Parental Control Software

Parent Q&A

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  • Parental control software or service?

    (2 replies)

    I'm interested in recent reviews of parental control software. What are folks using to ensure their kids are safe online (in addition to ongoing conversations)? Our 12-year-old is much more tech-savvy than we are and we're concerned he will easily be able to disable the parental controls. Common Sense Media recommends Bark, NetNanny, Quostodia, among others--do folks like these services?

    Additionally, I'm curious if there's anyone we can hire to give us more specific guidance based on our needs. Recommendations?

    Thank you so much in advance!

    In my experience as the parent of a young adult, it is effective to work with your child over time to teach them responsible online habits, with no apps, software, or contracts. You already noted this! Great! This is effective for the long term. Call me skeptical, but I am sure parental control software and consultants are just marketing to take advantage of parents' fears. Check in with your child periodically to make sure they are getting enough sleep, getting their homework done, getting enough exercise, are not disturbed by any contact they may have intentionally or unintentionally seen, etc. If too much online/phone time is a contributing factor, then ask open questions and *really listen* to their responses to come up with solutions. I also don't recommend time limits, I have seen this lead to sneaking and endless negotiating.

    BARK worked for us, I highly recommend it. Wish we had done it when our daughter was 12. We didn't do it until she was 15 and looked on her phone one night because she was acting strangely. I couldn't believe what we found. So all the talking in the world didn't help our kid make good choices. I like BARK because we don't have to go thru her phone, it just sends an alert to you when it detects troubling content in texts such as  bullying words, self harm, drug use, sexting, etc.. then you can speak with your child if you choose. If there are nude pics it will send you a blacked out version of the pic with a notice (this contains sexual imagery). Also, you can set it to block certain apps (only by age, such as your child can only download apps for 12 and under, etc) You can set it to turn off at the same time each night (our daughter's goes off at 10 but she can still listen to music but has no internet and can't text). You can also set it so they cannot add new contacts unless you approve them. This helped a lot. 

  • parental controls on grandparents' phone?

    (2 replies)

    Hi neighbors. I am looking for a parental control app/service that makes sense to use on a grandparent's iPhone or iPad (iOS).

    My child does not have her own phone, but I do want to limit/monitor her use when she is at her grandma's house. Specifically, I want to limit access to social media, sexual content, and the downloading of certain apps.

    Any recommendations?  

    P.S. I also did share these resources with them: 

    What does your child use when they’re on a grandparents iPhone or iPad? I use the guided access feature, which doesn’t allow them to get out of an app they’re on once it’s activated and also limits what they’re able to click on within the app, too. Would that work?

    On an iPhone or iPad, we use Screen Time (under Settings) which allows you to set various limitations including ratings on shows, music, etc. and choose between limiting adult websites (not super comprehensive) or allowing only specific websites that you choose. You can mess around with it. And it’s turned off and on by a passcode. So if this is a grandparent’s phone that they Don’t want limited in anyway, they can just turn on Screen Time with the passcode before handing it over to the kid. 

  • We held out until 14 but have just given our son a phone and are somewhat dismayed at how fast going down the rabbit hole has been.  We are looking for a computer expert who intimately understand iphone and macbook parental controls and can consult with us on how to allow access to only those thing we have agreed on.  If this person doesn't exist then it seems like a really good business opportunity for someone!

    If you have Verizon, they offer "Smart Family," which was relatively uncomplicated to use.  (I am NOT tech savvy!). You do have to pay every month, but it was worth it to me.  It had the parental controls (content, time limits, schedule) and also the location tracking.  Also, I think there was a way to put in my phone #, which was always available, even during the down times that I chose, such as school time.  That way, my son could always call me if necessary.

  • My children use district-issued Chromebooks for online school.  YouTube is restricted but there's enough to be very distracting. How can I totally block YouTube on those Chromebooks?  I'm not allowed to add BlockSite or other apps because the district is the administrator. 

    (We don't own a Chromebook or laptop ourselves.  Worth getting our own for that reason?) 

    I gave back the chrome book for exactly that same reason! My kid said they watched YouTube all the time during class last year :( He’s using my old Apple laptop so I can block everything but schoolwork. Too tempting!

