When I was a teenager, smartphones weren’t a thing. You were even considered a “drug dealer” if you had a pager at one point! I did have a pager, but that was because I attended school pretty far away from my home, and needed a way to let my Mom know I was still alive. Social media monitoring has completely changed with the introduction of technology.
We didn’t have texting and social media. I had to pass notes to my friends in the hallway at school. There was a phone attached to the wall with a cord we had to use to call our friends. If that friend lived out of state, good luck trying to convince your parents to pay for the long-distance call.
Aside from picking up another phone in the house and listening in, our parents had no idea what kinds of conversations were happening with my friends. Our form of bullying came by way of 3-way calling attacks like in Mean Girls
While, yes it’s definitely true that kids can be way more ruthless on social media. They can hide behind a screen while launching their attacks, and it feels more removed. It doesn’t mean that bullying didn’t happen and inappropriate things didn’t occur when we didn’t have social media.
My parents were never able to monitor my intricately folded paper notes or telephone conversations. With the changes in technology, we now have more access into our teen’s lives than ever before!
We can read all of our children’s text messages, we can monitor what they are searching for online. We can know exactly how long they using certain applications.
I, for one, am happy to be able to have this kind of access, especially as they are younger. It gives you a great opportunity to teach them the proper use of technology while you still have the ability to know what is going on.
However, I am not so naive to think that I’ll be able to monitor every interaction my child has, and I have to be ok with that. When I let my daughter have Marco Polo, I was concerned by the lack of monitoring ability I would be able to have with the app. The app is like a video walkie talkie. While videos don’t disappear like on Snapchat, they do have the ability to be deleted.
With apps like Marco Polo or Houseparty, I would not be able to monitor these video interactions from my phone. I had to remind myself, that my parents didn’t have even half of the capabilities we now have, and I have to trust my kids at a certain point that I have taught them well enough through the things I can control.
The harsh reality is that you will never be able to monitor every interaction your child has with others. Even with strict controls and monitors in place, your children will find ways around them.
There are chat functionalities in SO many apps these days, it would be impossible to lock it all down. I am constantly surprised at the places my children find to chat with others. My daughter’s favorite place to chat isn’t a chat program at all. It’s the MIT website for teaching kids to code, Scratch.
The most important thing you can do is be open with your kids about what you are doing to monitor and control their devices, and why. Have frequent conversations with them, especially if you notice anything of concern. Don’t be sneaky, as that erodes trust between you and your child.
When your child starts out with a smartphone, try to only allow the social media apps that CAN be monitored. As your children prove themselves trustworthy, and their grades are good, and there are no significant personality shifts, you can continue to loosen the reigns bit by bit. You may be able to ease up on your social media monitoring depending on the kid.
Give them access to another app, and then another. You can spot check these apps from time to time from your child’s device. These checks should be random, so they don’t have time to scrub the account before handing it over.
As they continue to prove themselves worthy, you can reduce your spot checks and maybe give them access to other apps. This is where monitoring their grades, continuing to have frequent conversations with them about what is happening in their lives and with their friends, and monitoring their behavior and attitude will play a huge role. When something seems amiss, then you can dig into their social accounts a bit more again.
By the time they are 18, they should be able to manage themselves and use technology appropriately! Teaching your children how to survive in the adult world is absolutely the goal.
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com