Keeping kids safe online is one of the greatest anxieties of modern parenting. Trying to create limits, impose restrictions and constantly monitor your child roaming free across the uncontrolled, and often dangerous digital landscape is fraught, time-consuming and exhausting. Yet it must be done in the name of responsible parenting. It’s not enough to apply a parental control app and make a few rules about screen time limits; online activity needs to be actively monitored.
Online or offline, parents have the same responsibility to keep their children safe. From being groomed by sex predators and easily connecting with drug sellers to being victimised through cyberbullying or coming across harmful content, kids are in some ways even more vulnerable in the digital world where parental oversight is more challenging.
Research shows that consistent parental monitoring of children’s online and mobile activity does reduce problematic internet behaviours, and helps to raise responsible digital citizens. In today’s world, parents have a clear responsibility to society to oversee their children’s behaviour and activities in the digital environment, never mind the imperative of keeping their child safe.
However, mandatory phone checks and web history scans are not just onerous for busy parents, they also frequently create an atmosphere of mistrust and points of conflict in the parent-child relationship. Tech-entrepreneur Rachelle Best has drawn on her real-life need as a mother of a teen, to create an app (called FYI play it safe) to give parents a better way to monitor their children’s online activity. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, FYI play it safe scans every app, every online search and every chat across your child’s devices but only alerts the parent or caregiver if there are potentially harmful communications or activities. The app monitors for cyberbullying, online predator contact, access to adult content and a range of mental health issues affecting teens, including suicide ideation.
Best says, “As a parent of a maturing child, I know how important it is to balance keeping them safe while supporting them in their natural development of autonomy and self-control. Actively parenting in the digital environment is extremely challenging because many parents don’t engage with their kids there. Parental oversight typically takes the form of scrutinising their kids’ digital history, which means they can only be reactive, when the best protection is knowing about the issue as it happens. Our driving value at FYI play it safe is ‘Protect them, but respect them’. That’s why the app is not spyware and it is not clandestine. It creates an opportunity for the parent and the child to mutually agree on the way to best keep them from harm and to avoid potentially dangerous situations.”
FYI play it safe, which has launched globally for children’s Android devices, takes on the detailed monitoring of communications and activities across all the child’s apps and screens. New apps or sites that the child uses and visits are included automatically without the need for the account credentials. “This feature is essential,” Best points out. “The range of digital spaces where your child is spending time is unlimited and ever-changing. It’s extremely hard for a parent to keep up. When you consider that research has shown that it can take less than one hour for online grooming to be successful, parents need real-time monitoring of every new digital space your child enters, from the moment they cross the threshold.”
The app processes language used as it scans for signals of online bullying and also alerts parents if your child is engaging with content around depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation. This early warning system empowers parents to take action, open up conversations and get help, if necessary, long before situations develop into emergencies or become intractable issues. Best says, “In essence, FYI play it safe helps parents know what conversations they need to be having with their kids, which is especially relevant when it comes to teens who can be inscrutable during their quest for independence. It pinpoints potential issues and enables you to deal with them swiftly. The app is therefore an enabler of more open and productive communications between parents and children.”
FYI play it safe is not a substitute for parental control apps, and rather works in tandem with widely used free apps such as Google Family Link. Best concludes, “It gives you an extra, non-intrusive layer of protection covering all your child’s online and mobile activity. It saves parents time, while giving you a consensual way to meet your responsibilities to keep your child safer in the digital environment and ensure that they conduct themselves acceptably. It strengthens your relationship with your child by giving you the right information at the right time in the form of alerts, so that you know the moment when your child needs your help. It finds the balance between failing to do enough to oversee your child’s online activity and over-reaching.”