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How Your Kids Can be Hurt by Devices (and Vice Versa)

How Your Kids Can be Hurt by Devices (and Vice Versa)

As technology advances and improves at an exponential rate, it is little wonder that today’s youth are growing up with a closer relationship to technology than any other generation before them. While this has opened up many beneficial opportunities for them, it can also be the source of many serious issues without the proper supervision.

The hard truth is that many of the applications available on the assorted marketplaces are simply not the kind that children should be exposed to, as they may be subject to inappropriate or even criminal behaviors online. This reality means that the adults in their lives need to establish some boundaries for their own good, especially as technology improves and the opportunity to access unsavory content increases.

This also means that it is important for adults to understand the kind of issues that devices, and the apps they provide access to, can present to children.

Problematic Applications
There is no shortage of risky apps available that children can access with very little effort. For instance, the random and anonymous aspects of many applications, like Omegle, make it too easy for predatory adults to make connections with children through chat and video. Omegle has even addressed its potential for abuse, the homepage urging users to “be careful” to avoid exactly these cases.

The application Yellow, since rebranded as Yubo, was intended to be a friend-finding Tinder for teens, mimicking the swipe interface of the dating app to allow teens to connect. However, many teens have repurposed this app to serve as Tinder does, and predators have used the app as well to pose as teens and arrange a meet-up with their young prey. This is made easier by Yubo’s location-based results.

Sarahah, by design, was meant to be used in the workplace as a means of providing feedback anonymously and encouraging coworkers. It was pulled from application marketplaces once it was discovered how effective it could be for a cyberbully to use; but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t still on some devices.

Other apps could be problematic for kids to misuse for different reasons. With eating disorders still, a big problem for teens, dieting apps become a dangerous tool for them. Vora was intended to track time for users practicing intermittent fasting but was also a tool that could be used by kids suffering from eating disorders like anorexia. Other “pro-ana”-approved apps include the calorie tracker MyFitnessPal and the negative-reinforcement partner Carrot Fit (which decidedly uses insults and derision to prevent overeating).

Other sites simply don’t have the controls necessary to keep kids away from adult materials. One prime example is Reddit, which has several subreddits (or forums) dedicated to pornographic and other highly inappropriate content. Granted, Reddit does state that users need to be 18 and up but has no means of enforcing this standard.

Finally, despite the efforts of the app stores, many apps are dispersed that are intended only to disperse malware and other threats, putting your devices at risk.

What Can Be Done
As a guardian of a child or teenager, you do have some methods of protecting them from this kind of content.

Frank Honesty
Believe it or not, sometimes the best way to communicate with a kid is to try communicating with them. Instead of banning certain things “because I said so,” try teaching them why it is that you have certain rules in place for them to follow. Entrusting them with this information may just be enough to get them to realize that this is a matter of safety, not of unfairness.

Utilize Family Link
Family Link is an application you can download from the Play Store that allows you to remotely manage a child’s device. With it, you can accomplish quite a few things, from blocking certain apps from being accessible through the Play Store for certain users, requiring permission for Play Store downloads, setting search safety limits on Google Search and YouTube Kids, limiting screen time, and even remotely locking and locating a device.

Leverage Parental Controls
Admittedly, there are times when an honest discussion isn’t going to cut it, especially when you’re discussing things with someone whose brain physically can’t fully process consequences yet. The Google Play Store takes this into account be giving you a few additional options to leverage.

There is no shortage of media on the Play Store and the Microsoft Store, with applications, books, and other content available for a wide range of ages. To prevent kids from downloading that which they should not yet see, you can limit what they are able to download to their device.

In the Google Play Store, press the hamburger menu (the three horizontal lines at the top left of the display) and from there, Settings. Under the User controls section, you can find the Parental Controls. Switching this option on will prompt you to create and confirm a PIN number. Once this is done, you will be able to set age restrictions on downloaded content - just remember to Save your preferences before exiting.

A Windows 10 device permits you to create a personalized account for a child, setting restrictions on the content they can access and how long they can spend on the devices. You can also check in on what they have been doing, as well as require your authorization for them to complete purchases (unless said purchases are made with a gift card). This account can be created by accessing your Settings > Accounts > Family and other people > Add a family member > Add a child. You can set this account up through the child’s email address, or if they don’t yet have one, you can click on the appropriate link to create it through the Setup Wizard.

If you implement a BYOD policy in the workplace, make sure you also make it clear with management whether or not your child will be using the device. Sensitive company documents don’t mix well with a kid having access and not knowing any better.

So, there are ways that you can protect both your devices and users at home. Suffolk Computer Consultants can help you to do the same for your business. Give us a call at 631-905-9617 to learn more.

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