There are reports from some parents that the latest operating system from Microsoft, Windows 10, is now automatically sending parents a detailed report of their children’s computer activity when parents add their child to a Microsoft Family account. Parents may have previously set up Windows 8 on their child’s computer and added that child’s Microsoft account to a Family Safety account which included parental controls administered by a parent. With Windows 8 Family Safety or Windows 10 Microsoft Family (re-branded) you can set parental controls on your child’s Windows login no matter where your child logs in with their Windows Live account. The type of parental controls include restricting websites, setting screen time limits, blocking apps and more. My Cyber Safety Manual “Keeping Kids Safe Online” has instructions on how to set up Family Safety for Windows 8.
If you had forgotten that you had previously set your child up on a Windows 8 Family Safety account to restrict adult content and control screen time, you might be a little surprised to now receive an automatic report via email about your child’s weekly activity with the new Windows 10 if you hadn’t previously requested it. On Windows 8 receiving such a report was an option that you opted in to. It seems that with Windows 10 that option became automatic. However on both systems you could have gone to your Family Safety dashboard and seen all that information anyway.
Should You Be Spying On Your Child?
Monitoring your child’s behaviour online is advisable if they are under 13 years of age, but obviously when they are older tracking their online activities can be quite intrusive. Unless your child is in some sort of imminent danger it is probably un-necessary to see all their daily activity on their computer.
You might like to apply the same principles to online monitoring as you do to with their offline behaviour. If your child is old enough to walk or ride to the local shops by themselves, catch a bus to their friends house or the Mall by themselves it’s probably time to stop monitoring (Spying on) them on their devices. In the same way as you won’t be following them on the bus in your car, or sneaking behind trees when they are walking to the store, you need to stop watching their every move online. It is important to let your child have a little more responsibility every year as they grow, and then allow them to build trust with their online behaviour just as you need to do with their offline behaviour.
For younger children set a rule up front that the privilege of having an iPod or Smart Phone means that you as the parent need to be able to keep an eye on it with the child from time to time. As your child gets older and more responsible you will need to do this less and less, but only if your child feels they can come to you when they are in trouble. If you are going to use the monitoring type of software that Microsoft 10 comes with, let your child know you are watching them, it’s sets an open honest precedent early on.
For younger teens taking part in “Shared Supervision” is preferable. Sitting with your younger teen and checking on their laptop or phone together every now and then, by way of agreement of use. (Note: do a spot check, it’s so easy to hide history apps.) By about 15 or 16 years of age your teen will no longer be comfortable with this level of shared supervision, and you risk forcing your teen to use other methods to have some sense of privacy. By 15 or 16yrs of age, you really need to have established open communication around online issues, so that if and when your teen is upset by something that is happening online they will come to you to let you know. If your teen is hiding everything from you, the good and the bad, then your issues are far greater than any type of monitoring can help. Some amount of hiding is normal for a teen, but if you feel completely excluded and locked out and you see your teen becoming depressed and withdrawn it may not be normal. If you are seriously concerned about your teen and their wellbeing monitoring (spying on) them will only make it worse. You may need to seek outside help from a Family councillor. http://www.kidshelpline.com.au
Privacy. A Right Or A Privilege?
Some privacy for children and teens is essential, but not if it means they are at a risk of harm. As children grow into teens parents need to give them enough privacy that is reasonable, but parents need to keep their ears and eyes open for anything that might alert them to something where they need to step in. Too many parents are so confused by privacy issues around their children’s digital devices, used for socialising and for school. Sadly some kids are suiciding and self harming due to the issues they are facing alone online. If you suspect your child is in serious danger, spying might save their life.
If you freak out when anything goes wrong either offline or on, your child is likely to hide anything and everything from you. If you give over the top consequences for any infraction, again, they will hide it all from you. Always ensure you give yourself some time out to calm down when something goes wrong. Don’t make any decisions about your child and their digital device when you or they are upset. Taking a device away for a short time is reasonable, but withholding it for months is not. Giving small consequences to start with gives parents somewhere to go if they need to up the ante. And even if a child tells you they don’t care about losing their iPod or phone for a short time, it’s usually not the case. Little inconveniences mean a lot to kids.
The Bottom Line
I think the parental controls on Windows 8 and 10 are far superior to Win7 but I suggest parent use them judiciously and appropriately according to the age of the child. Always tell the child that they are being monitored, unless your child is seriously in danger. Gradually allow more adult content and self regulation of screen time online as your teen shows responsibility, and that they will come to you when they are in trouble. Reward responsible behaviour.
Are you using the Windows 10 or 8 parental controls? What do you like or dislike about it? I’ve already heard that some games have disappeared from Windows 10.
I featured in a story on this issue last night.