eReaders and Parental Controls

Posted on 13. Apr, 2012 by in For Parents, For Teachers

by Lynette Owens

This is the 1st in our ’10 for 10′ weekly series of online safety and digital literacy tips.

Since launching Trend Micro’s Internet safety for kids and families program in 2008, I’ve seen the topic of safe and responsible technology use among youth shift to the foreground of society’s consciousness to the point now where a week doesn’t seem to go by without some reminder of the impact the Internet has or is having on young people today.

Sometimes it’s a news flash of another bullying incident that keeps us on our toes.  Many times it’s the arrival of a new device, social network, or app that rockets in popularity that urges us to consider it in our kids’ hands. 

While the pace of technology can be dizzying, it’s a good thing we’re paying closer attention.

But still, we are parents, and we are busy trying to cram as much as we can in any given day.  So hopefully, for those of you who are interested and want to stay on top of these shifts, the resources we will provide over the coming months will be of some help to you.

Over the next 10 weeks, we’ll be highlighting resources on multiple topics (because, as you know, there are a lot of things to cover) as it relates to helping your kids with safe and responsible technology use. 

This week, we’re featuring a few tips on parental controls and 3 of the more popular eReaders: the Nook, Kindle Fire, and the Apple iPad. 

eReaders are a fantastic way to encourage reading among kids.  While there is a big upfront cost for the reader, they give you access to huge libraries of books at no or low cost.  In the end, it may be a cost savings for you, depending on how much your kids like to read.

Most of the newer eReaders have a browser, a way to get out onto the vast world of the Internet.  They can also download apps, movies, and music.  They’ve all been designed for the masses, and not necessarily with parents and kids in mind.  Ideally, this will shift over time, but for now there are many families who need to know what they’re getting into when they (or other family members or friends) decide to buy their kids an eReader.

General Info to keep in mind:

First, the Nook, Kindle Fire, and Apple iPad all have access to the Internet/web browsers.

Second, none of them have a way to filter Internet access so that kids can only go to websites that are a) secure (not tampered with by cybercriminals) and b) age-appropriate.

On the Nook:

The Nook Color and Nook Tablet allow you to turn Internet access on or off, and this setting can be password-protected.  That’s about all you can do to filter web access and limit what they can download.  Heavy parent oversight and involvement is the solution for the Nook.

Options:

  1. Set up the password-protected Internet connection feature.  Turn it on only when you can supervise your kids’ access to the Internet.  Specific steps on how to do this from Barnes and Noble can be found here: http://cp-barnesandnoble.kb.net/kb/article?ArticleId=2765&source=Article&c=12&cid=2
  2. If you’re not satisfied with this option, then stick to buying real books or visiting the library for now, or consider one of the other 2 eReaders below.
  3. A more complicated option is to filter web access through your router, but that would require a ton of work that is best left to the most tech savvy and it would also filter everyone using Internet access in your house, not just your kids.  Seems like a lot of work for an inconvenient outcome in the end.

On the Kindle Fire:

The Kindle Fire allows you to turn Internet access on or off, and this setting can be password-protected.  There is an alternative option, however, which would require an additional 3rd-party app.

Options:

  1. Set up password-protected WiFi option.  This just lets you turn Internet access on or off when your kids are using the Kindle.  Additional instructions on how to do this from Amazon can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_k6land_restrictions?nodeId=200729250#restrictions
  2. There is a way to keep the browser on, but limit them to age-appropriate sites only.  The app is from Mobicip and can be found on the Google Play (Android) app store.  The cost is USD$4.99  More info @ http://www.mobicip.com/pricing

On the Apple iPad:

Apple has the most robust set of filtering options of these 3 devices.  It also allows you to limit the apps, movies, music, and t.v. shows downloaded by age range.

But these built-in features don’t do much as far as web browsing is concerned.  Like the others, your only option is to turn Internet access on or off (and require a password to do it if you want).  There is an option to allow filtered Internet access using a 3rd party app.

Options:

  1. To limit apps, movies, music, and t.v. shows by age, or other features of the iPad, go to:
    1. SettingsàGeneralàRestrictions (set a password for this)
    2. Under ‘Allowed Content’ you will see options to filter by age ratings: Music & Podcasts, Movies, TV shows, and Apps
    3. You can keep the browser on, but limit kids to age-appropriate sites only.  You’ll need to download an app from Mobicip and can be found in the Apple app store.  The cost is USD$4.99  More info @ http://www.mobicip.com/pricing

 (There are many more eReader/table options out there, but it would be difficult to cover them all.  For a list of what is currently available, take a look at this page from Wikipedia.  Towards the far right, you will see which ones have a web browser.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_readers)

As the price of eReaders continues to decline, they could become more attractive to buy for your kids.  If you choose to do it, just be sure to go in with your eyes open and understand everything you are getting yourself and them into.

In addition to limiting the content that your kids can access through eReaders, remember to teach them the basics about safe and responsible technology use.  For some general online safety tips, visit any of these sites:

www.trendmicro.com/internetsafety

www.connecdtsafely.com

www.commonsensemedia.org

www.onguardonline.gov

Follow Lynette on Twitter @lynettetowens

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5 Responses to “eReaders and Parental Controls”

  1. Catherine

    13. Apr, 2012

    Great piece, Lynette. I am so glad Natick parents have you a resource!

  2. Rob

    24. Apr, 2012

    Thanks for this Lynette. I use K9 web protection on PCs and this now seems to be available for iPad and apparently soon for Android, so it’s a good free resource covering at least some eReaders. It’s a shame that, as usual, security seems to be an afterthought by the manufacturers.

  3. Karen

    24. Apr, 2012

    Funny how I totally had smartphones dialed in but never thougth to worry about e-readers! Thanks for the insight!

  4. Valerie

    19. May, 2012

    I am contemplating buying either the Kindle Fire, Nook, or Ipad. Do ANY of these allow me to block or password protect only certain books from my children’s eyes (like 50 shades of Grey lol)?? I want to let the kids read their books but not necessarily all of mine, lol. The whole family will use the one device, but obviously I don’t want them stumbling upon Christian Gray if you catch my drift. But I do want them to have access to reading their own books on it. Help please?!

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