    We're in a different district, but our experience is that you can contact your school tech support and they can block specific sites on your child's account if needed. If the teachers use YouTube, though, then your child won't be able to access the content. Getting your own Chromebook won't help- once your child signs on with his account, the school's settings take over and you can't change it. If none of your family uses YouTube during school hours, you may be able to block it at your wireless router, but then no devices in the house can access it.

  • My 15 year old with ADHD and a mood disorder is addicted to her phone -  forgoing meals, sleep and bathing when she really gets going; yelling and screaming when we remind her it's time to put it away.  We've discussed the physical and mental health consequences with her.  We've set limits and made rules.  We take the phone away when she doesn't comply.  But, the process of physically taking the phone feels like we're teetering on the edge of violent disaster.  She had a very traumatic childhood (she's adopted) and gets easily triggered.  I have Verizon Smart Family App on her phone but the time limits haven't been working, either because the App doesn't work very well, or because she's learned how to disable it, or both.  Does anyone have a recommendation for a good app?  I'd like to be able to to cut access to the cell network and our home network at certain hours of the day.  I can unplug our router if necessary so cutting access to the cell network is my major goal.  It's such a frustrating and disheartening situation.  Thanks for your help.

    I have an adopted teen also with the same challenges. This is maybe not the advice you’re looking for but I suggest taking the phone away altogether. A kid with ADHD, and a mood disorder, and adoption issues to deal with does not need phone limits. She needs to be spending almost 100% of her time at home in the presence of her family, feeling the love of her family. She’s not doing anything useful at all with the phone. Even though she will almost certainly tell you her connection with friends through her phone is her only joy in life, I would not believe it. It’s much more likely that social media is adding to her problems. Also—many adopted kids have attachment issues and access to phones (electronics of any kind really) make it nearly impossible to help teenagers with those issues. 

    Taking it completely away will be a short-term nightmare for you but there is so much to be gained in the long run. 

    Hugs to you. It’s a long hard road we are on. 

    We tried a variety of apps, but my son (also with ADHD) was able to find ways around all of them with the help of YouTube. What finally worked was turning off data to his line through the AT&T website as needed, turning off our WiFi as needed, and getting a "kitchen safe" (on Amazon) that every phone in our house goes into at 10PM each night. I have to say that the safe has made the biggest difference, since he's also not able to take his phone out in class during the school day without it being confiscated. We tied his compliance with the safe to the continued availability of the phone during the day, and since we're all doing it, it made it a little bit easier for him to handle. He can still listen to his music through bluetooth headphones, but there is no texting, gaming, etc. at night. Sleep makes a big difference to the rest of the day, and he doesn't feel singled out by us trying to confiscate his phone every night while we still have ours. Good luck!

    I'm so sorry you are experiencing this. As someone who has walked this road, I can tell you it's a tough one. My child is now 19 years old. For us, limits did not work, he always found a way around them. He just got sneakier and sneakier, and when all else failed, he simply got phones from friends and/or used the free wifi that seems to be available everywhere including in our home thanks to neighbors who do not password protect their wifi. How teenagers have access to phones they can give to friends, I have no idea. But I can tell you, the vast majority of social networking teens use do not require cell signal or network. We also had violent outbursts including the smashing of a phone with a hammer rather than handing it over (one from a friend). As you might imagine, this was not our only discipline issue.

    My suggestion is to get good family therapy in place. It's likely this will not be your only behavior / control issue. An app won't solve the short term problem or deeper issues. You might also look into The Parent Project ( Unfortunately, I found out about this too late to be of help for my family, but I've heard great things about the program.

    Good luck, and do something kind for yourself today.

    Verizon Smart Family has been working pretty well for me with time limits, but if it isn't for you,  you could pay a bit more to get the feature of shutting down the internet. You can also temporarily disable her phone from the cell network by using a feature that says you are away and want to temporarily close service on the phone.. I would talk to the people at Verizon so you know all your options. If that doesn't work, you could try other apps, like quostodio.

    There's an app about growing trees which kind of game-ifies not using your phone. You grow a bigger tree for a larger amount of off-screen time. I personally didn't find it useful even on myself, but some of my friends recommended it to me. 

    This is the original poster.  Thanks for your messages.  I appreciate the tips and it's nice to hear from other people that got through this situation.   As people understood this isn't an isolated issue, but it does aggravate other things to an almost unbearable point.  

