SALT LAKE CITY — Most kids have cellphones or tablets and are constantly texting or using social media, and experts say parents should use apps to monitor their children's online activity.
According to a Nielsen 2013 survey, 70 percent of U.S. teens carry cell phones, and Russ Warner, the CEO of Net Nanny, is in the business of protecting kids online. His best advice to parents is to be aware of what is out there and to plan in advance.
"Put a plan into place because kids like to feel protected," Warner said. "They like to feel like mom or dad is helping."
According to a 2011 Pew Study, almost 90 percent of children have seen cyber bullying in the last year. The Journal of the American Medical Association found 50 percent of kids have been asked to sext. However, Warner said only 50 percent of parents talk with kids about avoiding these encounters.
"That means the other half don't and that's a problem," he said.
Warner often speaks to parent groups concerned about keeping their teens safe.
"Often times if we can't control or we don't understand something we avoid it, and we can't do that anymore, " said Stephanie Hibbert at a presentation in the Holladay Library.
Hibbert said the parents need to talk to their children about online danger, and then they need to install security software. Parents should be aware of who is trying to communicate with their children and what content they are viewing online.
Warner said parents also need to understand phone settings. iPhone settings come with restrictions that are easy to set. Parents can enable restrictions with a code that they know, and their child does not. Parents can also set phones to not allow apps to be downloaded without a passcode.
Warner said knowing that they aren't going to stumble across something inappropriate actually makes children feel more secure. KSL tested five different security apps. All five apps give users different levels of security and monitoring on phones. The features included app monitoring, blocking content, and what content the app allows the user to monitor.
App Certain will email parents when their child downloads a new app, and will provide an analysis about that app like if the app has expensive in-app purchases or accesses your contact list. Parents can also utilize a "curfew mode" which gives the remote access ability to turn off their children's access to their apps and games.
Norton Family Parental Control
Cost: Free ($50 option)
The free version allows users to see which websites their kids are visiting from their computer or mobile device and allows parents to block specific sites. Users also can receive a 7-day history of their child's online activities. For parents worried about cyber bullying, the paid version installs on all computers in the home and android phone users can see their child's text messages.
K-9 Browser is a top-rated browser that individuals can use instead of the Internet Browser that comes with a phone service. The app will block adult content. It's available for the iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android and desktop computer.
Cost: $5 per month
Mobile Watchdog allows users to monitor all cell phone activity on Android devices — text messaging, application use, and browsing use. The app will send you an email of a child's mobile phone activity.
Cost: Apple: $4.99; Net Nanny social: $20; Android: $12.99
Net Nanny has mobile monitoring services for Android and Apple that will help block adult content. It also offers Net Nanny Social which allows their software to screen for cyber bullying or unsafe activity. If anything unsafe is detected, parents receive an alert. Parents can also login and see all social media activity in a dashboard.
Brooke McLay said she balances all of the steps with setting up restrictions, and her goal is to get to the point where she can give her four children the access they crave.
"One is helping my kids learn freedom and responsibility for themselves and their own choices and trying to maintain enough control so that they aren't out of control," she said.