Finding a Balance — Privacy vs Monitoring Your Child’s Device
Raising children is difficult, and often means striving to strike a perfect balance. They need to eat their vegetables, but a cookie here or there won’t hurt. They need to do well at school, but you don’t want to push them too hard. You want them to become independent, but they’re still children that need supervision and guidance.
This balancing act comes with giving your child a phone, too. Many parents want to monitor their child’s phone for their safety, but also want to give them independence and privacy as they get older. Both are valid, and they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can give your child space to grow up while still protecting them.
Anyone that’s been a teen knows — they love their privacy. This is completely normal, as “increased independence from parents is a natural part of growing up.” As much as parents may hate it, all of those inside jokes with their friends are socializing them into functional adults. If your teen is sharing less than they used to and would prefer being alone in their room over family game night, don’t be alarmed. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re hiding anything from you. They’re just developing a necessary level of independence.
It’s not bad parenting to give your child some freedom. Especially as they grow up, you don’t need to know every single thing they’re up to. In the same vein, it isn’t bad parenting to monitor them, either. You can be aware of what they’re doing online without destroying your relationship or halting their development.
Monitor — Don’t Invade
The first step to healthy monitoring is doing so openly, rather than behind your child’s back. While it might seem easier to install a software unbeknownst to them, this will most likely make them upset and resentful when they eventually find out.
Instead, have an honest conversation with your child about phone monitoring — including why you want to protect them and what some of the potential dangers are online. It can help to pull up stats, so they don’t negate your concerns as overprotective or unreasonable. If they see what you’re protecting them from, they might actually be grateful!
The issue of privacy will probably be your child’s biggest complaint when it comes to monitoring their device. Make this part of a wider conversation about privacy. Try finding a compromise with your child, listening to what they expect from you and sharing what you expect from them. For example, you could agree not to snoop through their room, with the condition that you’ll be checking in on their texts.
Is this legal?
In most countries — yes. Parents are legally responsible for their children until they’re 18. Text monitoring is just a continuation of this. Keep in mind that this only extends to the children you are legally responsible for, and you should never access private information of someone else.
You also have legal access to any device that is registered in your name. If you’re paying the bill, you have the right to know what’s happening on the phone.
A full guide on balancing the privacy of your child while monitoring your device can be found here.