The technology that is common in the world today can have a profound effect on all of our lives, even beyond aspects or behaviors that we would readily identify as “unsafe.” The challenge for all believers today is to be good stewards of the technological resources available to us to accomplish God’s purposes as best as we can, while trying to intentionally shape our habits of use to reduce their potential harmful effects. Some parents, recognizing that their children lack the maturity, temperament or know-how to individually shape their own use of technology, have found it useful to enlist resources that are designed to help them supervise and set limits for their children’s use of technology. In the best scenarios, these are not viewed as tools for mere surveillance or control, but as tools that help parents better encourage and support their children in developing their own positive habits of use.
Online Resources & Tools
We would like to make our families aware of the following resources and techniques for improving the safety of their child’s interactions on the internet, especially on mobile devices. We encourage families to try these out themselves to determine their quality; LCS has not directly tested them, though we are only choosing to share tools that have been well-reviewed by other technology specialist websites.
Circle with Disney and Circle Go
Circle with Disney is a device you connect to your home network that can filter and monitor device activity, as well as pause the home internet for times like meals and create time limits for internet usage. Circle Go extends these abilities to students’ cell phones (we don’t recommend the use of Circle Go with students’ school iPads because the technology it uses would allow students to circumvent the school’s wifi content filters).
Price: $90 for Circle with Disney; $10 a month for Circle Go (10 devices)
Your home Wi-Fi can be set up to filter content that students access. Free filtering solutions often times only filter out the most obviously dangerous websites, but even that is safer than nothing. Directions for setting up your home Wi-Fi with OpenDNS FamilyShield are here. You can also set children’s mobile devices to use FamilyShield when accessing cellular data by using the DNS Override app. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dns-override/id1060830093?mt=8).
Price: Free (DNS Override 1.99 in-app purchase per device)
Bark connects to your child’s social media accounts to monitor them for cyberbullying and inappropriate interactions. When the service detects something dangerous or harmful happening in your child’s social media accounts, it would alert you to what is going on. Bark can monitor 22 different social media services including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Youtube.
Price: $99 annually (or $9 monthly)
Mobicip replaces the default browser on mobile devices with its own filtered browser, and also allows monitoring of web browsing and app use. Additionally, it can schedule times when internet access is blocked for the device.
Price: Free for basic uses (essentially, the filtered browser); $39.99 per year, with management and supervision features for up to five devices.
An additional, non-technological resource for helping parents think biblically through the broad issues of the role of technology in their homes is the book The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch.
As is always the case, a determined actor can find ways around any digital tool meant to ensure children’s safety, which is why parents’ have such a critical role in actively engaging their children in conversations about dangerous and harmful uses of technology. There is no automatic, hands-off solution to keep children safe, but active and well-equipped parents can certainly make a difference.