The digital realm is a part of everyday life for today’s kids. If you’ve made the decision to allow screens in your home, it’s important to create policies for responsible screen usage. Managing screen time without the right tools is difficult. That’s why so many parents and guardians utilize parental controls for home networks and devices. Parental controls protect children from unsuitable content and predatory behaviors. 

Of course, digital controls can’t replace the active roles that parents and guardians should take in educating kids about online safety and keeping track of screen time.

However, controls can be great digital guardrails for your household’s online security. Companies that design parental controls know about the online risk trends the average person may be unaware of. This makes them highly valuable for keeping unwanted content out of your child’s reach. In this article, we’ll review everything you need to know about the latest advances in parental controls to shield kids from harmful and inappropriate online content and interactions. We consulted these experts:

Advances in Parental Control Technology

Parental controls are keeping up with the digital threats kids face today. What’s more, they’re able to protect kids and families from threats they might not even know about. As more and more homes become smart homes, it’s important to understand how to protect your kids from exposure to harmful content. “With easy access to the internet in most countries today and the pervasive use of smartphones to interact and engage with family and friends, it is very important for parents to play a very active and constructive role in educating their children,” says Dr. Singh.

Below we’ll explore some of the big advances in parental controls made in recent years.

Full Network Protection

There was a time when parental controls only worked on one device at a time. For parents, this created an intractable process of applying controls to each device in the home. 

Innovations in parental controls now make it possible for protection to work across your entire home Wi-Fi and phone networks. That means you’re monitoring and updating a single system across multiple pieces of technology. You never have to worry about having a vulnerable computer or device in your home — but you can still create specific settings for different devices and apps.


Screen time takes on a new meaning when you’re able to actually set a specific window of time for digital activity. Using advanced timers, newer parental controls allow you to set times when your child can access the internet. You can also determine how long each session can go on before the connection goes dark for your teen or child.

Custom Content Filters

What’s allowed on your phone doesn’t necessarily need to be allowed on a family-shared device. With custom content filters, you can block apps on some devices without prohibiting them on all devices. This can be great for ensuring that minors don’t have access to popular streaming services or social media apps that could expose them to shows, movies, or other forms of content that may not be appropriate for their age. 

“One of the most common online risks that kids are most susceptible to is coming across age-inappropriate content while browsing the internet. There have been several incidents and news reports of children falling prey to phishing and online scams wherein children have been tricked into sharing personal information, passwords, and other details, which can and have been misused by scammers,” says Dr. Singh.

These content filters can be helpful to avoid scammers and also prevent children from chatting with strangers online. Meanwhile, the adults in the home can enjoy streaming and social media without resetting devices or controls every time they log in.

Parental Controls for Your Home Network

You may not be sure how to work everything in your home if you’re new to the concept of the modern smart home. Fortunately, nearly all home internet providers now offer parental controls, and there’s no extra fee for this perk.

Steps to Activate Parental Controls on a Home Network

  • Step 1: Log in to your router’s administrative console. You’ll typically see an option for “User Access Restrictions” or “Parental Controls.”
  • Step 2: Choose the filters provided by your internet provider to either allow or block specific types of content. Most internet providers today allow you to create different settings for each user account.
  • Step 3: To block specific websites, look for a section that might be called “Website Filter” or “Block by URL Address.” Next, you’ll be asked to supply the URL of any websites you’d like to block from your home (for example YouTube or Instagram). Be sure to save all changes before moving forward from the page. Always check for yourself that a website has been successfully blocked by trying to access it on the user device that should now have restricted access.

Parental Controls for Devices

While blocking websites through your internet provider will keep these banned sites from your home’s network, it’s important to remember that kids may still be able to access websites using 4G or 5G connections on phones, tablets, and other connected mobile devices. Here’s a look at how to restrict user access on popular devices.

Apple Products

To restrict content on Apple products, tap “Screen Time.” Tap “Turn on Screen Time,” then tap it again. Choose the “This Is My Child’s [Device]” option. Next, enter your Use Screen Time Passcode to make a password that will be used to manage parental controls. In addition to setting limits on screen time and content, Apple’s parental controls allow you to prevent your child from being able to install or delete apps or make in-app online purchases.

Android Products

If your child uses an Android device, you’ll set parental controls through Google’s built-in parental control option called Family Link. This app makes activating parental controls easy. If your device doesn’t already have Family Link, simply download it from the Google Play store. You can set up Family Link by opening your device settings, tapping on “Digital Wellbeing and Parental Controls,” and selecting “Parental Controls.” Once in the system, you can block apps, set time limits for daily screen time, and track your child’s location.

Understanding Cyberbullying

In a world where children spend more and more time online, cyberbullying is becoming a growing problem. The pervasiveness of digital technologies, from social media to messaging platforms to gaming arenas to mobile phones, means that bullying can now happen anywhere, anytime. Parents need to understand the nuances of cyberbullying, how to detect it, and what to do to prevent it to keep their children safe online.

