Dr. Nicole Beurkens
Have you installed a parental control app on your child’s devices with the best intentions of keeping them safe online, only for them to remove the app from their phone? Or maybe their device has become a bone of contention, because while your goal is protection, your child uninstalls parental controls from it because they believe they are old enough to look after themselves.
Whatever the situation you find yourself in, the“kids vs. parental controls” scenario can be frustrating for everyone involved. It can be difficult for parents to know what action to take for fear of making a bad situation worse, and it can be difficult for children to understand their parents’ decisions and points of view.
We asked our ambassador Dr. Nicole for her expert advice on what to do when your kid or teenager uninstalls parental controls from their device.
1. Set out the conditions for healthy device use
Put simply, if your child has access to a device, or if you’ve decided your child is ready to use a new device (such as a smartphone) that you as the parent are providing to them, and you have decided that controls need to be on the device for the safety and health of your child, then the parental controls are a requirement for the child to use their device.
You may find that your child meets this with some form of argument or resistance: “none of my friends have parental controls,” or “you’re spying on me”, and it’s important to remember that it’s normal for children not to like the safety nets or rules that we as adults believe are appropriate, and that we know are healthy for their development. It’s our responsibility as parents to set these rules and conditions, but we can (and should) be open and honest with children about the reasons why we believe the decisions we make are best for them.
2. Sit down for a clear conversation on parental controls
While it’s our responsibility as parents to set rules and guidelines for our children, that doesn’t mean they will always understand what’s expected of them. Before installing parental controls on your child’s device, or devices, it’s best to sit down and have a conversation with your child about exactly what it is that you’re putting on their device, and why you’ve made that decision as a family.
Highlight the various dangers that you’re concerned about, and express that you’re looking out for their health. You may want to stress that it’s important that they begin to develop a good set of habits around digital wellness, and that these tools allow you as a parent to guide and help them with that.
Whatever type of software you decide to use – from native device controls to parental control tools such as Qustodio, show them what you’re putting on there and explain how you will be using the tools. This type of conversation will vary, depending on whether you have a younger child, a tween, or a teenager.
Usually, the children who are actively trying to uninstall parental controls are older elementary age, or teenagers who may have had these tools installed on their devices from a younger age. If this is the case, and you didn’t have a thorough conversation about parental control tools at the outset, sit down with them to revisit the device rules and expectations you have for them.
3. Make device usage a collaboration, not a struggle
It’s important that your child understands exactly what the consequences are for actively trying to uninstall parental controls. If you discover that the controls you set up have been turned off, or removed, then set up a simple consequence: they do not get to use the device for the time frame you determine to be appropriate.
When installing parental controls, or allowing your child to use a new device, explain that knowing the rules and leaving controls installed on the device is their responsibility. If your child understands that parental control tools are necessary for them to safely and appropriately use their devices, then they should know that when they choose to uninstall them, they are demonstrating they don’t yet have a level of maturity and personal accountability to be using technology appropriately. This puts the ball in their court, instead of keeping the focus on you as a parent.
4. Be consistent with your device rules
If you discover that your child has removed parental controls from their device, bring their attention to it right away. Keep calm but stay firm, and avoid confrontation as much as possible: the key is to focus on a partnership with your child and how they use technology.
Help your child to understand that the rules and the expectations that you set for them to develop healthy digital habits are a part of your job as a parent. The more that you can create a partnership and open communication around the benefits of device use, along with the potential risks, the better off you’ll be as a family.
Watch Dr. Nicole’s short video to see how you can help prevent your child from removing parental controls, and encourage them to develop a sense of responsibility and self-accountability, no matter their age.
By empowering your child using these simple tips, you can give them the tools to become more mature, and help them work together with you as a family to promote healthy online habits in the home.