1. Common Sense Media
If ever you’re curious about how age-appropriate something is for your child, you don’t have to look much further than this mother lode of a site — like the Holy Grail of media monitoring, it has everything from reviews to recommendations for movies, games, TV, books, apps, websites and music. You can explore by age, type of media or nearly any other thing your maternal heart desires. We’re pretty partial to the Family Guides tab, which suggests essential apps, books, movies and more that correlate to your kids’ age groups.
If your main concern is the ever-shifting scale of appropriateness in movies, Kids-In-Mind might be just the ticket (see what I did there?) for you. Instead of simply getting a broad — and let’s face it, difficult-to-decipher — rating like PG-13, this super-helpful site gives objective ratings on a scale of 1 to 10 in three main categories: Sex/Nudity, Violence/Gore, Profanity. For example, you might be surprised to learn that the new Griswolds reboot, Vacation, scored 7 for Sex/Nudity, 6 for Violence/Gore and 9 (yep!) for Profanity.
Here, we begin to wade into the waters of protection you pay for. A collaborative online tool, TrueCare serves to connect parents and kids in the plight against potential Internet dangers. The resource is not about spying on your kids, though. Rather, it simply helps you monitor their activities — that is, when and where they are accessing social media accounts such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google+.
Other benefits include screening tools that help identify your kids’ online acquaintances and, very important, Adult Friend Alert, which signals you anytime an adult friends your child online. And really, $10 a month doesn’t seem like much to pay for peace of mind.
For the parents who want a bit more control and don’t mind paying the nominal $10-per-month fee, uKnowKids offers one of the most comprehensive digital dashboards around. For less than the price you possibly spend on lattes in a year, you can find out who your child interacts with online most frequently, when they are on social media, at what times they are most active on their cellphone and much more. You can even review content and comments they post online. In fact, uKnowKids will alert you to risky posts and people and translate text lingo. Score!
5. Net Nanny
Featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, Time,Newsday and on USA Today, MSNBC and more, Net Nanny is no joke, y’all. This powerful parental control program was created to protect families from terrifying (and all too real) digital dangers, such as pornography, online predators and cyberbullying.
The program’s easy-to-use features include classics, like an Internet filter and customizable user profiles, as well as convenient upgrades. Think social media monitoring, remote admin function, time management controls and a profanity blocker.
Are you one of those parents who voraciously reads online forums and other written resources? Then you’re going to love StaySafeOnline. Powered by the National Cyber Security Alliance, this info-packed site’s mission is to educate and thereby empower parents to use — and help their kids use — the Internet safely and securely at home, school or on the go. To that end, it is chock-full of easy-to-understand infographics, tips for keeping your home computer and mobile devices “clean,” guides for raising digital citizens and much, much more.