    Also, I wanted to question the idea that we "give her some space".  Our daughter's behavior is pretty extreme. If allowed she'll avoid sleeping, bathing, eating (to the point of weight loss), even drinking water or using the bathroom (let alone exercising, going outside or seeing people in person).   She's getting headaches and says she feels more confused.  She's becoming angry to the point of throwing and breaking things.  She always snaps and often swears at us if we even say hello to her when she's using her phone.   And her whole mental outlook improves when she goes for a few hours without electronics.  I'm being told by her core therapy team that she needs more limits rather than more space.    However, as well as from the poster below, I've heard the opposite suggestion from another therapist.   Could this be true?   Has anyone out there tried the sink or swim method with positive results?    To be truthful it's pretty unlikely I'll try it but I'm interested to hear from others.

    I am a physician and had a patient with similar issues who became actively suicidal.  Got admitted to the hospital, inpatient involuntary hold, etc.  No electronics during this time.  Finally was released, returned to school, and once settled the parent decided to allow the teen to use a phone for 1 hr/day.  The teen declined.  S/he realized it was using the phone that caused the suicidality and it was this drastic chain of events that finally allowed the realization that it needed to stop.  So cold turkey was the cure.

    I'm sorry that you are experiencing this. Your daughter reminds me of an example given by Richard Freed in his book "Wired Child" - I wonder if you've heard of him? We had him speak at our school and it was a very good presentation - he does therapy in this area - perhaps you could consult with him? There are also treatment centers to help:

    • Internet and Tech Addiction Anonymous (ITAA): A 12-step, fellowship program that aims to help those addicted to technology recover from their affliction. Members share their experiences and provide support to one another.
    • Restart Center.
      • Center for Digital Technology Sustainability.
      • 8-12-week program disconnected from digital media (i.e., internet, gaming, cell phone use).
      • Helps you build a plan for the future, allows you to work closely with peers, coaches, and counselors to reconnect with life.
    • Morningside Recovery.
      • Has locations in Texas, California, and Arizona.
      • Specializes in dual diagnosis of nomophobia–the fear of being without your mobile device–and another mental illness, such as anxiety.
    • Camp Grounded.
      • Is similar to a summer camp for adults.
      • Consists of a digital detox and interactive activities.

    Wishing you the best.

    I attended a medical conference w/ my husband who is a Farmily Practice MD at John Muir.  I'm in Public Health and direct Parents for a Safer Environment.  this was the first of its kinds in the U.S. where researchers from all over the world gathered to share their research and present to physicians.

    We learned that there are thousands of peer reviewed and published research that links exposure to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and wireless 

    devices to symptoms that are measurable such as loss of melatonin and raised blood pressure.  Some common symptoms include sleep disorder, skin issues, irratibility, short-term memory loss, heart and pulmonary problems, among many others.  There's evidence that MS, Alzheimer's and many other chronic and rising illnesses are linked to EMR exposure.  It's not surprising since the research is showing damage at the ceullar level. If our cells are damaged, our hormones and in turn our organs will not function properly.

    Children who go on a wifi diet improve their school performance, behavior, and health conditions.  If you want more info, there are active community members

    working to prevent 5G from coming into the community and parents will have no control over turning off the wifi.   In our home, we decided to

    hardwire our internet, get rid of the cordless phone (one of the highest sources) , and now my husband puts his cell phone on airplace mode whenever possible.  For more info, e=mail me and I will send you links to some websites... plan to have some of the info uploaded into the website soon on the menu labeled: electromagnetic radiation. 

  • Parental Controls on 17-y-o's Laptop?

    (5 replies)

    I have a 17-y-o heading off to boarding school for the first time - entering as a junior.  The primary reason my teen is going to boarding school is for a better fit - this is a bright teen who is floundering in the local public and private school systems.  I'm hoping a change in environment, a school with supports for gifted w/ ADHD students, and routine and structure implemented by someone other than parents will be a good thing.  

    Like a lot of teens, mine is completely distracted and consumed by technology use.  The boarding school will manage this to a point, but I'm thinking it would be a good idea to have parental controls in place as well (we've had them in place on devices all along to some degree of usefulness).

    My question is this: what parental controls on a MacBook have you found to be useful in supporting a teen's use of the device as a learning tool, while limiting their ability to use it for excess distraction or, worse, nefarious (keeping Tor and Bitcoin off, etc.) purposes?

    This has proven to be a helpful and insightful forum for me in the past, so thanks in advance for your suggestions.