Dr. Magis-Weinberg, who specializes in social media and mental health in adolescence, highlights the covert nature of cyberbullying. “Youth will often try to hide the fact that they are being cyberbullied from adults due to embarrassment, concerns about retaliation, or the threat of losing internet access,” she notes.

What Is Cyberbullying?

“Cyberbullying involves intentional, repetitive harm with severe consequences for mental and physical health, including issues with self-esteem, depression, and suicidal ideation, as well as academic performance,” explains Dr. Magis-Weinberg. According to UNICEF, cyberbullying can take place on social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms, and mobile phones, and is different from the drama resulting from day-to-day online conflicts and misunderstandings.

Detecting Cyberbullying

It can be difficult to tell if someone is being cyberbullied, especially if the bully is trying to pass it off as friendly teasing or a joke. However, one important sign is that the victim feels distressed, humiliated, or uncomfortable, even if the bully insists they are just kidding around. If online interactions make someone feel hurt, humiliated, or laughed at, it’s important to take these signs seriously.

These indicators may mean someone is being cyberbullied:

  • Feeling emotional distress during or after using the internet or mobile phones
  • Becoming more secretive or protective of their online life
  • Spending more time alone and withdrawing from family, friends, and activities
  • Reluctance to attend school or social gatherings
  • Decline in academic performance, increased anger or rebellion at home, or changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite
  • Sudden disinterest in using the computer or other digital devices
  • Appearing nervous or anxious when receiving messages, emails, or notifications
  • Avoiding conversations about their online activities or experiences

How to Prevent and Handle Cyberbullying

When it comes to handling cyberbullying, the involvement of parents, teachers, and other adults is crucial, emphasizes Dr. Magis-Weinberg. However, she also points out that “most youth should learn to resolve digital drama on their own, as part of their development of social skills,” making a clear distinction between the severity of cyberbullying and everyday online conflicts or digital dramas. 

Dr. Singh adds “An important first step for parents is having open and transparent communication in a safe environment within the home about the potential risks of the internet without being judgmental.”

In addition to the expert advice, parents can take several steps to prevent and handle cyberbullying effectively. Here are some tips on how to prevent cyberbullying:

  • Talk to your children about cyberbullying and how to stay safe online.
  • Set limits on screen time and monitor your children’s online activity.
  • Use parental controls to block inappropriate content and websites.
  • Encourage your children to come to you if they are being cyberbullied.
  • Have discussions about online etiquette and the consequences of online behaviors.

If your child is being cyberbullied, here are some tips on how to handle it:

  • Listen to your child and offer your support. Let them know that you are there for them and that you will help them.
  • Collect evidence of the cyberbullying. This may include screenshots of text messages, social media posts, or emails.
  • Report the cyberbullying to the website or app where it’s happening. Most social media platforms have policies against cyberbullying and will remove content that violates those policies.
  • Talk to other parents and report the cyberbullying to your child’s school, which has a responsibility to keep students safe both online and offline.
  • If the cyberbullying is severe or threatening, contact the police.

“Building a sense of comfort and fostering a good relationship with the children so that they can share their experiences — including any negative or stressful ones — is very important and this needs to be maintained over the long term,” says Dr. Singh. 

It’s key to remember that cyberbullying is not the victim’s fault. As a parent, you should be careful about what you share online. Popular social media apps like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat can be breeding grounds for cyberbullying, so it’s important to be especially vigilant on these platforms.

Popular social media websites have increasingly stepped up to the plate to create parental controls that limit access for kids. “Various social media platforms also provide detailed guidelines on how to set security and privacy settings for their usage. Several functions are available that can help your child manage who can see their content and how they interact with others,” says Dr. Singh. While your Wi-Fi network or device controls will usually allow you to block any social apps you don’t want your child to use, you’ll need to do some in-app work if you want your child to be able to use these apps with safer settings in place.

Instagram does not allow users under the age of 13 to create accounts. If you’re setting up an account for a teen, you can use the Instagram supervision feature to access tools and insights to support safe and responsible app browsing. This feature allows parents and guardians to set up time limits, limit usage to select days or hours, see how much time a teen is spending on Instagram, view the accounts a teen is following, see which accounts a teen has blocked, view a teen’s privacy setting, add settings for who can message a teen, add settings for who a teen can message, and much more.

In order to activate the Instagram supervision feature, a teen or parent must send an invite to the parent’s account.

In order to monitor activity on YouTube, a parent or guardian will need to set up a supervised Google account for the child. This account will be used to grant a child access to YouTube Kids or a supervised YouTube experience.

