Spying on your children online should only be a LAST RESORT! Only to be done if you know your child is in danger, or you suspect they are hiding something that could potentially harm them.
As a Cyber Safety Advocate, I’m introduced to an increasing number of apps and monitoring programs that are being developed for parents to “spy” on their kids online. There are apps to inform parents about who their children are talking to on their smart phones and social networks, and software for keeping tabs on their kids browsers to find out where they go online and what they are doing.
In my opinion, you only really need these programs if you have a serious problem with your child, if you are unable to discipline them, or reason with them and they have become uncontrollable, and that’s awful and quite a possibility for some parents, and you do whatever you need to do in that situation to keep your child safe.
As a parent of 4 children, there were a few occasions had to check up on one of my older kids. We did have a problem, not a large one, but he kept bringing home very violent video games which he was not allowed to play, I would check his computer to see what was installed from time to time. In those days though, the late 90’s, the internet and computers were not as they were today, and the issues were quite different.
Open Communication Is Better Than Spying:
With my 2 youngest boys 11yrs and 15yrs, both digital natives, I talked to them about the Internet and computers from an early age, as soon as they showed an interest. I have continued to assure my younger children that they could always come to me when they felt something wasn’t right online, and during our talks I promised them I would never over react if something went wrong. Because of our experience thus far, I know, without a doubt, that my boys will, and do come to me when they have a problem online. It hasn’t been all rainbows and lollipops, things have gone wrong! Both my boys have had cases of being stalked by other young kids online, one downloaded a virus rendering his computer useless, and there have been several episodes of Cyber Bullying. One of my boys was last year approached by an adult who he knew through his school in an online gaming environment, which necessitated a call to the school and the police. All of this, and I’m a Cyber Safe aware mum. Without open communication and trust, we may not have been able to stop these incidences as quick as we were able. In all cases my boys came to me and alerted me. There’s a lot of this going on in many Australian households, and the parents have no idea, because the kids are too scared to tell.
Constant Supervision and Re-inforcement:
It takes a while for your children to trust that you know how to handle things, and they will make mistakes, they will answer back to a bully and escalate things when they are told not to, they will go places online they know they are not supposed to, they might bully someone online without even understanding the full ramifications of it…it’s all a learning experience and it takes time. As a mum I have to constantly remain vigilant, I supervise, I watch their behaviour to make sure they are not being a bully or behaving unfairly. I ask questions, “who’s that your playing with?” “Do you know them from school?” etc…yes the questions are tiresome for them, yes they worry I don’t trust them…yes they think at times I’m overly protective! They are Tweenages after all. But that’s my job, to be tiresome, to be a bit of a sticky beak, in other words they need me to BE A PARENT! So that’s OK…It’s really the same as “where are you going?” “Who are you going with” “What time will you be home” basic stuff.
Of course my sons understand that as a Cyber Safety Advocate and Computer solutions consultant, I’m very adept at the Internet and computers, they know I can find out if they are lying or if they are watching YouTube instead of studying etc..So getting around me may not be as easy as it is for some kids parents. But I really find it’s more about them feeling safe to come and confide in me. As a result they actually tell me about ALL the drama they have going on…so much so I just sometimes don’t want to hear it any more! Who is copying who on YouTube, who said what to whom, yes I hear it all and I’m so grateful to have that, its all my fault 🙂 I realise there might come a day, where they won’t confide in me, and I’ll tackle that when and if it happens, hopefully they will have learned some lessons and become really adept at protecting themselves and their online identity.
If you establish a solid open communication and safe disclosure relationship between you and your children from an early age, in regards to the internet, hopefully you will never need an app or program to spy on your kids online…if you do need to use a spying or monitoring program use it as a LAST RESORT.
False Sense Of Security
Be very careful using these spying apps unnecessarily, it may develop a sense of false security. No one program can totally protect your child, and there are times where kids are smart enough to easily get around these programs. Kids can create second secret accounts, use other peoples devices turn off monitoring software. You need to build a level of acceptable trust.
Where To Start?
- Start early, start talking about computing and the Internet as soon as they show interest, even if its just in what you are doing on your computer.
- Point out that the Internet is a porthole to the world, and it can be dangerous as well as exiting and fun.
- Educate children about their digital identity, and how important it is to keep their public profile discrete and protected.
- Never threaten to take it all away if they are in trouble online, give them a safe haven to talk to you. Having said that, there might be times you do have to restrict their access.
- Set times for online time and offline time, so they don’t get used to having 24 hour access.
- Reward good online behaviour with iTunes gift cards and small gadgets they want.
- Reduce time online for unacceptable online behaviour, like cyber bullying or bad language.
- Find out from an expert what safety filters to use so they don’t stumble upon Adult only sites.
But don’t Spy that is a losers game…you will never be able to keep it up…and the kids won’t ever tell you openly when they are in trouble online. Parents who stick their head in the sand about the Internet will eventually think about finding a spying tool, they will be lost, won’t know what is going on, the kids will rule.
Here are some other article I have written with safety settings and filters for parents to set up.
Follow Me on Twitter! Click here ? @_LeonieGSmith
My online e-Manual also has some great tips for setting privacy settings and filters up on browsers, and social networks.
If you have any questions let me know in the comments!