parent is to keep my children safe both in the real world and online. I have all of our devices at home under parental controls, Playstation, Xbox and the computers. With them having smartphones it was time for me to look into parental controls for their phones. 

Here is my advice for protecting your children with smartphones:

Open Communication

Let’s face it. There is no app that can replace open communication with your kids. That is why this is first and foremost on my list. Let you kids know that the internet can be a dangerous and dirty place. Let them know that you need all of their passwords not only so you can spot check their activity, but so you can help keep track of their accounts should they ever need your help with anything. You can call me a helicopter parent, but as long as I am paying the bills and they are under 18 I will have their passwords and access to any social media accounts they have including games. Period. End of story. 

Family Link

family link

Family Link is a fantastic free app for Android users by Google. This app allows you to set time limits, app download restrictions and filters on Chrome, Google Search and Youtube. The only downside to this app is that it automatically disables when your child turns 13. So if you want to protect your teen you will have to find another app. 

Bark

bark

Bark is an app that monitors your kids activities on social media, text messages and email. This app is available for phones and Chromebooks. Bark basically grabs screenshots of anything they think might be harmful to your child. They look for cyberbullying, profanity, violence, drug references and sexual content. You can set the alert settings based on what you think is suitable (or not suitable). You get an alert anytime your kid does something that Bark thinks is a threat. This will allow you to talk to your child about any text messages you think could be dangerous or videos they shouldn’t be watching.

Bark will also alert you if your child sets up a new account that isn’t being monitored. No more setting up new secret social media accounts to get around your rules. You will be alerted the minute your child sets up an account so that you can monitor that account. 

Bark is only $9 per month for unlimited children, unlimited devices and unlimited accounts to monitor. Well worth the price in my opinion. 

I hope this advice was helpful. I would love to hear from you. How do you protect your kids with smartphones? 

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22 Comments

  1. That Bark app is awesome. I mean, sure, it would look like parents are forever snooping around their kids’ social media accounts, but it is for their children’s safety. My children are grown and internet usage responsible. I will let my family and friends know about these apps too.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. We are always on the lookout for ways to help our teens navigate technology.
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  3. This is nice. When we were younger setting parental control was just a waste of time. We always figured out a way around it. But with these apps, it looks like it may seem a bit difficult for kids to bypass the parental controls especially with Bark. I still wouldn’t be surprised if they figure out a way. Kids will be kids. I’d suggest you look it up on Google to see if there’s an alternate way. That way you’ll be ahead of your kids. You can never be too sure.

  4. These sound like great apps. Our kids are only 9 and 7, but we’ve told them there is no way they are getting smartphones until 8th grade (we’ve taken the Wait Until 8th pledge as a family). If kids truly “need” a phone for emergencies, there are still flip-phones and similar plans out there. And we’ve already had troubles with our 9yo being bullied on the school’s social media platform (which is only supposed to be for schoolwork, and which the teachers are supposed to monitor, but obviously weren’t in this case as we had to tell them about it). There is no need to open that can of worms any further by giving them something they don’t need.

  5. I love the Bark app! I think when used appropriately it doesn’t get used all that much, you know? With open communication kids know it’s there, know what’s expected of them online, and because they know they’ll be caught if they mess up they’re more likely to behave. (And when they don’t us parents can catch it right away.) It’s a win win in my book, and ultimately allows everyone more freedom and less stress.

  6. Wow, Bark sounds amazing! I have two toddlers and am thankful that this is not a bridge I have crossed yet. I totally agree with the safety nets you have set in place. The internet is vast and can be a dangerous place. I am sure that when this time comes the established open communication will certainly be key! Great post!

  7. This sounds such a great app, although I am pretty hot with my daughter and her phone etc I am always worried I miss something. I am off to have a look at this further.

  8. In this day and age you can never be too careful at all when it comes to a childs safety online. The Bark app sounds ideal xx

  9. Bark app I guess is a blessing in disguise for parents whose job to monitor the child’s activities on internet is so very essential and challenging. Thanks for sharing. Would recommend to some of my friends.
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  10. That’s a great app for parental control. The way tweens and teens have hidden apps these days is just frightening. All sorts of things go down there. Good to know for parents and guardians.

  11. With my oldest getting her first phone, I have been looking for ways to monitor her better. I just want her safe but I don’t need to read or watch over her shoulder, I do trust her. Though I know kids will be kids and sometimes do things they shouldn’t.
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  12. THis is such a wonderful option for parents to help monitor kids device use. Technology is such a wonderful yet dangerous tool and it’s more important for us to keep on top of being wary.

  13. This is so good to know! I will have to tell my sister-in-law about the family link app to use with my niece. She’s only 9 so she could use it for a few more years! She’s now into watching youtube videos so it’s a good thing to have. Thanks!

  14. I’ve never heard of these apps! My kids are still under 5 years old, so we haven’t tackled this yet, but I’m sure I’ll have to check these out very soon. Thanks for the info.

  15. Wow!.. I love the idea of that bark.. Although some part of me feel its okay to allow the kids to have total online freedom but i guess its okay to also look after them by monitoring what they do online… But seriously 98% of the teens and even kids know their way around smart devices more than the parents.

  16. this is so important i have an app lock for the ipad!

  17. “There is no app that can replace open communication with your kids. ” — THIS!!!! Honestly it gets so overwhelming at time. I had not heard of “Bark” but will be looking it up pronto! My son will be getting a true “smartphone” at Christmas so time to get serious!

  18. i know i am going to be installing this soon ..thanks for the info

  19. These app sound awesome! I will pass this along to my friends. My daughter is only three, who knows what they will have once she becomes a teenager. But I am sure that I will be monitoring her phone and other devices in the same way you do. The internet can be very dangerous sometimes and kids can be very impressionable.

  20. Oh wow!! I had no idea any of this existed. We were talking about getting my girls phones in a couple years, this is such a great reference for those of us just starting on this crazy phone journey. Thank You, this gives me a little more piece of mind when we do get them phones!

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  22. Keeping your kids safe is more of a challenge today than ever before. The Internet has altered the way we live and has brought the world to our front door and into our homes. The Internet can be a remarkable place to learn, stay connected to others, and provide entertainment. But it also gives numerous opportunities for those who prey on the innocence of children to target victims. Cyberbullies and predators have found anonymity online.
    Thank you for sharing this info!

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