As we move deeper into the 21st century, parents can’t ignore the challenges of the digital age when it comes to keeping children safe, healthy, and happy. Unfortunately, however, modern problems make monitoring our children’s digital activity that much harder. For instance, when COVID-19 emerged, many of us were left working from home with limited childcare options. Limiting screen time in this situation takes boundaries, best practices, and parental control applications and technologies.
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Among these technologies are Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). APIs offer the convenience and transparency needed to connect users to ideal experiences. This is the case even for parents trying to cultivate digital safety for their children. As we collectively explore solutions to one of the biggest parenting concerns of the time, APIs can help. Here, we explore how.
Setting Limits on Screen Time
For children and adults alike, screen time can hugely impact our health. That’s because overuse of electronic devices has been linked to all kinds of negative health correlatives. For instance, one study of 32,000 students in grades 8-10 found that those who viewed screens more often also drank more soda and energy drinks. The overconsumption of these products in children has been linked to Type 2 diabetes and even heart disease.
Fortunately, the same study found that students are consuming less of these unhealthy products. However, parents still have to be on guard from all the other negative effects that can come from too much screen time. In fact, sleep specialists recommend that everyone — children and adults — turn off electronic devices at least two hours before bed to avoid the melatonin-suppressing blue light emitted by screens.
Setting and maintaining a healthy electronic schedule for your children is where APIs come in. For a variety of devices and operating systems, many APIs are now on the market that streamline screen time controls. This means that parents no longer have to go into every single app on a child’s device to cultivate the kinds of limits they want to enforce.
APIs are uniquely capable of this because of their function as a communicator. In this case, it communicates with the range of applications and websites accessible from a device. An effective parental control API gives developers the framework to communicate with these various platforms without compromising privacy or security — more necessities for protecting children in the digital age.
Improving Digital Privacy
In the wake of data breaches, unethical use of data, and various other digital privacy concerns, parents recognize the importance of a private online experience more than ever. Without comprehensive tools for cultivating such an experience, children’s data and personal information are at risk of exposure. This has been a problem for parental control applications in the past, as many resorted to risky Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology to do the job of an API.
MDM tech was not meant for consumer use. Instead, these tools were intended to be utilized by business managers that need to secure employee devices for a high-risk network. Naturally, this means that MDM functionality is thoroughly invasive, able to monitor everything from camera permissions to browser activity. When Apple eradicated a lot of its most popular parental control applications, it cited MDMs as the reason.
As opposed to MDMs, APIs can communicate across applications and websites on a device without putting children at risk with potentially invasive technology. Instead, APIs like the Screen Time system recently launched by Apple allow developers to make use of existing device frameworks while expanding on the functionality of parental controls. By integrating Apple’s new parental control API, developers can create apps that run on iOS and can authenticate parents and the rules they set for their children.
And the best part? This API returns only opaque tokens rather than identifiers for apps and websites. With privacy like this, parents can feel safe knowing their children’s data won’t be taken and used to target them with advertisements and unwanted online attention.
Protecting Children From Harmful Content
The comprehensive capabilities of an API ensure that built-in protections go farther than most other parental control schemes. That’s because only an API can assess data points across a device or user profile and respond appropriately. In the course of keeping children safe from all that’s dangerous on the web, these tools are instrumental in app development.
New APIs are being rolled out all the time that change the ways we build tools and protect people. In one major example, Google rolled out an AI-powered Content Safety API designed to protect children through combatting child sexual abuse material (CSAM). This API targets new content not confirmed to be CSAM and is available for free to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and industry partners united in making the world a safer place.
Through the integration of content moderation APIs, children’s applications can be better protected against all kinds of dangers. The always-increasing availability of these tools empowers developers to create safer experiences than were previously possible, all through the availability and accessibility of information.
Enhancing Educational Opportunities
The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly impactful in regards to the shift it’s created in education. Now, the number of students logging in virtually is changing the face of educational technology, and APIs are among the tools gaining popularity. That’s because APIs offer the connective tissue that administrators and teachers need to find quality educational resources and present them to students in a safe and accessible way.
From Google Classroom to Khan Academy, all sorts of educational APIs lend transparency to the vast world of information available online. Then, REST API frameworks offer the privacy, security, and transparency needed for students as they check their grades and manage assignments. These tools even support browser inclusivity, making them useful to a wide range of students. From here, it’s just a matter of using these interfaces to find one of the thousands of educational videos, rosters, or other course materials.
Now, educational APIs are enabling online learning by helping educators adjust on the fly, maintain data security, and even create incentives for children to learn at home with their digital devices without compromising other screen time limits. For the parents of children attending school from home, this means options.
For instance, parental control APIs can engage with the larger marketplace of educational content available to students. Parents might even use such a system to set incentives for their kids that encourage learning alongside healthy digital habits. This could mean opening up additional screen time or favorite games and apps after completing a certain amount of time on educational activities.
Additionally, APIs might remind children to work on homework or chores before or after digital content is accessed. All these benefits can make it simple and easy for parents to encourage education — even while working from home.
Providing Parental Solutions
The range of potential for parental control APIs supports everything from healthy screen use to better education. Developers have only to access and build on these tools to support parents in the digital age, and as the tech advances, so too does the potential for fostering positive online experiences for kids.
There is exceptional value in APIs that do everything parents need them to do to simplify protecting their children online. Build these parental control experiences and do your part to make the digital age a safer place for anyone to grow up in.
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