    A 17-year-old? They are at the age when it needs to be about discussion/negotiation, not parental controls. In one year your child will legally be an adult so you need to think about how to parent a person for whom your opinions are advisory.

    I agree with the post of Sept. 2. At 17, a teenager should understand your family's values, rules, and expectations around technology/social media. As your son heads off to boarding school, it's important for him to believe that you have faith in his ability to make good decisions (even if you have concerns). As a family, I would suggest that you have a frank discussion with your son before he leaves for school. You might have somesuggestions ready with apps that help kids monitor their own computer usage, but I do not recommend parental monitoring. At this age, remember that it's more important to LISTEN than to offer advice! 

    - Mother of two young adults, director of The Parent Education Series 

    I tend to agree with the above response but still, I think it's ok to set some restrictions. I'm going through this right now with my 14 year old daughter. You can enable restrictions by setting up an administrator account on her computer, and going into parental controls window. I found it doesn't do everything, but helps. Then, there is YouTube which is a beast into itself. Look on line for how to set restrictions on youtube. I'm still trying to figure it out across all devices. She was looking at pornography, super raunchy stuff and very upsetting.

    This is a battle we are all dealing with! I'm interested to read what other people say and I definitely agree that limits and controls are beneficial for impulsive teens.

    Your teen is only one year away from college.  Boarding school at 17 is more like starting college a year early than being a high school student who needs a lot of parental guidance. The rest of us parents usually get another year to make the transition from parenting a high schooler to being counselor and advisor to an older teen/young adult.  You are making the transition a year early. Let me tell you how it goes when your 18yo kid goes away to college - I've survived it twice!  You can try to give input but you no longer have the influence you had before. They can do what they like, when they like. The best you the parent can do is hope you've instilled the right values up to now, and then hope they will come to you if there's a problem. My kids were VERY fond of their computers in high school, to the point where I was locking up electronics in the trunk of the car at night because one of them was sneakily staying up all night playing games and unable to get out of bed in the morning. Once they were no longer in my house, they figured out for themselves why this doesn't work. Not right away, but by trial and error. I remember visiting my oldest when he was a sophomore at a college in another state. He was living in a house he shared with three other 19 year olds. The living room was a shrine to electronics, including an "altar" piled high with empty chip bags and bottles. But they figured out a balance for themselves, even though they did not have an adult monitoring them.  They got to class and they did what they needed to do, and they are all fine young men now, out on their own. Your kid will do that too.  

    It's not an easy transition for parents, but for most of us there comes a time when our kids have to make decisions for themselves, and it's your time now, so try to make peace with that.

  • Hi,

    I'm overwhelmed by the plethora of apps out there that filter content and restrict time on the internet for kids. Does anyone have direct experience with one they really like? I'm looking at Net Nanny, for instance. Also Screenlimit.  There is a new one called unPlug that sounds great but the reviews are awful. My 14 y/o daughter has an Apple Pro Book and some of them don't work with MacOS.  I need something that can work with our smart TV, her iPhone and Pro book, and that I can set up on my PC and access on my Android phone. Thanks for any help.

    This is hard...  The only things I have found to be effective are (1) set mobile-data restrictions on their phone (time based), which you can do with Verizon and Sprint and probably other providers, and (2) turn off the internet at a specific time.  You need to figure out how to do this with the administrative controls of your firewall since just unplugging it is easily worked around.  Also make sure you are the only one who knows the passwords for those things.

    We love and use Qustodio. Not sure it does all you need but it's been a godsend to keep our homeschooled kids on track when it's time to focus on classes. 

    The tech stuff with kids has been very overwhelming! 

    Right now we have Circle by Disney ($99) attached to our wifi router. It lets you assign certain devices including the tv to each member of the household and then set limits on wifi use by that person. So at home it gives control over screen usage that needs an internet connection. You can extend time with "rewards" or set certain times of day w/o internet access and set bedtimes and wakeup. The controller is on the parent's phone and password protected :)

    Downsides: family devices we all use are a grey area, our main computer which is connected by cable to the router is not controlled, non-internet screen use and downloads are not controlled. Out and about cell use on a phone is not controlled unless you pay a monthly Circle Go fee. It is tricky to assign devises as they all look the same---I had to learn how to match the MAC Addresses online!

