Protecting Your Kids: Learning Smart TV Parental Controls
Smart TV is a new category of television that combines some of the features of a computer, such as search and Web browsing, with the apps of a smartphone and the dazzling display of an HDTV into one tantalizing package. Over the next three years, sales of smart TVs will nearly quadruple, according to Display Search, and TV manufacturers will offer their own bundles of apps, including a Web browser, storage for your own photos and videos and a search function that connects the different media sources.
That open connection to the Internet may prove hazardous to kids, but there's a simple way to protect your family with a device that you probably already own.
From your router
If you own a wireless router, you can set parental controls from the router for your smart TV plus every device that receives an Internet connection from it, including Xbox systems, iPhones and laptops.
Most routers include controls for filtering Internet content and setting time limits on use. Parental controls are set from your computer by logging into the manufacturer's site.
For instance, Netgear's Wireless-N 150 router is widely available for around $40 and offers free parental controls that can be downloaded from Netgear's site.
Once installed, you can set up your account and choose from five parental control settings. The highest setting blocks all adult-related sites, illegal activity, phishing attacks and social network and video sharing sites that could be distracting.
Parents can set up separate accounts for each member of the family and change a child's protection level from any Internet connection. They can assign different levels to different times in the day, so that Facebook may be blocked from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. for homework, but available from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. For example, if you've made social networking sites off-limits during homework time and one of your kids needs access to YouTube for an assignment, you can quickly add an exception from wherever you are as long as you have access to the Internet.
In-TV menu options
Similar to smartphones, smart TVs offer apps for watching and purchasing movies, playing games and accessing information such as weather and stock quotes that are independent of the Web browser. You may choose to delete or lock any of these apps.
Use your remote to access settings and create a password for the TV. This will ensure that the changes you make to the accessibility of apps on the TV can't be changed by others. Once you have a password, go to the security or service manager menu and disable the apps you don't want or use.
You may also want to filter TV shows and movies on your smart TV based on standard ratings. In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules requiring all television sets with picture screens 13 inches or larger to be equipped with features to block the display of television programming based upon standard TV ratings.
The rating system, also known as "TV Parental Guidelines," was established by the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable Television Association and the Motion Picture Association of America. These ratings are displayed on the television screen for the first 15 seconds of rated programming; working in conjunction with a v-Chip inside the TV, parents can use it to block selected programming.
Use your remote control to access this feature (usually found under "menu" or "settings") to allow only the content that's appropriate for your family.
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