Monitoring Apps – A Guide for Parents

27 Jul 2021 UK SIC

Monitoring apps have been designed to try and support parents and carers with managing their child’s device on a more technical level. Some of the features aim to set boundaries within devices and allow parents to have more control. Despite this, they are designed to complement conversations and boundaries already in the home. In this article we look at what monitoring apps are and what they provide to families, as well as some considerations.

What Features Do Monitoring Apps Offer?

Monitoring apps often provide various features that allow parents and carers to have more control over family members’ devices. They often have features that allow parents to monitor internet activity and behaviour whilst providing options to manage restrictions and set boundaries. Some of these may include:

  • Managing Screen Time – Allowing parents to see how long their child spends on specific apps. Some apps also can set screen time limits and provide a bed time setting where apps are switched off for the night.
  • Approving Apps – Allowing parents to approve or disapprove of certain apps before they are able to be downloaded. Certain apps may also be blocked or appear hidden in searches if they are deemed not appropriate.
  • Recommending Apps – Prioritising apps that may include educational material or are specifically designed to be used by a certain age group.
  • Locking Devices – Allowing parents to have remote access to devices so they can be switched off when necessary.
  • Tracking Features – Allowing parents to track family members’ device, usually pinpointing locations on a map and updating regularly.

Considerations When Using Monitoring Apps

It is important to be aware that monitoring apps such as these cannot guarantee that children and young people can be safe from harmful content online. Parents and carers may consider using monitoring apps if they are worried about a child using their own device in the early stages of development. Also, monitoring apps can be useful if a child has particular vulnerabilities. Despite this, it is still important for parents and carers to have open, wider discussions in person if they want to talk through the risks associated with managing devices.

If family members communicate about the responsible use of devices as well as how to stay safe online it can let young people navigate the internet with awareness of risks but with a respectable degree of privacy. It can also empower them to feel confident to come forward to a parent or carer if a worry or an issue arises.

Monitoring apps can offer a lot of features for parents and carers but it is still just as important to take control and have discussions offline as well. If you want to find out more about starting a family discussion, you can read Childnet’s Family Agreement resource.

To learn more about certain types of monitoring apps, you can read an in-depth breakdown from Internet Matters.

You can also find out more about parental controls and security settings on social media, by downloading SWGfL’s checklists.

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