    Pluses: It shuts stuff off not you---you have buttons to grant more time. You can see which sites are being visited if you care too. Gives summary by day and week of usage. Bedtime and wake up automatic is lovely. Interface is pretty good. Not at all perfect but I feel it helps give parents a baseline of control over an area that can easily get out of control---it is really bad for a relationship to be repeatedly trying to communicate to someone lost in a show or game that their "time is up". 

    Summary: not perfect by any means but it is a start :)

    We just purchased Quistodio. Doesn't work on the TV but it does work on most phones and tablets Kindle, Mac and android. SO NICE to not have to fight about when the phone or computer need to be off. We don't do anything, it's simply not accessible. Easy interface with lots of detailed control e.g. apps, internet, text, phone can all be controlled independent of each other. For example, our kid has always-on phone access but internet apps such as instagram are only available during certain hours. Finally, there is a maximum amount of use allowed per day for ALL things. We set it to a maximum of 3 hours. So, use everything in the first 3 hours it's available and that's it for the day. We *hope it will help our kid learn some boundaries and self-control. *I know it's wishful thinking.

    Thank you for the replies so far. This is helpful. Our TV doesn't have cable- it's a Roku that is wired by our internet access so I think Quistodio should work fine on that too. I don't know why I don't want to get the Circle with Disney. I bought it and returned it. I thought it would be complicated to set up and also concerned my daughter would probably think it's baby-ish to get a Disney warning. Any more responses very welcome!

  • With a tween daughter, I realize we are at the point where we will need to manage/screen what she accesses? The various options (NetNanny, Qustodio, etc.) are confusing and prior to shelling out for a subscription, I would love to hear from BPN on your experiences. 

    Hi there,

    First, I'll say nothing replaces the conversations you should have with your kids, sharing information and building trust. But I'm appalled at the laissez faire attitude of the post I've seen, that suggest you just shouldn't even bother to try to filter their content. Your kid can hit a typo while tapping in "pokemon" and end in some pretty crazy porn, pretty quick. In an age where more extreme porn equals more clicks (and more profit), you're simply negligent if you don't even try. The best $100 we ever spent was to purchase Circle, a device that filters content at the router level. It's amazing! You can assign different devices to different levels of filtering. Most of our household is set to teenager level, but my husband's and mine are totally unfiltered. You can set it up to turn off the wifi between certain hours, or simply pause it if your kids won't get off their devices. I can turn it off when I leave the house and know my kids aren't on their devices. It's not perfect, but it's a huge help. Most of the other stuff out there is pretty useless. We also set up parental restrictions on their individual devices. Good luck!

    I purchased the device "Circle by Disney" for my home wifi, mostly to try to prevent my son from accessing inappropriate content.  Through Circle I was able to see what websites he was on, I can set time limits on each device, pause the device or internet, and set a bed time on the internet or device.  A lot of people said that I shouldn't do this and that kids will find a way around it.  And yes, even though he found a way to get around it by using a hotspot on his phone, I was able to talk with him about the fact that I could could see every website he was visiting, could tell when he was using the hotspot (which consumes huge amounts of data so he would run out early in the month for his cellular usage) and if I could do that probably someone else could too (so what he was doing should not be considered "private").  I explained that it was just like junk food or cigarettes, I don't want them in my house, so that was just part of the rules of being a family member in our household.  I have not yet started using the time limits or bedtimes on the Circle, but if I found I needed to as a way to control the amount of internet access, I would do it.  I think as a parent you have to use every tool you can.  If you can also use NetNanny, that might be a good tool too.  I have never used it and somehow you have to restrict all access so they are only browsing using NetNanny, which was not something I felt I could easily install and implement across devices, so using Circle with it's remote and somewhat "cloaked" installation was a better choice for me.  Wish I had been able to install this device years ago when the kids first got computers and smart phones.

