How to talk to your kids about using Verizon’s Smart Family Companion app

By: Molly McGinn

Kids may not understand why you’re using parental controls. Get tips for talking with kids about how the Verizon Smart Family Companion app works.

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Mother And Daughter Having Conversation About Verizon’s Smart Family App

Kids love apps. TikTok? Got it. BeReal? Got it. But when it comes to a parental control app, like the Smart Family Companion app—do they “got it?” Maybe not.

It’s an age thing. Some teens want to get around parental controls, but preteens may actually want help staying safe online. Teens may delete the companion app or do a factory reset to remove it, according to a Family Online Safety Institute study. But 7 out of 10 preteens actually want parents to use filters to keep them safe.

Verizon’s Smart Family parental controls only work if kids keep the companion app installed on their phones. But kids may not understand how they work or why parents are using them. For example, does a parental control app mean parents will start reading kids’ private messages? In most cases, no.

Kids value their privacy. Yet parents want to keep their kids safe online. Parental control services like Verizon Smart Family were designed with these concerns and responsibilities in mind. So the conversation about using them needs to balance both sides of the equation. It’s helpful to have that conversation before the Verizon Smart Family Companion app ever goes on that phone.

To help guide the conversation, here are five important (and true) statements to share with your kids when you talk about using parental controls.

“I’m responsible for keeping you safe online.”

Parents have a moral responsibility to protect their children, and that includes keeping them safe online. Parental control services like Verizon Smart Family help parents keep their kids’ digital lives in balance by doing things like shutting off data and Wi-Fi at bedtime or dinnertime, or blocking inappropriate websites and apps, all of which can enhance a child’s sense of well-being as well as their digital safety.

“I know you care about your digital privacy.”

Kids value their privacy, and there are laws to protect them. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), requires websites and apps to get parental consent before collecting personal information about kids under the age of 13.

Many kids want to have private conversations and interactions online, yet there are situations where parental monitoring is necessary—especially when the child’s safety or well-being is at stake. To help strike the right balance it might be helpful to think about protecting their privacy online as you would offline. Most parents would not read personal journals or listen in on phone conversations. But parents often keep tabs on who their child is spending time with and closely monitor interactions that present higher risk, including interactions with strangers and adults outside those trusted circles.

By striking the right balance between privacy and safety, parents can help kids develop a healthy relationship with technology. Verizon Smart Family was designed with child privacy and the parent-child relationship in mind.

“I won’t see the content of your text messages with friends, but I can see who you’re calling or texting.”

Gen Z is making friends differently: They’d rather text than hang out in person. Group chats are the new mall hang. So parents need another way to see who their kids are making friends with, who they’re texting and how it’s affecting their self-esteem.

“I can’t see messages you’re sending in social media, but I can see how often you’re using it and apply content filters to keep you from seeing inappropriate content.”

Kids today are finding real connections online, discovering their digital identities and using social media apps as a creative outlet, according to a recent Pew Research study. That same study shows that kids understand the emotional charge they get from social media—both positive and negative. Parents need to know if social media is affecting a child’s well-being by keeping an eye on what apps they’re using, for how long and how it’s affecting them.

Verizon Smart Family shows parents what social media apps their kids are using and lets them set content filters to block inappropriate apps and content. But it won’t let parents see how the apps are being used or what their kids are messaging in such apps.

“I’ll get a notification if you see something inappropriate on your device.”

Kids are wired to be curious. They’ll be looking around. And if something sets off a content filter, Smart Family will send parents a notification that something inappropriate was viewed on their kids’ phones. Parents won’t see the specific content viewed, but they would see the Web address that set off the content filter. That notification is intended to prompt a conversation—not expose the content.

Talk with your kids about how the companion app protects their privacy and provides other benefits, such as crash detection, a quick text for an after-school pickup, updates on battery levels and more. It can be a delicate subject, so approach the topic with empathy and understanding. By explaining the risks of the internet and the benefits of using parental controls, parents can help their kids stay safe as they explore and enjoy the digital world.

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Talk about why you’re using Smart Family

  1. “You care about your privacy. And I’m responsible for keeping you safe online.”
  2. “I won’t see the content of your text messages with friends, but I can see who you’re calling or texting.”
  3. “I can’t see messages you’re sending in social media, but I can see how often you’re using it.”
  4. “I’ll get a notification if you see something inappropriate.”

Get the app parents and their kids are talking about to stay safe online: Verizon Smart Family.

About the author:

Molly is an award-winning tech and child development writer for Parenting in the Digital World.


The author has been compensated by Verizon for this article.

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