From a parent who does nothing and hopes for the best to a mom or dad who wants to monitor for potential safety concerns, there are plenty of viewpoints on monitoring a child’s technology. No matter where you land on this spectrum, I think it’s safe to say we all want to be safe and thoughtful digital parents because we all want our kids to be smart about technology (along with everything else).
Like most things, when it comes to a family’s policy on technology, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach. What one family deems necessary, another may find inadequate, while yet another assumes is way overboard. It wasn’t until I started digging into Trepid Tech Mom that I formed an opinion on the topic and that is: monitoring children's technology, in one form or another, is an essential part of modern parenting.
Parenting evolves with every generation.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, my parents talked with me openly about the power of the Internet, dangers of sharing personal info online and the fact that nothing we do with technology ever really “goes away.” Our family’s computer sat prominently in the kitchen and family room area visible for all to see—which was (and still is) good practice. With one parent a Systems Analyst at a local University, my folks were aware of monitoring software but, in the end, trusted me to be safe and responsible online based on our ongoing conversations about the topic (yes, I’ve even confirmed this decades later). A simpler time many would say seeing as a flip-phone was the “cool” cell phone to have—for emergencies only, of course.
Fast forward a couple of decades to today and the world—both online and off—is different in many ways. When it comes to tech most of the things parents of young children have to worry about now were never on the radar for my parents or many in their generation. It’s because of this that monitoring children’s technology is an essential part of modern parenting.
Monitoring is about keeping kids safe.
Trusting children is one thing—and many parents and caregivers do—however, there’s plenty of proof we should be aware of what others are doing online as it pertains to our children as well. As noted by NetSmartz, while using social media, children, and teens may have to deal with inappropriate content, cyberbullying, identity thieves, sexting and potential online predators. That’s no small task for developing young minds so it’s our responsibility, as adults, to help guide kids and keep them safe like we would anything in life.
If monitoring your child’s technology sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Common Sense Media provides a handy-dandy guide to parental controls which covers what we need to know.
Being open and honest with kids is good.
While it’s possible to monitor a device without your child's knowledge (some would say that’s “spying”), most highly encourage parents and caregivers to discuss tech monitoring with kids. Check out Common Sense Media’s talking points which can help build trust with your child when using parental controls.
While you’re having “the tech talk” with kids, consider creating your family’s smartphone contract, as suggested by Cool Mom Tech. Talk about parental controls, limits that will be set, who is ultimately responsible if a device is broken (ugh). Also, consider talking about standards expected of all family members, how kids should respond to alarming info or interactions, potential consequences, and more. HealthyChildren.org, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, offers a handy way to create Personalized Family Media Use Plan as well.
And, perhaps, most importantly, make sure kids know they can come to you with anything, anytime.
Bark — Parental control phone tracker app
Since speaking out as a Trepid Tech Mom, I was approached by Bark, an Internet safety app for kids and teens, to join a team of parents dedicated to helping keep our kids safer online and in real life. Today, I’m proud to be part of the group and serve as a Bark Ambassador. Many households use Bark to monitor their families online behavior and feel peace of mind knowing they will be alerted to any potential online dangers. It monitors iOS, Android, and Amazon mobile devices and alerts parents when it detects potential threats or signs of danger, like cyberbullying, Internet predators, and sexting.
Beyond that, Bark can also help detect suicidal thoughts and depression, which is, sadly, a very real problem for many children, as noted in the recent KATU News story, Bullying looks a lot different today than in the past:
According to Bark’s data, nearly 32% of tweens and 46% of teens had conversations about depression and/or anxiety. About 23% of tweens and 36% of teens were involved with a self-harm or suicidal situation.
Bark has earned awards from The National Parenting Center, Mom’s Choice Awards, and National Parenting Product Awards. But what is even more impressive is they offer what is called Bark for Schools at no cost—over 700 school districts around the U.S. partner with Bark for Schools to monitor their students’ accounts. But wait, there’s more …
In partnership with parents and schools:
2.8 million children protected.
16 school shootings prevented.
10,000 severe self-harm situations detected.
Let that sink in. That is why we monitor a child’s technology. That is why monitoring a child’s technology is an essential part of modern parenting. To keep our kids safe. To keep our kids’ schools safe. To keep our families safe.
WHY PARENTS LIKE BARK
Parents and caregivers like Bark because it helps keep kids safe online without spending hours combing through a child’s phone or multiple online accounts. For many families, this approach builds trust and opens the lines of communication. What I think is one of the best parts about Bark is the fact that parents receive automatic alerts when Bark detects potential issues, along with expert recommendations from child psychologists for addressing them.
WHY KIDS LIKE BARK
Let’s be honest. Most kids aren’t going to be thrilled their life online is being monitored. That said, they’re usually open to Bark because it can help protect them online WITHOUT parents tuning into every single online interaction. Again, Bark highly encourages families to have open discussions about online safety and how using Bark helps. Learn more about how to talk with your kids about Bark.
WANT TO GIVE IT A TRY?
As a Bark Ambassador, I like that Bark is trusted by parents, approved by schools, and monitors 4x more platforms than any other tool for predators, adult content, sexting, cyberbullying, depression, suicidal thoughts, drug use, and more. Perhaps it’s the right fit for your family. I encourage any parent or caregiver to give Bark—or some form of monitoring—a try to help keep your children safer online.
Start your FREE trial today and receive 20% off Bark by using my link: https://www.bark.us/signup?ref=RHH2N8X.
Feel free to download this Bark informational flyer with my promo code to display at your work, school, church, etc.
Find out what Bark monitors on Android devices, Apple devices, Amazon devices, and computers here. Then check out Bark’s FAQs, as well as The Bark Blog for the Connected Family for topics like Internet safety tips, parenting hacks, teen suicide prevention, and more.
“Trepid Tech Mom” reminders
No parent, child, or monitoring tool is ever perfect. It is always possible that something could be missed, or that alerts will lead to no actual issue (which is a good thing!). That said, as caregivers, we take many precautions when it comes to our family such as locking doors at night, securing safety belts in the car, wearing helmets, and more. When we give our kids a phone, we should also have a plan in place to monitor online activity to keep them safe.
Remember: Monitoring tools are there to help families stay safer. However, they are not a replacement for a parent who is there to help guide their children and teach them how to be good digital citizens.
Here’s to safe and thoughtful digital parenting!
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