  • I recently discovered that my almost 15 year old son has been accessing porn on his computer.  When he was much younger I tried to put parental controls on his computer, but the basic features on the Mac didn't seem to work very well and would block too much such that when he wanted to watch youtube or access sites that were legitimate, he could not get to them. My husband was annoyed about having to constantly deal with the access issues and complained so much that I took all controls off years ago.  A few months ago I checked my son's browsing history and found that he was accessing porn regularly.  And even though we have (loose) rules about where the computer can be used, he occasionally takes it in his room while working on hobbies, or in the bathroom.  In addition, there are plenty of times when we leave him home alone for several hours while we run errands or exercise. My son is very sensitive and sometimes when I bring up difficult issues, he refuses to discuss them with me.  I don't find it easy to talk with him. My therapist recommended I have my husband handle the conversations "man to man", particularly because I didn't want my son to shut me down or feel "shamed" by me.  My husband talked with him about the concerns of porn and asked him to watch some documentaries about how abusive and damaging the porn industry is to the women who participate.  A few months have gone by and he is still accessing the adult content, and even worse, writing fictional porn in a sort of journal. I only know this because I regularly check his computer and devices, although he recently changed his password on his phone so I can't access it. My husband would never bother to do this and while he is concerned, doesn't really want to get into the habit of monitoring. I recently installed a device on our WiFi called "Circle by Disney" which I can control through my phone or iPad.  It filters adult content, tracks websites accessed, tracks total device usage, has the ability to limit time and hours for wifi access, can lock out access to any app (such snapchat, FB, instagram) and pause the internet on demand.  I wish this device had been available when the kids were first getting computers and phones and the restrictions would have just been part of the deal. My husband is reluctant for me to implement it because he feels it is passive aggressive to just restrict the access without getting a "buy in" from my son. While I agree that we should talk about our rules for internet usage, risk about porn, etc, I have told my husband that the decision to restrict access is like deciding not to have junk food, cigarettes, guns or anything else in the house that you don't want to expose your kids to. It reminds me of when I was a teenager and I had a friend sleep over.  While my parents were out for the evening, we drank some of their alcohol and got drunk!  Not long after that I noticed that all the alcohol was put in a locked cabinet.  Would love any thoughts or advice on this. 

    I don't think you should be reading his journal, and I think writing fiction about *anything* is perfectly healthy and a good outlet.  I would only be concerned if he is spending so much time watching online porn that it is cutting into his outside interests and relationships with real people.  

    I think most parents who have raised teen boys will tell you that boys gravitate to adult content around this age. I've already been through this with two teen boys and I'm on my last one who is now 15. With my two older teens, it was mostly magazines under the bed because in those days there was only one computer, and no smart phones. It is my experience that teen boys this age masturbate ALL the time, and they most certainly do not want to do that in the family room or discuss it with their parents. It's great that your husband had a talk with your son, but I do not think you should be forbidding your son from looking at adult sites or trying to prevent him from doing it.  You can and should tell him your own opinion about porn, and of course tell him you don't want to see dirty pictures popping up on the family computers. But you really need to step back a bit now that he is 15, and let him have his privacy.  I do not think you should be reading his writings, and I don't think you should be looking at his browsing history unless you have reason to think that he might be in real danger.  Please re-think forbidding the computer in the bathroom or in his room unless you have a problem with video game addition, or homework not getting done. Sure if teens are doing something dangerous or harmful online, like using the computer to buy drugs or post naked photos of themselves, then I think parental intervention is warranted. But that is not what your son is doing.  You should also have a privacy talk with him - acknowledge his need for privacy now that he is older, and tell him that you will respect his privacy. I just recently did this with my 15yo - I realized I was regularly walking into his room without knocking first. He didn't mind it when he was 10, but he does mind now, so I apologized and told him I realized I needed to respect his privacy more than I was doing.  I think my assurances strengthened our relationship.  

    At this age a parent's role starts to change from manager to consultant. It is hard for us parents to stop managing when we have been doing that for 15 years.  But that is what you have to do, so he can start becoming an adult, and so you can lay the groundwork for a long-term relationship with your grown-up kid.  You already did your due diligence with the junk food, cigarettes, guns, etc. when he was younger, so the decisions he makes as an older teen and young adult will reflect that.  But now it is time for him to have more control.  

    -- Mom of three boys

    Your house, your rules.  Porn viewing can lead to obsession about watching porn and addiction.  There are plenty of ways boys share this info without having to go online for it.  Boys do not need to watch porn to have a satisfactory masturbation life!   You wouldn't have let your child rent X-rated movies if he was growing up 20 years ago.

    The limiting factor has to be about what YOU are comfortable with; not what your kid wants.  Don't feel pressured to allow this.  He will be out of your home and making his own decisions soon enough.  

    Same as other responses: at that age, my son now happily married and father to 3 beautiful children, accessed porn all the time. I HATED it but was and still is a computer whiz and could get around any blocks. Yes - - yuckky and upsetting, but I don't think it has lasting effects.

