Today’s parents are in uncharted territory. The biggest thing that your mom had to worry about was whether or not there was going to be alcohol or drugs at that party that you wanted to go to when you were 16. At the very least, she had a decent handle on who the main people in your life were. Today, there are strangers in your child’s bedroom, figuratively speaking. They are at time in their lives where they are developing meaningful relationships, and some of them are with people that you will probably never meet. This makes a parent’s job more difficult than ever.
Yet you can still keep them safe, without having to alienate them. Here’s how.
Why You Should Monitor Your Child’s Online Activity
It’s time to bring up the scary statistics. It would be very easy to read these and want to march into your kid’s room, snatch that phone or tablet out of their hands, and throw it out of the window. Resist that temptation. Online interaction is now a normal part of life, and it is much more helpful when we teach kids how to safely navigate them, rather than being afraid. So with that being said…
- 1 in 5 children are solicited for sex online.
- Only 25% of the kids & teens who are solicited for sex online ever tell an adult about it.
- More than half of the teens and adolescents online are subjected to cyber bullying at some point.
- Only 10% of kids & teens who are cyber-bullied ever tell an adult about it.
*statistics courtesy of Crimes Against Children Research Center
I could give you a list of 40 alarming statistics instead of 4, but you get the point. They are encountering dangerous situations online, and they’re probably not telling you about them.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes Before You Talk to Them
Their reasons for not wanting you to monitor their online activity are valid, and it’s important to remember that. They are worried that they are going to be judged, criticized, and misunderstood by you. As they get older, it is developmentally appropriate for them to want to have private conversations and develop their own relationships. That’s okay. When you discuss how you are going to monitor your child’s online activity, do it from a place of respect. Their feelings have merit too.
Let them know exactly what you’re going to do, and exactly what you’re looking for. Whether it’s knowing all of their social media accounts, knowing their passwords, or looking through their internet history, give them advanced notice on how you plan to monitor them. Sure, they won’t be happy when you tell them to hand over their phone, but this part is a lot easier when they know that it’s coming.
Ideally, you would start to monitor your child’s online activity when they first start accessing the internet, as it becomes a normal, expected part of their lives as they become teenagers. If you’re already past that point, you can still change course with your teen if you set expectations with them going forward.
You Are Not James Bond
No one likes to be spied on. Don’t be that mom. In order to effectively monitor your child’s online activity, you must toe a line between protecting them and being nosy. If you’ve told your kid that you’re looking to make sure that they’re safe from online predators, do that. If you’re looking to make sure that they’re not using drugs, or to make sure they’re not sexting, do that. However, if you tell your daughter that you’re looking for one thing, but then that starts drifting into giving advice on what she should say to that guy that she likes, you’re violating the agreement that the two of you made.
Look Beyond Facebook
A good rule of thumb with social media is if the parents are on it, the teenagers are not. They’re using Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other sites/apps in increasing numbers. Effectively monitoring your child’s online activity goes well beyond just being their friend on Facebook. You don’t need to sign up and start snapping selfies with the Rise filter for your IG account…you just need to be familiar with where they’re going online.
Won’t They Just Delete Their Internet History?
Yes, of course. While there are parental control applications that can prevent them from doing this, the purpose of this post is to teach you how to create a dialogue between you and your son or daughter. Monitoring your child’s online activity doesn’t have to be an adversarial experience, where you spy on them, and they sneak behind your back.
If you approach them with respect, stay true to the expectations that you set, and honor their desire to build relationships while being aware of where they’re building them, you can effectively monitor your child’s online activity without them hating you for it.