Smartphones make it easier than ever for children to access adult-oriented materials, while text messaging enables children and teenagers to engage in – and become victims of – “sexting.” Even if you trust your son or daughter implicitly, it’s still possible for your child to be a victim of cyber bullying. As a parent, it’s natural that you may feel a need to monitor your child’s phone usage to help ensure he or she is free from harm. If you feel compelled to do so for your child’s own wellbeing and safety, here are some helpful tips.
Have a Conversation with Your Children
Your first plan of action, before resorting to sneaking peeks at your child’s phone while he or she isn’t looking, should be to have a conversation outlining your rules and expectations. What’s appropriate and what’s not? What’s allowed, and what’s absolutely forbidden? How often (or how long) can they be on the phone? Are there any times when a phone isn’t allowed? Believe it or not, your son or daughter will listen to you, and in all likelihood, will try their best to abide by your rules. If you simply can’t resist the latest iPhone 7 deals, take the time to sit your child down for a talk. It can have a huge impact on your child’s phone use.
Though these measures might not safeguard them against cyber bullying or the many pitfalls of digital dating, it can prevent them from getting up to no good on their own. Smartphones make it incredibly easy to access potentially unsafe or unsuitable content – even accidentally – so laying some ground rules is a good way to help deter this from happening. Additionally, you can help foster positive behavioral habits at an early age, which can help prevent smartphone “addiction,” which can pose a real problem in later life. Having an open and honest conversation should be your first step.
Seeking Control? There’s an App for That!
If you are seeking additional oversight, you have options. There are a wide range of apps that you can install on your child’s phone which allow you to monitor their phone use, behavior online, and even their location. These include Phone Sheriff, MamaBear, and Norton Family Premier. If you do choose to use one of these apps, consider discussing it with your son or daughter in advance, so that they are more amenable to the idea. Nobody likes the idea that they are being watched at all times – least of all a teenager – so being honest and upfront with your child can make the process easier.
If you simply want to know the location of your son or daughter, there are slightly less invasive options available to you. These include carrier-specific options (for example, T-Mobile offers FamilyWhere, which gives you location information for every phone on your account), built-in phone settings (such as Apple’s Find My iPhone and Google’s “Remotely locate this device” option), and various location tracking apps. Choose the option that works best for you, and your son or daughter’s location will never be a mystery to you.
Monitor Your Child’s Apps
In addition to texting and Internet browsing, your son or daughter is likely going to be heavily invested in social media. This not only includes more well-known platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, but less known services as well, which may be less popular with adults – but loved by teens. Before Snapchat and Instagram became mainstream, they were darlings of the teenage social sphere. And that is because teenagers will naturally look for something to call their own – they don’t want to use the same social platforms as their parents, because what’s cool about that? All this is to say, you may need to do some investigative work of your own, because there’s a good chance your son or daughter will have apps on their phone that you’ve never heard of before.
The question that naturally arises out of these situations is: What are they posting on these platforms, and to whom? If you are unfamiliar with a particular app or social media platform, simply ask your son or daughter about it. Ask for a run-through of how it works, what its features are, and who they use it to communicate with. What type of content is being shared? What’s the overall tone and mood? If you have any concerns, feel free to do a bit more research on your own. Taking these simple steps can help you stay abreast of your child’s social behavior, and might allow you to take notice of warning signs sooner rather than later.