    I'm the poster of the initial question and am looking forward to more responses my question.  I hope I don't sound like I am trying to justify my actions, but I am really surprised by the suggestions to back off, as it seems like every article I read about internet safely implies that you should monitor kids, keep your kids away from this sort of media, restrict devices in private areas, etc.  My son is actually only 14.5 years but said 15 for the sake of ease.  If the access happened accidentally once or twice, maybe that would be a different story, but it seems like it is a regular thing and possibly cutting into school work time, now heading into the bathroom with the computer for at least 30 mins if not 45 mins at a time before he starts homework after dinner.  And while I agree that privacy has it's place for trustworthy kids who have no history of trying to hide something, after I saw the porn sites on the history I couldn't help but want to see exactly what he was looking at and for how long it has been going on.  Regarding the journal, it's an application on his phone and I happened to glance and see a little of what he was writing one time I happened to be sitting behind him and could see it.  Because it was concerning, I felt I needed to further investigate. I was a bit shocked by what I read, but I am not as concerned about the writing, as who knows, maybe someday as an adult he will have a well paying career writing porn. The "contracts" with the kids when they first got devices stated that they should assume the content on their devices was not private and that we had the right to look anytime we wanted, needed to know passwords, etc.  If a parent looks occasionally and finds nothing, backing off has it's place.  No one commented about the pros or cons of blocking the content via wifi, but certainly schools, libraries block it without it being considered unreasonable.  I'm worried about addiction to porn or exposure to anti-social behaviors towards women, ability to have good relationships later in life, etc.  He just came back from a month away at a device free overnight camp. The first day with us before he had access to his devices, he was sweet as ever.  Then the next day when he got his computer and headed down to the bathroom, and perhaps when he realized he couldn't access his usual porn, he was in a very bad for several days and was barely willing to participate in any family activities or talk to us.  We didn't ask him why, but I couldn't help but wonder.  I am sure that we need to have more open conversations about it, but when he shuts down because he is upset about, there is no going forward.  Please keep the responses coming, as I want to hear more about what you all think!

    I think it is of course normal for a 15 year old to be curious, and masturbation is natural too, but I don't think it should be considered normal or appropriate to watch porn at that age. Porn these days is different and with one click he can see hardcore, bondage, rough, etc. Back in the day, it was just playboy magazine which I would much prefer my son looking at. Even seeing a movie like Dead pool seems more appropriate. Does he understand he is setting the bar too high then, expecting girlfriends to be like that? Maybe Common Sense media has advice about blocking sites- cant you block specific sites? I know one site is just "tube sites" and has tons of porn. Many girlfriends/ wives do not appreciate their partner seeking out porn so he is starting a habit that could be hard to break later in life. Yes we have to let go of them but they don't have to be thrust into adulthood in such a cold, impersonal way...good luck

    Don't impose parental controls and stay out of your son's fantasy life. Really. I find it genuinely disturbing that you regard "writing fictional porn" as WORSE than looking at videos of real people; it suggests that you don't just have a problem with exploitation in the porn industry, but with teenage sexual desires and fantasies existing at all. They'll exist no matter what you do, and the more you suppress them, the more extreme your son's search for an outlet will have to be. I'm sorry to make it sound so dire, but his behavior sounds completely normal to me, and most parents I know just roll with it and leave their sons alone. It tends to regulate itself -- although honestly, after trying so hard to suppress it, you may have to deal with it getting more reactively compulsive for a while.

    I completely support your concern and your trying to help your son by by limiting his access. Porn is addictive and damaging, so don't doubt your role as a parent to provide healthy boundaries. I would recommend Leonard Sax's parenting books: they are very helpful in this regard.

    I want to share my experiences as a Cal health educator-coach for 30 years--the potential damage that long term porn use can have on young men. I retired last year and now do some of this work for graduating high school seniors, through my private practice. By the time I left the Tang Center, Health Services, I was averaging 2+ male students per week who were struggling with erection difficulties. Most had been to one of our medical clinicians for a prescription for Viagra--they sent them to see me instead. While factors such as stress, body image, poor communication skills, inexperience, etc. contributed to these young men's (aged 18-24) unreliable erections, *years* of online porn use seemed to be the one thing they all had in common. Most of the guys themselves thought their porn use had "messed up" their own sexual response to partners. They reported that they didn't find real girls/guys as arousing as porn; they were so used to being a spectator versus a participant; they were surprise that girls weren't as "wild" in real life, etc. Obviously I only saw the people who were having problems--undoubtedly they are plenty of guys with long histories of porn viewing who are doing fine with partners. 

