When a parent gives their independence-hungry millennial a smartphone, they should take it as seriously as they would handing them car keys for the first time. Both smartphones and cars give teens freedom, mobility and the envy of their peers. But just as a driver’s license comes with a learning period that puts mom or dad in the passenger seat while the teen learns the ropes, it is a parent’s responsibility to monitor their teen’s phone until the child proves they are able to responsibly manage their online life.
Monitor Messages to Protect Your Teen From Making an Unfixable Mistake
Messaging apps are among the greatest conveniences that smartphones provide — but they present huge dangers to teens. More than half of teens admit to sexting — exchanging sexually charged messages, photos or videos with other teens, or worse, with online predators who portray themselves as teens.
The problem with this epidemic is that private photos often don’t stay private for very long. Research shows that many teens share nude or racy images with other teens who were never supposed to see them. A single mistake or lapse in judgement can lead to a naked image circulating across the whole school in a matter of moments.
Monitoring applications enable parents to see messages — even deleted messages — not only on a phone’s on-board messaging app, but on third-party apps like Kik and WhatsApp. This lets parents see who their kids are communicating with, what messages are being exchanged, and who may be pressuring them to act inappropriately.
Your Teen is on Social Media – You Should be, Too
Monitoring applications enable parents to peer into the many personas their teen is likely to be juggling on different social media channels. Research shows that 71 percent of teens are active on more than one social media site. Monitoring software lets parents keep tabs on posts, friends, comments and messages on sites like Facebook and Instagram.
Social media is where so many inappropriate relationships begin before being taken off-site to private messaging apps. Social media is also where a great deal of online bullying takes place. This is why it is important to monitor your teen even if you have “good” kid. Many good kids are among the vast majority of teens who have either been bullied online or know about it occurring, but who will never tell a parent or teacher.
Monitoring your teen does not mean you don’t trust them. They should know you are monitoring, and they should know why.
When a parent tells a teen they are monitoring their phone, it is natural for them to assume a lack of trust or complain about an invasion of privacy. Communicate to them that you’re doing it for their protection. Let them know that it isn’t them you don’t trust, but the world around them. Explain the dangers and that — like a learner’s permit in a car — you are only monitoring until they show they can handle it on their own. When they show online competence, you’ll back off incrementally. If a teen knows you’re monitoring them, they will be much less likely to act irresponsibly, which is the whole point of keeping tabs in the first place. The most important aspects of successful monitoring are consistency, honesty and, most importantly, dialogue. Use monitoring as a means of starting a conversation about the dangers that today’s teens face.