Guest post by Scott Riddler
According to CNN, a recent survey found that 70 percent of our children take measures to hide online activity from us. They do this in a variety of ways that range from dimming their screens, closing windows, to hiding apps on their phones. If left unchecked, this secrecy can cause dangerous situations like cyber bullying, sexting, and even grooming by online predators to spiral out of control. Thankfully, our children are more likely to moderate their online and digital behaviors if they know we are watching their activity.
This makes it essential for us to begin discussing monitoring before we ever give our boys and girls a device. To put this into perspective, we would never hand over car keys without driving lessons, discussions about road safety, and guided practice. Smartphone monitoring is a similar concept, because we are literally handing our children unlimited access to the world. As our kids show responsible judgment and choices, we can slowly ease back our online presence allowing more freedoms.
However, it is essential that we are honest with our children that will be monitoring their cellphone and digital activity. We don’t want to be sneaking around, teetering on the edge of spying. That kind of behavior typically spawns anger and mistrust, shutting down hopes of having open discussions about social media, technology, and digital footprints. Sneaking around harms everyone and creates tension within the home.
We already know that we need to be involved with our sons and daughters as they navigate the world of smartphones and other digital devices. Afterall, it’s the loving and responsible thing to do. However, figuring out a plan to approach monitoring with our kids can be difficult. How do we begin talking to a child who has made up his mind to keep us out of his digital life?
To help us discuss smartphone monitoring with our kids, we have compiled the following six ways to open the lines of communication and make this a reality:
Discuss digital safety to help identify common pitfalls to avoid. Our children have heard stories about cyberbullying, sexting, and online predators. However, many of them don’t think it will happen to them or realize dangers they are exposed to online. This makes it essential that we talk about why it’s important to digitally protect themselves and teach social media etiquette.
Remind them that cellphones are a privilege, not a right. Most of us are footing the cell phone bill and our kids need to realize they are being given a privilege. With this privilege comes responsibility and monitoring is not a punishment. It is merely a way for us to make sure they are behaving appropriately.
Help them realize that it’s not them you don’t trust, it is other people. At first our kids will probably feel we are invading their privacy, but monitoring is just a tool to make sure nobody is harming, grooming, or stealing personal information from them.
Encourage open and honest communication. The chances are pretty high that our children will balk at the thought of us reading their messages and texts. It’s alright and healthy for them to voice their concerns, but we need to avoid name calling, yelling, or blaming. Use these discussions to help kids understand why we believe it is necessary to monitor their smartphones.
Develop a family technology contract. As a family, list all expectations and consequences for using smartphones and technology to prevent future arguments down the road. This is a great opportunity to place limits on screen time, reclaim family dinners from devices,address social media etiquette, and let children know you will not allow texting while driving. Be specific and clearly label what is and isn’t acceptable.
Use monitoring as a teaching tool. Monitoring is more than looking over a kid’s shoulder. It begins conversations about content and situations a child encounters online. We also need to remember our kids are watching us! It’s important we model healthy relationships with technology and ensure we are following our own guidelines.
What tips does your family have for handling smartphone monitoring?