The Evolution of Parental Controls

Software Parental Controls have been around for nearly 20 years. In the past, people have generally associated Parental Controls with blocking pornography, but the technology and features associated with modern day solutions have evolved and matured as technology has become more prevalent in the lives of children.

Content Filtering, a core technology included in most Parental Control Software is a prime example of how Parental Controls have become more comprehensive and intelligent. The original Content Filtering solutions were literally a list of known websites that contained content that was deemed inappropriate for children. As the solutions evolved, parental control providers started creating databases full of website names and their associated categories, so that parents could pick and choose the categories of content that they feel is inappropriate for their family.

As the Internet has become more dynamic, Content Filtering solutions have learned to adapt and recognize content in real-time. These "Smart Filters" don't look at a database or rely on human review, they instead look at each web page and determine the content type in that very moment. This means that pages with changing content or content that is user generated such as social media, blogs, and online discussion forums, are filtered accurately and without the need to wait for updates or someone to review the content.

Not all content filtering solutions apply this kind of a filtering because it is difficult to create and maintain, but the value of this technology cannot be understated. The current industry leader in detecting and categorizing web content is Net Nanny. They have technology that has been tuned and enhanced for over 15 years. If you are investigating parental controls make sure the technology is smart and real time, something that can categorize every web page, not just a list of websites.

As previously stated modern parental controls are much more than "blockers". These solutions can help parents view and limit the amount of time their kids spend online or even use their mobile devices. The news site cnn.com reported that the average US Teen spends 9 hours a day with devices of some sort, and average tweens accumulate 6 hours a day of device use. With all this screen time, parents want more than just blocking inappropriate Internet content. They want tools that help kids learn to use technology responsibly and within sensible limitations. Time controls can be set for web surfing, app usage and even enforce things like curfews or homework hours to help keep kids focused and successful.

With the Internet becoming more interactive and an increased part of our everyday lives, parents are becoming increasingly concerned about the threats their kids face in the virtual world. An online site dedicated to protecting kids, called dosomething.org, reports that nearly 43% of kids in the US have been bullied online and that only 1 in 10 kids bullied, tell a parent or adult. This data has parents concerned.

A few of the premium parental control solutions offer alerting features that monitor kid's online interactions. These solutions can help parents know about cyber bullies, internet predators, and inappropriate friends or conversations on social media. Letting parents know about potential dangers is key in keeping kids safe online and helping them remain healthy and happy. These solutions are smart enough to know when kids friend someone much older than them, or if someone says someone threatening or inappropriate. Parents get a text or email instantly letting them know when there is an issue. This info can help them further investigate or start a conversation.

Another way that parental controls have become accessible and useful to families is the way they are configured and accessed. In the past parents had to sit in front of a computer or go get a child's mobile device to make changes and see reports. Today configuration is done via cloud based tools and reports are accessible from any device anywhere. Parents don't have to wait to make changes to settings or see what their kids are up to.

The definition of Parental Controls and the features that they provide have changed drastically over the last 20 years, but the concepts and concerns that drive parents to protect their kids remain the same. Parents want to make sure kids are safe, and help them to become mature responsible adults someday.

The tranquility that comes from a good parental control application combined with a parent that wants to be involved in their child's daily life both online and off, might be one of the misplaced keys to parenting success.

Clayton Ostler - Chief Product Officer at Net Nanny

Clayton has spent 18 years in technical and product roles with technology based companies. His experience includes various responsibilities, many of which are highlighted in multiple successes during his thirteen-year tenure at ContentWatch.

As Chief Product Officer, Clayton is the technical and visionary lead for all products and technology implementations. He is the primary technical resource to the sales and marketing teams and the head of Product Management. Clayton provides companywide leadership and is deeply involved in the technical aspects of product management and the business strategy for product development and sales. Clayton is the technical leader in providing direction for the technologies and features included in all ContentWatch products. He also plays as a key technical role when building business partnerships and alliances.

Clayton is part of several organizations dedicated to the protection of children online and is the ContentWatch representative on the Board of Directors for UCAP the Utah Coalition Against Pornography.

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