Should I monitor my child's activity on social media sites?
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Talking is still the best solution.
Before citing the various software and hardware solutions, it’s important to remember that none of them is designed to replace the parental role. ‘Talking to your child is one of the best ways to keep them safe,’ states the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), ‘It's important to have conversations that help your child understand how to stay safe and what to do if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable.’
Whether to monitor is a question that only you can answer with respect to your own kids, and it’s not simply a question of trust. Often the kids themselves don’t know what constitutes dangerous behavior, or bullying, and need parental guidance. Bad judgment calls can put teens at risk on social media, and, until they are legally of age, their parents bear full responsibility for their children’s online activities, and any damage or harm they might cause others.
Who’s Monitoring their Kids? A January 2016 PEW Research study, “Parents, Teens and Digital Monitoring”, reports that a majority of parents have personally monitored their teens’ web history or social media profile and looked through call records or messages – but fewer use parental controls or tracking tools.
How to monitor. If you want to go beyond talking and sharing educational information, and choose to monitor your kids’ activities, there are numerous tools available to help protect kids online:
• Real time surveillance/filtering solutions can be used to control your kids’ access, monitor their activity and prevent your teens from sharing improper content. Some of these solutions address specific social media apps, such as Top Snapchat Tracking Apps and Top WhatsApp Tracking Apps. Furthermore, Digital Parenting has made application-specific guides available. Here’s a link to them: http://www.digitalparenting.ie/online-guides.html
• Post processing monitoring tools and services can used to provide insight into your kids’ activity after the fact. TeenSafe, NetNanny Social, and many others monitor teens’ social media activity and show you files or chat streams or summaries of posts. The effectiveness of these many tools varies greatly.
Whether you choose to use one of these tools or not, most experts feel it’s best to talk with your kids about using good judgment on social sites, keeping private information private, bullying (what it is and how very harmful it can be), not engaging in sexting, and trusting their gut if they have suspicions. It could be quite damaging to the trust between you and your child if s/he were to find out that you were spying on them secretly. Encourage them to come to you if ever they are the least bit unsure.
In the end, you are still the parent in charge. If you feel your child is ignoring warnings, or actively seeking out the wrong sites, you can remove their internet privileges, or move devices back into the center of the house where you can more easily observe their behavior.
• PEW Research Group, Digital Parenting