No one wants to be the overbearing parent who doesn’t give their kids privacy - but in this day and age, everyone knows exactly what kind of nasty, gnarly content kids can find online if they’re left alone long enough.
Even young kids are finding bizarre and age-inappropriate content online - YouTube recently had a well-publicized scandal in which they acknowledged that bizarre videos featuring children’s characters with upsetting content were being posted on their website and receiving thousands of views from unsuspecting kids left with a device.
And evidence suggests that being exposed to some of the harsher, more violent or overtly sexual content posted on the internet without supervision can affect a child’s psychological development. With more kids getting phones and access to the internet at younger and younger ages, parents really have to evaluate whether monitoring internet usage is really such an overbearing action after all.
No, you don’t want to invade your child’s privacy. But not all phone usage is the same, and there are more sophisticated options than ever to monitor your kid’s phone usage without necessarily going through their device yourself every day.
Monitoring allows you to control content
There are lots of options that allow parents to not only monitor what websites your kids are visiting, but also see how long they’re spending on sites, preemptively block access to certain content with parental controls and even receive notifications if your child performs a particular action. Services like NetNanny and Safe Eyes give you total control over your kid’s access to the internet. Other features go farther and include GPS tracking so you can monitor where your kids are via their smartphones, if you’re so inclined.
Some systems can even enable you to see what’s on your child’s screen using a VPN, which might mean you can do things like read their messages and see their personal social media accounts, but this may be where many parents choose to draw the line. Social media is a modern day diary for many kids, a private space where they can talk away from their parents - it’s important to find a balance between monitoring for safe behavior, and allowing your children to have a space to develop without being monitored.
Don’t lie about your monitoring
Some parents struggle with deciding about whether to come clean to their kids about their internet monitoring habits. They may choose to install monitoring programs without saying anything, or may leave out key features about what the monitoring equipment does, choosing only to bring it up if they discover something they don’t like and want to confront their child about.
This is probably a bad idea for a number of reasons. For one, it instills a level of distrust in your children, who may be blindsided by finding out they’ve been “spied on” by their parents. Telling your child honestly will open up the conversation and allow them to feel like they understand the parameters you set clearly.
One important thing to keep in mind when you choose to install monitoring systems and keep an eye on your child’s internet activity is that kids are virtually always better than adults at handling new technology, and that includes finding ways to circumvent parental blocks and monitoring system. Don’t expect that any system you use will work flawlessly, and understand that your kids attempting to circumvent your systems is also a natural part of teenage development in the era of the internet. When it comes to monitoring your kids’ internet use, it can sometimes feel like a losing battle. And parents will always struggle with the ethics of how much privacy they should afford their child. But staying generally aware of what your kids are doing online and letting them know you’re keeping track can make a world of difference in a child’s online behavior and attitude towards the internet. Indicating you care may go a long way in and of itself.