If you choose to use regular YouTube, you’ll use your linked parent account to control app settings using Google’s Family Link app. If you choose a YouTube Kids account, you’ll instead use the parental settings option in the YouTube Kids app to manage viewing settings for your child. One of the perks of using a supervised YouTube Kids account is that parents can take advantage of a timer that locks the app once the time limit set by the parent account has been reached.

TikTok has several age-related restrictions built into the app. Users are asked for their birthdates when signing up. All kids under age 13 are automatically placed in TikTok for Younger Users to enjoy a highly limited viewing experience with tighter safety and privacy restrictions. All users up to age 15 get a private account by default. Additionally, all users between the ages of 13 and 15 have push notifications blocked after 9 p.m. to promote better sleep.

TikTok’s Family Pairing feature allows parents to control and monitor minors’ accounts. To activate Family Pairing, tap the three dots that bring you to the settings feature on the minor’s profile. Next, select “Family Pairing.” You’ll then be able to select the parent option to get a QR code that can be applied after logging into the minor’s account to sync the parent and minor. Some ways to control a minor’s engagement with TikTok include turning on restricted mode, setting time limits, limiting commenting, and making a profile private.

Parental Controls for Television

While every television manufacturer has slightly different settings, most smart TVs today offer parental controls. Using a special passcode, parents can generally block programming by rating to ensure that their kids can only view G or PG shows and movies. Most smart TVs also allow parents to lock specific programming apps.

One tip to know is that the parental control passcode is generally “0000” by default to make it easy for you to access controls the first time.

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Be sure to change the passcode after creating your settings to make it hard for kids to get in.

If you don’t think technology providers do a good enough job of blocking harmful content, you can add custom parental controls to all of your devices.

Below is a look at five highly rated and innovative parental control products to consider.

Photo by Emily Wade on Unsplash


Bark offers monitoring for an unlimited number of devices. In addition to monitoring more than 30 apps and social media platforms, this tool also monitors texts and emails. You can block specific websites or website categories. If your child is interacting with online content that appears questionable or harmful, Bark will send you an alert. Parents are also able to create custom limits and schedules for both mobile activity and Wi-Fi devices in the home which can include televisions, game consoles, laptops, and more.

Norton Family

A perfect choice for a busy household where it’s easy for devices to slip through the cracks, Norton Family lets you supervise an unlimited number of devices. Parents can even monitor all activity either online or via Norton’s mobile app. This is an affordable, comprehensive product that lets parents know exactly what their kids are viewing online. It’s also easy to set up if you’re not a tech-savvy adult. Just be aware that this is not a Mac-compatible product.


Qustodio is a good pick for wary parents who want to know everything their kids are doing on the internet. Features include app blocking, web content filtering, and detailed activity logs. The dashboard is easy for parents to use. You can also set rules that control how your kids are able to interact with various websites and apps. While Qustodio does a lot, it’s not ideal if your primary goal is to track activity on social media.

Net Nanny

Net Nanny is one of the oldest and most trusted web filters around. The modern version is full of features for managing screen time, monitoring social media, controlling YouTube content, and tracking your child’s location. You can even watch your child’s online activity in real time.

Kaspersky Safe Kids

This tool is available in a free version that offers many of the features parents want. Kaspersky Safe Kids enables you to block the adult content and websites of your choice. You’ll get full control over where your child can go online. If you’re unsure about where to start, you can also choose ready-made categories that cover the riskier spaces on the internet for kids. This budget-friendly pick also allows you to track how many hours per day your child is accessing devices. There’s also location tracking.

Statistics Surrounding Internet Usage for Kids

  • According to data shared by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), kids between the ages of eight and 18 spend 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment daily
  • As of 2019, 95% of kids between the ages of three and 18 had home internet access
  • A study published in 2021 cites that data suggest a significant portion of toddlers use digital devices for more than an hour a day

Final Thoughts on Parental Controls for the Home

Parental controls for the home make it possible for your child to enjoy all of the good parts of the internet. The positive news is that most apps and devices today have user-friendly parental controls built in. You don’t have to be a tech expert to know what’s going on in your household. You don’t even have to build an expensive smart home system just to stay on top of things. Of course, parental controls work best when they’re part of a larger, ongoing conversation about internet safety. Make sure kids know that controls are there to protect them instead of to punish them.

Our Experts

Lucía Magis-Weinberg: Dr. Magis-Weinberg is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington, where she specializes in social media and mental health in adolescence. She is a member of the American Psychological Association Expert Advisory Panel on social media and adolescent mental health.

Sarita Singh: Dr. Singh is an associate teaching professor at the Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University’s Seattle campus. She earned her PhD in computer science. Prior to joining Northeastern, she gained over twenty-five years of work experience in areas including teaching, industry, and research. Over the years, she has worked with various organizations and universities in Singapore, Malaysia, and India, and has also taught undergraduate and graduate courses for U.K. and Australian degree programs. 

Sources Used for How to Set Parental Controls on Specific Apps/Websites:






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