Richard Lewisohn—Getty Images/Cultura RF
By Martha Pickerill
January 12, 2015

As a parent, you have the right to know what the kids in your care are doing with their digital devices, and to control what kids can see and use. It’s key to introduce controls and rules when a device is new so you and your child can be clear about what is and isn’t O.K. during screen time.

First of all, the device your family or child will use likely has its own parental control options. Some can screen out Internet access altogether, and others can filter out certain sites. Because they are all different, the best plan is to read up on the parental controls for each device and operating system your family will use.

Below are some tools for monitoring or limiting the amount of time the device is in use, tracking the software or apps used, and more.

Windows PCs When you create an account designated as a child’s account, you get the option to enable Family Safety settings. Family Safety allows you to monitor and /or time the usage from your child’s account, block certain applications or sites, and get weekly reports reviewing the activity on the account.

Macs If you and your child use separate Macs, you can share screens in addition to turning on Parental Controls. Log on as Administrator on your child’s Mac, go to the Sharing preferences and choose Screen Sharing. Continue to “Allow Access For” and choose Administrators. When you are on your Mac, go to the Finder and choose Go: Network to see your child’s Mac. Click on Share Screen to see the activity.

Software You can purchase software to further monitor or block kids’ access, which allows varying levels of censorship, depending on your kids’ ages and your house rules. Intego makes a highly rated one for Macs, Verity by NCH Software makes a popular one for PCs.

Tablets Each will have its own parental control settings, which will operate similarly to the corresponding computer operating system’s settings, described above.

Phones If your kid has any kind of smartphone, backing up the phone’s content to your own PC or Mac is a good idea. This way, you will be aware of which apps are being used on the phone, and you’ll be able to see what calls and text messages your child is making.

Be sure to activate the basic security features, as well as any further limitations on usage you want, in the phone’s setting before your child begins to use the phone.

GPS location trackers

Life360 Has a security map that will show you the precise location of each family member, as well as allow you all to communicate about you whereabouts. It’s free, and works with iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerrys.

Securafone This app lets parents set up boundaries on a map, and alerts them if kids wander outside the boundaries. It also has a panic button that kids can press to immediately dial a parent or other authority if trouble arises. Free, and works with iPhone and Android.

Phone service providers: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and other carriers also offer GPS tracking unique to their users. Check your plan and see what services are included.

Finally, how about trying to spend less time on your own Facebook page or gossip news site, to allow more time for joint media experiences with your family? You can block yourself (and your distractible kids) from such time wasters. SelfControl can be yours, free of charge.

This story was part of Time For Family’s special report on kids and screens. Click here for Time’s special deal for families.

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