Big mother is watching
With MXit adding parental control, are teens’ days of online freedom numbered?
While stumbling across the web last week I found a video of a boy, let's call him Andrew, who was begging, pleading and basically throwing a tantrum because his parents told him to stop playing an online game. If only his parents had known about a little thing called Parental Control the whole argument could have been avoided.

It's a common scenario. Your teen spends way too much time on the ‘net, you have to scream and shout to get him to the dinner table where at least one of their siblings has a phone stuck to her hand. Well, at least they're eating, right?

Technology is addictive, but there are ways that parents can monitor what they do. This week MXit revealed that it is releasing a parental control function just in time for the school holidays. Parents will be able to use a password that disables public chatrooms where the most danger lies. Aside from the new parental control feature, it also has a profanity filter option. This option is turned on automatically in the Teenzone chatrooom.

Teenagers also spend a lot of time online playing games such as World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, DoTa, Halo or Gears of War. Blizzard Entertainment, the creator of such games has also implemented a parental control system whereby parents can control the amount of time that their children can play. Online games can be addictive and their schoolwork is most likely to suffer. Once again parents use a password to set up play schedules. There are several preset schedules to choose from. You can choose to limit their time to evenings, weekends or to after-school only.

Another channel that provides control for Parents is DSTV. By using a password you can set the decoder to only show family viewable material. If a program that is rated 16 or higher comes on a password request pops up.

Software such as Childsafe and WinGuardian allows parents to block certain sites and monitor their children's internet activity. A list of other parental control software can be found here.

While these software programs can be pricey, they ensure peace of mind. This doesn't mean that parent's responsibility stops there. Parents should always be aware – tech-savvy kids are quite wily at guessing or hacking passwords.

Technology is fast moving and parents need to keep up in order to keep an eye on their kids. Also young Andrew would have been saved the embrarrasment of his team mates hearing his tantrum over Team Speak and then posting it on YouTube. Welcome to technology.

How much freedom should teens have online? How useful do you find parental control functions?

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