    I'm very sex positive and believe that viewing porn can be a very healthy activity. But, I think hours and hours and hours of masturbating to increasingly intense online porn BEFORE having access to a live, consenting, appealing partner is a set-up for potential sexual problems in the future. If I had a son who seemed "hooked" on online porn, I would try to normalize the sexual urges he's having and encourage him to use a variety of materials for masturbation--my favorite being sexual fantasies that he creates in his own head. I would not use any scare tactics (like showing him my post!). I'm not a researcher or a scientist, I'm just a semi-retired health educator-coach who has tried to help hundreds and hundreds of distraught, pained young men with their erection problems. 

    When I give talks to graduating high school seniors on how to transition to college with ease, I always caution against excessive porn use. During this portion of my talk, you can hear a pin drop in all the big auditoriums...

    One of the therapists I spoke with has a hard and fast rule in his own home: no phones, tablets or computers in the bedroom, including their own. He felt that this would at least limit the amount of porn his kids would consume online.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Computer screening devices re: Porn

May 2009

I would like to know about what parent's experiences have been with screening devices or screening programs for computers? We have a MAC. Much thanks.
I need it now.

I mentor a number of teenaged young men. With them and their families I often suggest x3watch. It doesn't stop the sites, but it does send you a report of sites visited twice a month that empowers you to have a conversation with your son about it. The website where you can read more about it is: The free version is available for mac. Goodluck, I'd love to know what you finally choose. Erik

We used during a difficult time a software program called Safeeyes. It is like Fort Knox. I know my son and his friends devoted hours and much research on unprotected computers to trying to hack it, and were unable. It can be set to stop porn, drug info, cheating sites, suicide info, etc. It can also record all IM conversations on a machine. (When I turned this on, I told my teen I had done it, and that I would only go in and review the conversations if I felt I had to do so for his safety. That time came, and, even though he knew in advance about the recording, there was useful information there.)

The downside was it can be a pain. It can block legitimate sites, requiring parents to go through a routine to OK them (which of course always happens at midnight when something is due the next day..) At one point it blocked all google images; a real pain for my art student child - and it took quite a bit of work to find a workaround for that. It took over an hour to manage to uninstall it on one of my kids 18th birthdays (perhaps their favorite gift!) But the phone support is good.

I would recommend this if you have a serious need to block. do what's necessary mom

Computer software to monitor teens' game time

March 2007

I'd like help finding computer software to monitor the amount of time my teen spends playing games. Any assistance would be appreciated; where have you found programs? can they tell you the amount of time on different games? how easy are they to install and use? I would prefer something transparent so we can all see the amount and talk about it together. Thanks
Mom tired of arguing

I like Child Safe, because you can not only monitor what they are doing, but you can also give them a set amount of time they can be logged on. Its not as invisible as some of the ''spyware'', but your kids know that you are watching, so they are much more conscious of where they go and what they chat about.

Need to block porn sites on our IMac

Oct 2006

We need to put parental controls on our computer. It's an Imac, the newer one with the intell chip. I'm frustrated because there seems to be limited choices for macs, and I've heard that these kinds of controls really slow down the computer. We also don't want to have separate profiles for each user. It's a family computer and we sometimes work on the same projects and it is just too complicated to have separate profiles for everyone. We have several browsers, and tho I guess we could limit that I'd prefer something that would work with different browsers. I'm only interested in blocking porn, not chat groups, politics and violence. Is there anything out there that will work for us? Unfortunetly it is not possible to get the guilty party to knock it off. I am sad to be in this position and very grateful for any advice that you might have, Thank you

I'm running Kids GoGoGo. Seems to work well for us.

My friend Anne who edits Net Family News (my absolute favorite source of info for all things family & tech-related) told me about SafeEyes ( toprated/) which she says is a favorite among software reviewers for filtering on both PCs and Macs. Check out while you're at it... I've been reading netfamilynews for years and always find useful info -- and eye-opening letters written by parents and kids themselves. (Also, an aside, Anne just co-authored ''My Space Unraveled, a parents' guide to teen social networking''/ might be useful) Susan