What is the right age to stop monitoring children’s online activity? Parents give their opinion

When it comes to protecting children online, parents have myriad worries, although most take advantage of parental control software, which they find largely effective, according to the latest PCMag Tech Parenting survey.

The biggest question most parents face is when should their children have access to internet-connected devices? Age 10 appears to be the median age – the pivotal year when 17% of parents and guardians hand out a device.

The ages of 8 and 12 are also popular milestone ages; 11 and 9 are not – someone is doing something fun for 9 year olds! From the age of 12 the numbers go down, but that’s probably because by this point kids have already convinced most parents to hand them a permanent screen they can control.

Control is the big deal. Giving a child access to a device means opening them up to a vast world of information, entertainment, and community, as well as a host of other concerns. When asked about their top fears about what might impact their children online, parents’ lists are long and varied. Chief among them are online predators, exposure to inappropriate content, and addiction to technology.

The good thing is that many of these issues can be (somewhat) alleviated with parental control software, if used wisely. Fortunately, the majority of parents in our survey currently use or have used the built-in parental controls on their children’s technology devices.

The most used control is the ability to see what kids are browsing and what they are doing. Does it work? Check out the chart at the top – it turns out most people find parental control features and apps somewhat to very effective.

The built-in parental control features are far from the most powerful tools. We’ve reviewed plenty of third-party parental control software that beef up control options and asked parents which brands they’re most familiar with.

Norton has a leg up on the rest, and that’s fine with us, as Norton Family is our current Editors’ Choice award winner. The reason we love it the most is that it encourages dialogue between children and parents. It’s not just for spying and blocking, but it’s also.

When you give a device to a child, it will determine how long a parent will monitor it, although not all parents agree on when they should let go of control. As we’ve shown in our previous survey coverage, parents tend to agree that they need to watch children until around age 10. After that, the numbers start to rise as to when to disable parental controls.

The majority, 31%, say they are 18 for sure. But there are also 17% who say they will quit at 16. However, there is no perfect age. In some homes, you can trust an 8-year-old child; in others, you may still want or need active parental controls for much longer. It all depends on the “child”.

For this story, we asked 1,079 U.S. parents with kids under 18 who go online to complete our PCMag Tech Parenting survey between May 20-23, 2022. Learn more about the PCMag survey Tech Parenting, read our previous coverage:

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