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Parental Control is Dead — Long Live Family Rules!

Sandra Proske

28.08.17 4 min. read

Most kids starting school for the first time this year will likely not spend very much of their lives sitting in front of a TV just waiting for something good to come on.

“Today’s children are digital natives who don’t have predefined models how to utilize technology, which means that they find new creative ways how to use it,” Timo Salmi, F-Secure Senior Product Marketing Manager, told me. “They pick the time and place when they watch the content they want to see whether on Snapchat, Youtube, Netflix or any other online service. They are used to clicking, pointing, or just asking to get whatever they want.”

The era of expecting to be able to “control” your kids online is over — if it ever existed.

As Timo and the other experts behind F-Secure TOTAL — which combines the award-winning protection behind both F-Secure SAFE and FREEDOME — began planning their updates for 2017, they spent a lot of time trying to understand how to help parents and kids improve their relationship with technology.

“We found that parents are primarily worried about two things – the amount of time their kids spend on their devices and keeping them away from bad stuff online,” he said.

To achieve these goals, parents set unique guidelines.

“Every family typically has certain rules for bedtime, family meals, washings hands and various other daily activities,” he said. “These rules are usually practical and adjusted over time as changes are needed. Families have clear examples how the rules are applied in other families – some are stricter, some give children more room.”

However, these rules often seem to disappear when it comes to using devices.

“Most parents didn’t grow up with smartphones and tablets laying around, tempting us. So lacking that structure in our own upbringing, we tend to create random or ad-hoc rules when something annoys us. But we are rarely systematic or consistent. And we don’t spend enough time explaining how to use devices, where, when, why… With Family Rules, we want to change this.”

Enter Family Rules

Instead of trying to lock kids off from the danger of the web and setting them free, the TOTAL team wanted to enable parents to set boundaries online in a similar way parents establish boundaries in the real world.

“We want parents to feel that establishing rules online is simple,” Timo said. “Our goal was to make Family Rules clear and understandable for both the child and the parent.”

Family Rules, which is available in both TOTAL and SAFE, isn’t just a new approach to digital parenting. It’s a new set of tools that enable parents to manage limits, filter content and locate their kids’ devices remotely so they can guide their children online from anywhere.

“The beauty of the web is it allows families to stay in touch while remaining independent,” Timo said. “From the beginning, Family Rules encourages openness.”

By developing rules together, kids are freed to explore, learn and build up trust in a way that prevents accidents from happening.

“Kids will always find a way around overly strict boundaries. The key is for parents and children to work together, so the child is an active participant in the decision on where limits should be set and why. And it’s a process that’s designed to reward good behavior and grow with your kids.”

This handy chart allows you to see the very practical differences from the old mode of digital parenting to today’s new model:

Parental Control Family Rules
Parents set it up for the child Parents set it up with the child
Blind restrictions on content Clear, negotiable boundaries
One-size-fits-all Suggests rules and profiles based on child’s age
Time limits Scheduled limits including a bedtime setting
Parents need access to child’s PC to manage Parents can add restrictions or permissions from anywhere, on any device (online)
Each device must be configured individually The same profile can to be applied to multiple devices

So now parents who use TOTAL aren’t just protecting their kids’ security and privacy, they’re also helping their kids learn the skills need to negotiate a world where everything comes to them.

That’s the kind of awareness that they can take everywhere, for the rest of their lives.


Sandra Proske

28.08.17 4 min. read


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