Apr 11, 2017

Keeping the Internet safe for the kids


"Daddy, when can I have my own phone?"

So asked Ash and Ayd who are edging closer and closer to tweendom every day. For parents, it is a tricky situation when it comes to mobile phones because it is not just about age. I need to know what I am getting myself into - in terms of both the phone and my monkies' well-being - as well as the potential consequences of letting them have a phone.

No doubt that new digital technologies and the Internet provide a wonderful platform for parents to engage and interact with our children. However, this digital parenting journey may also raise new questions:

What happens if my child is addicted to the Internet or the mobile device?

How do I ensure my child is safe and “street-smart” online?

Is there a way where I can keep tabs on my child's browsing activity and even better, his location?

In fact, this brings to mind a story a fellow parent shared with me a few months back.

He has a 10 year old daughter and her classmates in school like to tease one another on being “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”. Being curious, her daughter decided to search for "how to kiss" on YouTube on the iPad at home one day. As she was watching a video of a kissing scene, the father came into the room. Shocked and angry, he confiscated the iPad and forbade her to go on YouTube anymore.

As a fellow parent, I fully understand what he went through. We want to protect our children from negative online experiences and unhealthy content, but a total ban on the usage of technology is never going to work in this day and age. What we can do is to alert them to the online risks and teaching them how they can protect themselves.

Most importantly, we set up rules which we expect our children to obey. Here are some of the rules that I employ in my household:

- Drawing a clear line that playing games on mobile devices during school term is prohibited.

- Keeping the laptop in the living room so that I can monitor their Internet activity. This applies to their usage of tablets and mobile devices too.

- Using safe search settings for children or use parental controls to prevent exposure to inappropriate content.

- Starting with limited access to the Internet (the younger they are, the less access), and giving them rules to follow to earn my trust.

I have to admit though - setting a good example isn't easy. Erm, especially since this means that I can't bring my phone to the toilet anymore as the monkies will go, "Pa, I thought you said everyone must use their phone in the living room???" Oops.

Enforcing phone rules and making sure that everyone keeps to them is definitely easier when confined to the four walls of the home. Eventually, as the monkies head off to secondary school and start to spend more time outdoors, abiding by the rules will come as a greater challenge for me as a parent.

Which is why I was keen to try out StarHub's new JuniorProtect Plus (JPP) when I first heard of it.

Launched in March this year, JPP is a value-added service that provides parents with a peace of mind while their children enjoy screen time and surfing the internet.

And unlike other services where you will need to download an app onto the child's phone, there is no app to download for JPP. Instead, parents will be able to remotely manage settings for their kids without having the need to have the kids' phones in their hands! Cool stuff.

Even better, JPP offers parents FIVE powerful yet simple-to-use features to customise mobile and online boundaries according to their needs:

On both mobile and home broadband

1. Block pornography, gore and other unsafe content with easy preset filters

Let's face it - kids stumbling onto undesirable websites is a constant worry for parents, including me. With JPP, I am able to specify and block unsafe content for my monkies. Which means that every time they access the Internet, the website or URL that they are accessing will be checked for compliance with the access rules that have been set by me.

Want more control and flexibility? You can add your own list of sites you wish to block and customise a unique setting for each child.

2. Set internet access curfews by time and days of the week

Managing screen time with the kids is a never-ending battle. By allowing me to set time-based curfews for surfing on the mobile phones, I can limit the kids' screen time and access to selected websites (like YouTube!) by stipulating Homework Time, otherwise known as time they should be studying instead of surfing on the phone!

Better yet, for kids who need to bring their phones to school, parents can switch off internet completely during school time and turn it back on during after-school hours.

3. Generate activity reports and receive weekly summary reports

A nifty feature of JPP for parents is that they can opt in to receive alerts (either via email or SMS) when their children attempts to access a restricted site.

On top of that, you can also choose to receive weekly summary reports on your child’s activity on blocked sites attempted – which explains the zero figure in my screenshot above (Phew!)

Mobile-only features

4. View children’s location trail

With JPP, parents will be able to track their kids' location trails without having the need to turn on location services on the child’s device. I may not need this feature now, but I foresee it being a useful tool for my wife and me when they head to Secondary School. Knowing where they have been - especially after school hours - will give both of us a peace of mind when we are at work.

5. Switch on and off children’s mobile data access remotely

I have heard horror stories from friends about their children busting the talk time, SMS and data quotas. So by being able to switch on and off the monkies' mobile data access remotely - without the need to install an app on their mobile devices - I will be able to better manage their data access, thereby eliminating the chances of any heart attacks happening when I get the bill.

The great thing about JuniorProtect Plus is there are NO complicated set-ups or downloads. You can get it together with a mobile line from as low as $13.38/month, and perform the configurations upon logging onto the JuniorProtect portal with your Hub iD.

The online world today is the children’s new playground. They can play games, make friends, discuss homework, look for information and stay connected. But like all playgrounds, children may be exposed to undesirable behaviours, vulgar language and even mix with the wrong company.

With StarHub’s JuniorProtect Plus, parents will be able to easily customise mobile and online boundaries according to their needs, giving their children the freedom to learn and explore online while ensuring safety.

For more information, visit HERE.

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