Monitoring Your Kids’ Online Behavior
Author: Shannon Miller Lifestyle
Does your child have a cell phone? Access to a computer or tablet?
How easy is it for him or her to access videos? Social media? Questionable material?
The answer is that it is WAY too easy. Go ahead and Google very innocent things like “candy” or “white house,” and you will see some very surprising results! Children with access to Twitter and Instagram also have access to many ways to connect that may be too mature for your child. Questionable language and imagery are all too typical in such applications.
So what should you do to provide internet safety for kids?
Block them from computers? Block them socially? That’s not realistic, so what is the right way to balance kids’ online and cellular behavior?
Karen Foreman, Founder of Social School 101, gives these initial guidelines for parents of kids that are beginning to use online activity on their own:
- Keep all technology in a visible location. Do not allow computers in the bedrooms. It much easier to monitor what they are doing if the computer is in a common area.
- Have an Internet Safety Pledge. Try one by the National Crime Prevention Council. Write the rules and have everyone in the family sign the rules. Post the rules in a visible spot. They will serve as a visual reminder when you are not there.
- Password protect your smartphone and computer so you are always aware of your child being online. Ask them not to close any applications or conversations until you have had chance to look at them.
- Check the privacy settings on games and apps frequently as they change. Limit them to friends only.
- Monitor the child’s security. You can monitor language, friends requests, postings, photos, and bullying for as little as ten dollars a month. Many parents feel it is spying to look at their children’s online activity. You are the parent and you have every right to monitor the activity to keep your child safe.
- Pay attention to the apps your child downloads on their phone and digital devices. Many of these apps expose children and teens to posting pictures that can have long range and devastating consequences. This is one of the reasons sexual shaming is such a hot topic.
Kevin Roberts, author of the book Cyber Junkie, an educational book for parents today, gives some more pointers, specifically to the middle school years and up (he is adamant, by the way, that children under 12 not get a cell phone):
- I Am Big Brother lets you to secretly monitor all incoming and outgoing email, instant messages, chats, websites and more. Once the product is downloaded and installed, it is totally hidden, and only you can access it. Products of this sort are sometimes referred to as parental control software. These can be downloaded from the Internet. Family Cyber Alert is another product that my parent-clients have found useful. PC Tattletale has also received good reviews from my clients.
- Advanced Parental Control is one which does a little more than monitoring. It also allows parents to restrict Internet use to certain time periods and schedules, in addition to monitoring keystrokes and logins.
- Obviously, all of this can be circumvented if your child’s main cyber interface is not a computer but a smart phone. In that case, which is increasingly common, families have been having good luck with the mSPy Smartphone Monitoring Application. You simply download it to the target phone and you can find out ANYTHING that has happened using that phone, including text messages.
- With a deceptive adolescent, these types of programs and applications are the products of choice. These kids are smarter than the parents, and these programs are the only thing I have found to work, outside of restriction.
- Finally, I wish to say that the smartphone represents the most potent carrot parents have at their disposal nowadays. Use it! Link smartphone PRIVILEGES to performance in school, household chores, being home for dinner every night, or whatever target behaviors you as a family deem important. Talk to your cell phone carrier about online options that allow you to restrict smartphone use during certain periods, like at night, during school, etc. Also, if your child is not performing up to expectations, shut that phone off!