‘Tis the Season to Give Digital Gifts!
Hello, Parents! Once again, the Protect Young Eyes team wants to prepare you and your children for the holidays by providing parental control guidance for whatever digital devices are on your Christmas list. In the year of COVID, digital devices are everywhere and we suspect that many new ones will be joining the family in December.
Remember, if it’s connected to the internet, then there’s a story of how someone somewhere has hacked into it or out of it. Especially during 2020 with more kids connected to screens than ever before. A few noteworthy 2020 headlines:
- “Grounded teen tweets from her refrigerator!” (Yes, some LG models can access Twitter)
- “Stranger taunts girl in bedroom through Ring camera.” (EEK! And verified)
- “Utah reports 50% increase in predation reports since March 2020.” (Similar news across the USA)
- “Zoombombers drop porn into virtual classrooms.” (Zoom is finally mitigating this – 6 months late)
- “I was a screentime expert. Then coronavirus happened.” (Yes – even the experts are struggling)
- “Online child sexual abuse is rampant while kids are stuck at home.” (Up 106% according to NCMEC)
But don’t be overrun with fear. These risks have ALWAYS been part of using internet-ready devices. It’s just that 2020 has poured gasoline on these issues, accelerating and spreading them with greater voracity while more kids spend more time online.
Let’s shop and definitely be generous with our gifts! Lord knows that 2020 is a year when celebrating the holidays early and joyfully is exactly what we need! And if that includes digital devices, PYE wants to make sure everyone is set up for a wonderful and safe 2021.
A few noteworthy device announcements from 2020.
Sony Releases the PlayStation 5
It’s a great time to be a gamer. The PS5 console is just incredible and is specifically tuned for today’s 4K smart TVs. It does have a great suite of parental controls (visit our brand new PS5 parental control guide!). Note – if you already have an account for your PlayStation 4, then you can easily transfer your achievements to your new console.
Did you realize that without the parental controls set and/or solid controls over your home’s network (WiFi) that your child can easily search for pornography on their gaming platform? Don’t let that freak you out. Instead, let that lead you toward engaging your son or daughter to help you create a safer PlayStation experience (or whatever console you own). Ask for their input in what the controls should be. Any time that our kids participate in creating our digital guidelines, not only are we building digital trust, but they will almost always be more willing to obey the guidelines they helped create.
Gabb Releases their Z2 Phone
Gabb is a “safe” phone for kids. No internet. No social media. Yes to GPS, camera, texting, calendar, and a total of 14 custom apps. It’s the perfect device for your elementary or junior high son or daughter. iPhones and Android devices are too powerful for young kids. They are “little boxes of porn” with computing power over a million times more powerful than the computers that put man on the moon.
Gabb removes the worry and it lets kids stay kids. “It’s what parents want and kids need.” Use promo code PYE at checkout to receive $10 off of the $99 device price tag. The most significant knock that we hear from parents is that Gabb phones can’t be monitored with any software. Parents most often want to monitor text message or at least prevent the deletion of messages. So far, neither of these controls are possible on a Gabb (or any smartphone, either).
Pinwheel Phone for Kids Starts in Beta
This is good marketing, straight from their website: Pinwheel is for free range kids age 6-13. 100% Tool. 0% Toy. We ripped out the TV, games, ads, and social.
There are two devices, costing $149 for the “slim” and $249 for the “rugged” device, which comes with its own case and is splash and kid proof. Features include:
- GPS tracking.
- Prevents picture texting and allow listed contacts.
- Strong controls over when certain features are available (the phone’s creators are big on “wellness”).
- Curated app store, including music players (Spotify), FitBit, Bible, period tracking, educational and others, as approved by therapists and psychologists.
- No internet browser is on the phone.
- Built-in screen time limits.
- Pinwheel does work with Bark.
It’s clear that they are jumping right into Gabb’s territory, but trying to differentiate themselves with more options. What we love about both devices is the lack of internet access, which just isn’t necessary until high school. The biggest downfall for Pinwheel is a horrible name – what 11-13-year-old wants to carry a phone called “Pinwheel?”
Note – Today’s Momma has written a comprehensive article on all of the other dumb phones on the market today.
iPhone Releases iOS14
In terms of child protections, not much changed. Most of what what iOS 14 did was make things look better – widgets, memojis, nesting iMessages. There have been some reports from parents that the Screen Time (parental control) settings that were in place prior to the iOS 14 upgrade were “broken” after the upgrade. We’ve seen this with other big iOS releases and often parents will just need to go through the set-up steps again. But, all of the same hacks and backdoors around iOS Screen Time still exist! And kids are finding new ones every day!
Christmas Device Parental Control Guides
Each link will take you to instructions for monitoring and controlling popular digital devices before they show up under the Christmas tree:
- Amazon Echo
- Google Home
- iPhone, iPad, iPod
- Kindle Fire HD
- Laptop (MacBook)
- Nintendo Switch
- PlayStation 5
- Laptop (PC)
- Roku Streaming Video
- Smart TV
- Streaming: Apple TV, Fire Stick, Chromecast
Bonus! Check out this amazing article from Mozilla that grades privacy for all digital devices. It’s awesome.
This Christmas, Build Digital Trust
Whatever you give your child, it’s important that they know that you are giving them access to these devices, but that all internet-ready devices are powerful, and are therefore co-owned. From an early age, it’s helpful to show kids that being online is a WE activity and not just a ME activity. This means playing online games with them, watching dorky YouTube videos with them, and obeying the same online rules that they do. All of these activities build digital trust, and in homes where digital trust is HIGH, then digital friction is often LOW.