Can you believe it? 2014 is almost over. Thanksgiving is upon us and with it, comes the infamous “Black Friday”. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel excited, and sometimes a bit overwhelmed by all of the amazing tech deals that crop up this time of year. Android tablets, iPads, smart TV’s, you name it and someone’s offering a great deal on it. But, even though you can get a great deal on it, should you get it? Is it safe for you or your family? Hopefully, this article will take a bit of the guess-work out of your decision making process.
Let’s begin by looking at each tech category and then narrowing it down to a few specific devices. In all cases, we believe you should ask these questions:
- Does it have an internet connection?
- Does it have device-enabled parental controls?
- Will it run X3watch?
- Does it have a camera?
Each question is important. Internet enabled devices can open many doors for persons of all ages to learn about new places and cultures, but at the same time poor usage of the device can also expose users to inappropriate content, opening the door to a sex or pornography addiction, sexting or even cyber bullying. So, as we evaluate each category and device, we’ll be asking those questions.
iOS Devices (Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
These Apple smartphones and tablets are some of the holiday’s “must have” gadgets. They are so popular that some school systems are even assigning them to students (in all grade levels). These devices can be used for business, school work or personal use. They can be connected to the internet and all of them have cameras. Apple has built in some great parental controls and yes, X3watch does work on all of these devices.
All in all, when you combine Apples built-in iOS parental controls and X3watch, the device is pretty safe for most ages. If you do get this device for your kids, consider take the actions in this helpful video to ensure the safety of your users:
Android Tablets and Smartphones
These popular devices are also on many shoppers “must have” lists this season. Kids love them, parents love, and some business and schools love ‘em too. But these devices can be a bit harder to protect than Apple’s iOS devices. There are many reasons for this but it mostly stems from the fact that Android is a open-source OS and smartphone and tablet makers can customize these operating systems to meet their own specific requirements. As a result, parental controls can be lacking on some devices. Here’s what you need to know and what you need to look out for:
Android smartphones tend to have less parental control options than Android tablets do. If you’re looking to get a smartphone, ask the sales specialist or check the manufacturers website to see if the device has any device-enabled parental or admin controls. If it doesn’t, it will be harder to secure the device and prevent users from downloading new apps. You can still use apps like X3watch to give some protection, but there may be other ways to get online unmonitored.
Android tablets tend to have more device-enabled protections with the most common being “Android Restricted Profiles”. Check with the sales specialist about the parental and admin controls installed on the tablet you’re looking into. Also, check out this article for tips on setting up “Restricted Profiles” on Android tablets (like the Google Asus Nexus).
Almost all of these devices have cameras as well. This can often entice users to apps like SnapChat or Chat Roulette where inappropriate images can be exchanged. A common gateway for cyber-bullying and even sexting.
Windows Phones and Tablets
Over the past couple of years, Windows really has made great strides with their mobile products including phones and tablets. Even with their efforts, apps remain limited, especially parental control options. Used to, we were only seeing devices with the “RT” versions of Windows but over the past couple of months, we’re beginning to see devices that have full blown Windows 8.1 installed. You’ll be able to recognize them because they have an Intel Processor.
Device specifications and features vary widely from device to device. Some have cameras while others do not. Almost all of them have WiFi internet connectivity. If you’re looking to add a Windows Smartphone to your tech-arsenal, keep in mind that X3watch cannot be installed on Windows phones. Support for tablets is also very limited. If you’re shopping for a Windows tablet, we recommend staying away from anything running an “RT” version of Windows. Instead, opt for something running full-blown Windows 8.1 (like this one). You stand a much better chance at getting some protection installed on these devices, and they even come with some device-enabled parental controls as well. Click here for Surface parental control options.
Windows and Mac Computers
If you’re in the market for a new Windows or Mac computer this Black Friday, the toughest decision is deciding on which one to buy! All of these computers will connect to the internet, most of them will have cameras (perhaps the only exception is the Mac Mini). Both Windows and Mac offer device-enabled parental controls, but with X3watch installed, you won’t need to use them.
If you do choose a new Windows or Mac computer this holiday season, we recommend:
- Placing the device in a family room where the user’s activity can be observed.
- Adding a good antivirus software to your machine. This will help keep your new machine running fast for years to come.
- Installing X3watch before letting anyone browse the internet. Here’s how.
Streaming Media Devices (Apple TV, ChromeCast, Etc.)
Streaming media devices are becoming a hot commodity among entertainment loving internet dwellers. In my home, my Apple TV is the epicenter of entertainment. I get most of my movies from this device and even watch Hulu and Netflix through it. None of these devices support third party content filters including X3watch. If you’re looking to add one of these devices to you home, here’s some quick “need to know” info about the most popular devices:
This device connects to the internet and allows users to sign-in with their Apple ID. After singing in, you can purchase or rent movies or television shows. This devices comes with third part apps that allow access to Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Vimeo, Disney, HBO, ESPN and other networks.
AppleTV does have device-enabled parental controls, but unlike an iPhone or an iPad, AppleTV’s controls are much more limited. Features include turning off/on the ability to purchase new content (shows or movies) and the ability to restrict both movies and television shows based on their rating (R, PG-13, MA, etc.). AppleTV does not have a camera.
Roku devices connect to the internet and allow users stream online content from a computer or tablet to their television sets. Content providers (Apps) include YouTube, Pandora, Crackle, TED, Netflix, Hulu Plus and more.
Roku devices will not run X3watch. Device-enabled parental control options are pretty weak and are limited to a four digit pin to prevent the installation of new channels (See here). Some other options would be to use parental control settings inside apps (like Hulu or Netflix) to get a little more protection.
Chromecast (by Google) connects to the internet and gives users the ability to stream content from their tablets, smartphones or computers to their televisions. Supported apps include YouTube, Vimeo and others.
Chromecast will not run X3watch and there are no device-enabled parental controls. To have any real type of parental controls, one would need an Android tablet that supports “Restricted Profiles” (click here for more info). Android tablets that do support restricted profiles can be set up and configured with a “safe” account that users can log into when using Chromecast. This will allow device administrator to block off certain apps from being accessible. It’s worth noting that apps like Hulu and Netflix allow users to log into their accounts and configure some content restrictions.
Smart TV’s are televisions that have devices installed inside them that allows the set top to connect to the internet and stream content from pre-installed applications. The most common apps are Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and other social media apps.
These devices will not run X3watch and device-enabled parental controls vary greatly, but are typically weak, relying almost exclusively on the apps themselves (like Hulu and Netflix) to manage this. We did find that Samsung Smart TV’s do have a “Kids Mode” available, but may not be pre-installed on all models.
X3watch recommends that you check with a sales specialist or even the manufacturer about parental controls for the devices you’re looking for. There are a lot of great deals on these televisions this holiday season.