5 Reasons You Should Be Monitoring Your Child’s Phone

Technology is now a part of childhood. Games are played on apps, not boards. Math problems are solved on iPads, and chalkboards feel more like a history lesson than a part of the classroom. Children today have upbringings drastically different than the generations before them.

This can be scary for parents, as they enter unchartered waters in raising Generation Y. There are no 50 year studies on whether constant texting will affect their relationships or their ability to interview for a job 20 years down the road. There is no fool proof guide for how long your child should spend on YouTube and at what age they can get an Instagram.

Thankfully for parents, this all doesn’t have to be a total mystery. There are plenty of services available to help you stay involved with what their children are doing online (because if you don’t know, you can’t protect them). But this raises some concerns, too. Is monitoring my child’s phone okay? Am I invading their privacy? Is this even legal?

In most countries, yes, monitoring your child’s phone is perfectly legal. You are legally responsible for them until they turn 18, so this is just a continuation of your parental duties. You also have the right to know what is being done on phones under your name. So, if it’s your kid and your phone, you have nothing to worry about.

Concerns for your child’s privacy are valid, and no parent wants to destroy their relationship with their child or create a lasting resentment. However, sometimes we have to do things to protect our children, regardless of whether they see the benefit from the start. Monitoring your child’s phone is smart parenting, and here are 5 reasons why:

Inappropriate Content

Your child can do or see anything online, and that leaves a lot of room for inappropriate activities.

Your child may be texting profanity or having sexual conversations. They may be accessing pornographic content or getting viruses from obscure websites. They could be bullying or harassing other children online, which has the potential to be a serious offense. Many children don’t fully grasp the concept that what they put online stays there forever. What might be an innocent flirtatious picture can be used as blackmail and seen by all of their classmates.

You’ve spent years educating them on how to be respectful and kind, but it’s easy for children to slip out of their morals when they aren’t held accountable. By monitoring your child’s cell phone, you can keep track of how they are behaving online. You will know what type of language they are using, what type of conversations they are having, and what they are accessing online. How they interact with their friends says a lot about the person they are becoming, and being aware will help you better guide and parent them.

According to a 2017 survey by KidGuard, 83.8% of high school juniors and seniors have witnessed cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is defined as the use of technology to bully another person. It can come from any platform at any time, and is prevalent within the majority of youth communities. Your child can be cyber bullied through harassment, exclusion, outing (or the sharing of personal information), online fights, shaming, cyber stalking, and more.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and texting are the most popular mediums for cyber bullying. This makes sense, as nearly every child online will have at least one of these platforms. Social media sites make it easy for bullies to contact and harass their victims without ever leaving their couch. Their followings on social media also allow them to make private information available to hundreds in a matter of minutes. 93.7% of high school juniors and seniors surveyed agree — the anonymity of the internet makes bullying easier.

Many children who are being cyberbullied are too ashamed to speak up. They are then forced to deal with the pain and the bullies alone. Monitoring your child’s phone will tell you when they are being cyberbullied, which will allow you to give your child the support they need. You will have the evidence to contact their school or local law enforcement if necessary, and will be there for them emotionally. This can also help you look out for depression or suicidal tendencies in your child.

Look Who’s Talking

The internet is full of strangers that can be communicating with your child and accessing personal information about them in a matter of minutes. Some of these are harmless, such as a teen girl from a different state who likes the same band as your daughter. However, not all of these innocent friends are who they say they are.

Online predators are out there, and they’re going after children every day. Predators use disgustingly skillful tactics to develop a safe sense of trust between their victims, and convince children to willingly meet up with them. They may go after your child by messaging them on Facebook, Instagram, or an online chat room. They could tell your child they’re the same age, or they might make them feel special by getting attention from someone older.

Besides physically meeting up with and abusing your child, online predators can use private information about them to cause additional harm. If your child reveals where they live and when everyone leaves for school and work in the morning, your house is now significantly easier to rob. If your child releases information such as their full name, birthday, and place of birth, they can become victims of identity theft or have their accounts hacked into.

Monitoring who your child talks to and what they reveal about themselves online can help prevent online abuse. You will be able to talk to your child immediately if they receive messages from strangers, rather than waiting until a relationship has already been formed between them.

