Should I be spying on my kids online? How can I keep watch over everything my kids are doing? How can I be sure they are doing the right things online? How can I be sure I am monitoring the right sites? What about privacy? And trust? Having the time to look? Knowing where to look?
From the toddler to the tween
When kids are young, yes you need to monitor. Not spying, monitoring. Spying implies that you are doing it behind their back. But you can’t teach if it’s not in partnership with your child. It needs to be a proviso of having access to devices, and games, and social networks and well, the rest of the world. They need to know you are watching. You need to use this time whilst you have control to teach them. You need to guide their behaviours. To do your best to protect them from content they don’t need to see. To help them make decisions to keep them safe. To instil in them attitudes and values that will ensure they become critical thinkers later on when you no longer have that control.
What do you mean ‘no control’? Aren’t we, as the parent, always in control?
The end date to monitoring
Anyone who has a child entering the teen and even tweens years will tell you, that when it comes to what our kids are doing online, the years when we can monitor and friend and follow and be safe in having it all covered, are limited to say the least. The years when we know what sites they are visiting, who they are talking to, what they are uploading and reading and sharing has an end date.
The end date happens because kids have devices for school that are internet enabled and they can log in to the rest of the world at any time.
The end date happens because kids hang out with other kids and their devices on the bus or at friends houses or on the walk home from school.
The end date happens because our kids are curious, want to explore and know how to do it undetected.
The end date happens because kids still want and need privacy. They are trying to do it in a very public space, but they still want it and seek it out.
They are now logging in to sites we don’t know exist
They are opening accounts with usernames we’d never find
They are opening multiple accounts on one site to keep some control
They are talking to people they have never met
They are having people criticise their latest photo
They are being exposed to content that at the very least makes us cringe
They are basing the worth of a photo and subsequently the worth of themselves on the number of likes and follows and shares.
So how do we keep them safe and smart online if we can’t keep monitoring?
Do we just throw our hands in the air? Say it’s all too hard and hope they escape unscathed?
Or we do our very best to ensure that they not only escape unscathed but they learn to thrive? To ensure that their experiences, their values and their behaviours in the real world all translate to their experiences, their values and their behaviours online.
We start early with the teaching and guiding and supporting – the moment they pick up a device
We ask questions and we listen and we listen some more
We look out for teachable moments
We pay attention to our kids, especially at the times we think they don’t want our attention
We learn what we can and we remain relevant to their world
We concentrate on less of the do’s and don’t’s and more of the ‘do it yourself’ critical thinking
We role model the values and beliefs we want to instil
We keep nurturing and encouraging pursuits away from the screens
We keep nurturing and encouraging all the wonderful things people are achieving with the screens
We keep connecting with them
We monitor them……the person.
The question we need to be asking instead
Before we think about spying, monitoring and stalking to catch them doing the wrong thing, we must ask ourselves, “have we spent the time really teaching them how to do the right thing?”