I always thought I was a fairly tech-savvy person…not on the cutting edge, but I kind of floated somewhere in the cloud about 2 iPhones behind the newest release. That was until my son became old enough to bypass me at lightening speed. It’s fascinating and terrifying at the same time. He knows more about computers and tablets then I will probably ever know, and I want him to not only enjoy the fun features and games that technology has to offer, but also learn as much as he can because this is the future. But, more importantly, I want to keep him safe. It’s a hard balance.
Unfortunately, it’s a scary world out there…the stories I hear about kids being tricked by online predators or being bullied through social media keep me up at night. I have had close friends who have dealt with these horrors on a personal level, and they hit close to home.
I recently posted a question on Instagram asking you guys what parental control tools you use because I need all the help I can get. Up until now, I have just been using the controls that come standard on the device. But, that just doesn’t seem like enough. And, they are all different, so keeping track of everything has my head swirling and I feel like my grandmother must have felt when I tried to explain to her how e-mail works. 🤯
I was looking forward to your responses, but most of you were asking me to share the information because you too need help with parental controls! So, I did some research and wanted to share what I was able to find out. I’m definitely not an expert, no ma’am…just a mama bear trying to protect her cubs.
This was a highly recommended app/device. Lots of you guys use and love this. I took the plunge and purchased the Home Circle Plus for our home. It’s pretty easy to install…you plug the circle into your internet router, assign each device to a profile that you create via an app on your phone, and then you have the ability to set time limits, bedtimes, restrictions, etc. For the kid’s mobile devices, you can also set them up to be monitored when they are away from your home network, which is nice considering these kids have their phones/iPods attached to them at all times!
I had some difficulty setting up our Amazon Kindles, but I called the customer service number and they were extremely helpful. I got the feeling I wasn’t the only clueless parent. I like the Circle Home Plus because it notifies you whenever a new device enters your home. This is helpful when friends come over because they will be held to the same rules as long as they are using your wifi.
You set a profile for each person which allows you to block or limit apps individually and/or set a blanket time limit for internet usage as a whole. You can also opt to block inappropriate content online and restricted content on Youtube.com. The Circle Home Plus device itself is $129.99, which includes a 1 year subscription. If this sounds like something you would like for your family, you can purchase through this link and save $20!
Circle also has an option which lets you monitor mobile devices via their app for free. You don’t have to purchase the Circle Home Plus device to do this, just download the parent app on your phone and the child app on their phone, then the app will walk you through the setup steps.
Securly appears to be very similar to the Circle Home Plus. They originated as a company that monitors questionable content for schools, but it appears they are branching out to offer their services to families. There is a physical device, called The Hub, that you plug into your internet router, which then monitors the activity in your home. It appears to be a little bit less expensive than the Circle Home Plus with no monthly or annual membership.
They are working on a mobile monitoring service for devices on the go…but the website says it’s still in the works. This may be worth looking into once they get it up and running because it does appear to be less costly than the Circle.
My husband heard about this service so I looked into it and we immediately subscribed. For just $9 a month (**See below for a discount code to save 20%), Bark monitors text messages, calls, and social activity and then notifies you if they come across anything suspicious. It monitors for talk about drugs, violence, bullying, suicide, sexting, among other things. This sounds like the best money you could ever spend. While we all have good intentions of reading through all of our kids communications, the truth is we are busy and they are sneaky! I love that this algorithm is constantly monitoring, leaving time for us to enjoy life with our kids!
We have been using Bark for about 2 weeks and it’s been great! I receive notifications via email when it finds questionable issues, then I can go through them and determine if they are truly a concern. You can also adjust the sensitivity of the alert settings. For example, my son talks to his friends about Minecraft weapons, but the Bark algorithm can’t decipher that from other violent talk, so it flags it as a concern. If you are getting lots of messages that aren’t of any concern to you, you do have the option to change that.
**I reached out to Bark because I love that it was created by parents for parents. They were SO awesome and are offering Midwestern Mama readers a 20% discount FOR LIFE if you sign up with my code! This is an amazing deal! It’s not even that expensive in the first place, but the fact that they are willing to further discount their service in hopes of helping as many parents as possible just makes me love them even more! To take advantage of this deal, sign up through this link and use code: HMPQTYS.
I laughed out loud when I came across this one because my parents had Net Nanny back in the day…and my brother was able to hack it and disable it. I’m pretty sure that had everything to do with my parents not fully understanding how it worked, and nothing to do with the quality of protection it provides, but I feel like I am in an similar situation where my son is able to outsmart me when it comes to computers. They offer monitoring services that are priced per device, per year.
Currently, I feel like the Circle Home Plus and Bark together are the best fit for our family. Circle Home Plus helps block inappropriate content, monitor screen times, etc. And Bark is more of a red flag warning if something concerning is searched, sent, or received.
I’d love to know if you have any other experiences with parental control tools that have worked for your family! This parenting thing is tough business, so we have to look out for each other!
**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you feel like this post was helpful, I would appreciate it if you used my links to purchase the device or service you feel is best for your family! Thanks for your support!