It’s Internet Safety Month: Do you know where your parental controls are?

June 24, 2022

Take a quick minute and count how many Internet-connected devices are in a kid’s hands every day. That older tablet, your old MP3 music player, smartwatches, gaming consoles, smartphones. What’s that number? Five? 10?

Turns out the average household owns 25 connected devices—a number that recently more than doubled in two years alone. This inevitably means that children are also accessing the internet, web, cloud-based apps and social networks and streaming content of all kinds from a growing variety of smart devices as well.

When it comes to internet safety and kids, smartphones (paired with activity monitoring apps) tend to be the devices that most immediately spring to mind. But as I often remind folks as a parent, futurist and the author of Parenting High-Tech Kids, there are many other forms of consumer electronics with options for your kids to message other like-minded, highly connected kids. And, for that matter, there are just as many ways of securing those devices that you can consider as well.

Here, you’ll find an overview of many of the most common devices that kids use to connect online and the parental control options available.

Computers and laptops

From web browsers and streaming apps to chat programs, e-mail and massively multiplayer online video games, there are many ways kids can connect and communicate using today’s computers. Many modern operating systems and software programs also come with parental controls built in, usually found in the device settings menu. Read through the user manual to find what parental controls are already built in to help manage screen time usage or Wi-Fi access.

Parental control options:

  • Check the settings menu for the device’s built-in controls.
  • Plus, explore options to download additional software and applications for an added layer of content monitoring.


Today’s phones are essentially personal computers with built-in cameras that fit in your pocket, offering instant access to entertainment, communications and content-sharing options plus downloadable content of all kinds. A host of free or paid software applications such as Smart Family for content filtering, monitoring and controls to limit access to the internet can help you protect kids using smartphones. So can the use of parental controls built into the phone’s operating system specifically designed for younger kids.

Parental control options:

  • Check the settings menu for the device’s built-in controls.
  • Plus, explore options to download additional apps and applications for an added layer of content monitoring.


Even humble eBook readers for reading digital books now offer access to apps that provide communications, gaming and socializing capabilities of every sort.

Parental control options:

  • Family-friendly settings and features are also built into many of these devices as a safeguard.

Music, MP3 or media players

If your kid loves playing with your old music players, take a quick look to see if there’s an option to connect to the internet. Many older models offer internet connectivity, Wi-Fi calling, texting and other capabilities.

Parental control options:

  • If you’re looking to best protect kids using these, consider purchasing an older model that lacks app download features.

Video games

With voice and video chats built into the gaming experience, shared online spaces are now inhabited by thousands of gamers. Today’s video game systems provide a host of parental control and content filtering options, but many of these gaming devices are every bit as powerful, connectable and customizable as a personal computer. It's important to teach kids how to use them responsibly and be a good digital citizen when playing online.

Parental control options:

  • Look for parental control options on the gaming console, or within the game or online multiplayer connectivity service itself. In addition to parental control settings, each game or service may offer further controls that help you govern communications and content, such as turning off in-app purchases, or restricting the download of any games with an ESRB rating that’s not safe for kids.
  • For mobile video games, you can also look at your phone’s settings menu, built-in parental controls, and individual apps and communications or connectivity services, which allow you to approve friend requests, mute or disable online chat features. Some filters and controls also offer some screening solutions to filter out swearing, or violence.
  • Talk together about how to stay safe and play safely online. For example, don’t share personal information, such as your home address or phone numbers, with other players.

Wearable devices, such as smartwatches and activity trackers

A variety of smartwatches for kids are designed to help you keep kids safe while they’re calling home or texting you from these wearables, like USA Today’s 2022 Editor’s Choice Award pick Verizon GizmoWatch 2. Parental control features let parents program the device with approved phone numbers for family members, friends and trusted adults. Some track kids’ movements using GPS monitoring, and offer timers, to-do lists and activity trackers. However, many models for adults offer far more access to the internet, plus calling and texting features, as well as downloadable apps of all sorts. Parents of younger kids (aged 3–11) would be well-served to stick with age-appropriate models.

  • Look for a smartwatch designed specifically for kids, where you can control the device from the companion app installed on the phone.

Smart speakers

In addition to streaming music, many Wi-Fi–connected speakers also include calling, texting and shopping options, and these can also be expanded through optional “skills” or app downloads. Companion apps for controlling them often offer families a way to filter content.

  • Connect the device to a family account, such as Amazon Kids for Alexa devices or Digital Wellbeing for Google smart speakers, which pull from a library of kid-appropriate content

Smart TVs

Surprise! It’s likely that even your humble living room TV is now internet-ready and easily customizable using downloadable apps in similar fashion as smartphones and tablets. As a parent, that means needing to tap into the built-in parental control features, leverage content management options and keep a close eye on your bill (for unwanted spending or subscriptions).

  • Explore the built-in parental control settings on your Smart TV, and read the user manual to get the best benefits from these settings.


From a safety standpoint, think about tablets as being similar to smartphones, with an oversized screen. Just like a smartphone, built-in safety and content filtering features—often accessed through settings menus or companion apps—can be added through the use of activity monitoring and content management apps.

  • Much like computers and smartphones, parental controls can be found in the settings menu on the device.
  • Additional content filtering and monitoring apps can also be installed.

VR headsets

Virtual reality (VR) headsets offer similar content and communication options. However, they’re designed to completely immerse the gamer in the experience, heightening believability, intensifying emotion and adding immediacy to every encounter. Many offer parental controls, content filtering and management settings (on-deck or via companion app), and software advisory warnings. Parents considering purchasing VR headsets and games for kids should plan to spend sometime teaching their kids key online safety habits and how to conduct themselves responsibly on the internet, as well as know where to turn for help if questions or concerns arise.

  • Parental controls and content filters can typically be set on the VR headset itself orin companion apps often found on mobile devices and computers.
  • Likewise, individual games and apps may offer their own built-in controls from within the app’s settings menu.

Now that you know which devices have some built in controls and where to find them, it’s also essential to check in with those devices from time to time to ensure that you’re installing the latest software updates—usually with increased security updates—and that your parental control settings are still intact.

Here's a quick list to help you stay on track.

Safety rules for kids and technology 

  • Make a point to routinely review and go hands on with new apps and device features to understand their capabilities as a parent.
  • Set up parental controls to limit access to unwanted websites, content, contacts and connection types, and protect these features with a secure password that kids can’t easily guess.
  • Understand devices’ photo, video and audio recording and sharing capabilities and teach kids to use them responsibly.
  • Regularly update your electronics’ software, safety and security features so they’re current.
  • Avoid connecting to public wireless networks where possible, as they may provide less security than private connections.
  • Restrict how much personal information that downloadable applications can share.
  • When possible, pre-program devices to limit communications to family and trusted friends and caregivers.
  • For GPS tracking devices, take time to configure alerts, safe zones (areas where it’s safe for kids to travel and play) and notifications to help you keep better tabs on kids’ movements.
  • When in doubt, opt out. If apps, social networks and online services give you the option of not sharing information, opt out, and if they demand unnecessary personal information, consider inserting a made-up substitute (e.g., a different birthday or location) instead.

Practice Internet Safety Month all year with Smart Family and easily track your kid’s activities online—as well as their location—from one easy app.

Written by

Scott Steinberg

Award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg writes for Verizon’s Parenting in a Digital World and is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists. A bestselling author, his books include Parenting High-Tech Kids, The Modern Parent’s Guide series and Think Like a Futurist. The head of consulting firm FutureProof Strategies: The Futurist Consulting Firm™, he helps companies adapt to emerging business and cultural trends.

The author has been compensated by Verizon for this article.