Distraction

The demands of a cell phone are constant. There is an endless stream of videos on YouTube, pictures on Instagram, and posts on Facebook. Your child probably gets texts and notifications constantly, or they just have to spend five more minutes on their game.

All of these distractions add up, and can take away time your child should be spending on other things. Their phone can keep them from schoolwork, homework, outdoor activities, and socializing. It can even distract them from other screens, as they’re focused on twitter rather than watching the movie on family night. Many kids are addicted to their phones. They have a constant desire to check for new messages and to make sure they don’t miss out on anything. The social validation from likes can make them constantly reload Instagram after posting.

Phones can have a negative effect on academics and socialization. When students are in the classroom, their mind is preoccupied with what happened on twitter the night before, or they’re texting their friends underneath their desk. When they’re at home, they’d much rather play on their phone than work on their math homework. Communicating with their friends religiously through technology can make it hard for them to interact with people in person. They do a poor job of picking up social cues, and find it difficult to have serious conversations without the protection of a screen.

Phone monitoring services give parents the ability to turn off their child’s service and restrict access to certain sites, which can help minimize distractions. You could turn your child’s signal off while they’re at school, so they have to focus on their history lesson. You can keep the Wi-Fi off until after their homework is done, or grant them access to Instagram after they’ve played outside for an hour. Monitoring their text messages and internet usage will also tell you how much time they’re spending on their device, and when they’re using it when they shouldn’t be.

Sleep Deprivation

Teens aren’t getting enough sleep, and it’s caused by a combination of biology, schedules, and, you guessed it, cell phones.

As kids enter the teen years, their sleep patterns naturally shift. They now prefer to go to bed later and wake up later. This is caused by changes in the brain, specifically its circadian rhythm system. This regulates sleep and controls melatonin, which tells the body it’s time to go to sleep. During puberty, melatonin is produced later at night. The shift of melatonin causes children to fall asleep later, but early school start times force them out of bed prematurely. This means they are already cutting their sleep time short.

Beyond their natural sleep schedules shifting, phones are keeping kids up even later. Many teens don’t want to put away their phone for the fear of missing out, or “FOMO”. They think that missing a twitter fight or a tag on Instagram will separate them from their peers and hurt their social life. If their friends are online, they want to be, too. Being the last one to see a post or not responding promptly to a text is a teenage faux pas. Teens are staying up into the wee hours of the night snapping, texting, and browsing the web.

The effect doesn’t stop once the phone is away, either. The blue light emitted from phones “tricks” the brain into thinking it’s daytime, and this light is amplified when used in a bright room, mere inches from the eyes. As your child scrolls well past midnight, the already delayed melatonin is told to wait even longer. Once their phone is finally put down, their body hasn’t been going through its natural “fall asleep” process. They may lay in bed tossing and turning, seemingly wide awake. It becomes a cycle. They then grab for their phone to pass the time, once again resetting their natural clock.

You may think your child has gone to sleep, but you have no idea how late they actually stay up. Monitoring their phone will show you at what times they’re sending texts and browsing the web. You can then have a conversation with your child about getting an adequate amount of sleep, or can set rules to make sure this is attained.

Building Trust

This one might seem counterintuitive at first, but monitoring your child’s phone can actually help build trust. Parents aren’t the only ones concerned about online safety. Their children are, too. NSPCC surveyed 11 and 12 year olds to find out what worries them the most when they’re online. They found that children are upset most by inappropriate language, cyberbullying, receiving unwanted sexual messages, and being asked to send personal information.

Children and parents are worried about the same things, and monitoring your child’s phone doesn’t have to turn into World War 3. Many parents make the mistake of going behind their child’s back to monitor, which breaks trust and can feel like a major violation of privacy to a teen. Instead, be open with your child about monitoring their phone, and explain why it’s necessary. Tell them about the potential dangers online, and let them know that you just want to protect them. They will appreciate that you care.

Monitoring their phone can also start the conversation about privacy, bullying, and safety in general. If they know you’re willing to help and want them to be safe online, they’ll be more likely to come to you with these types of issues. Making your child aware of what’s out them will help them be smarter and safer from the start, and you will always be there just in case.

For more information, you can read the full guide here.