monitoring kids online

Should we be spying, monitoring and following our kids online?

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?”

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This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. EssentiallyJess

    I love how you always bring these discussions back to the pivotal point: we need to cultivate a relationship with our kids above all else.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Ah thanks Jess….yes you got it 🙂

  2. Renee Wilson

    Great advice. We’re still in the toddler years, but great tips and advice for the future.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Thanks Renee… wont be long! 🙂

  3. Sally@Toddlers on Tour

    I like the idea of teaching them how to behave online when they are young. My son is just starting to delve in the world of using Google and playing games online. This is the time start showing him what’s appropriate to share and what’s not.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Yes Sally, we know that behaviours that start earlier are much more likely to become good ‘habits’ later on.

  4. I had this discussion with a friend last week. She was stressing over her kids accounts and sneaking in at night to check what they have been up to. I told her they need privacy too and you need build a trust between you. I have no interest in the silly conversations my kids have, but I am always concerned with who they are connecting with.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Good advice Natalie! And absolutely my view. And goodness I think I would go a bit daft if I had to read all the stuff they do online all the time!

  5. Amber Rhodes

    Great post! I find that even my 18 month old wants to get on the iPad now! And she cries if you don’t let her too!! What is it with kids and technology! Definitely agree that some degree of ‘spying’ is necessary.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Certainly when they are young Amber as it is more about teaching them the right way so it should be agreed that you will be watching. And well I think the technology today is all they have ever known so to them it is just how the world is!

  6. Tash @ Gift Grapevine

    What a fantastic final question. I heard that my kids fall into the “iGeneration” as they will never know a life without internet, iPhones, iPads, etc. It only seems like yesterday we were using payphones to call people when we were out and about! My tornadoes are already tech savvy and it scares me to think what apps, devices and social media networks will be around when they are teens in 8 years time. I just hope that I can try to keep up with it all and continue to foster a relationship based on communication.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      If you make communication the key Tash you will go a long way 🙂

  7. Grace

    Spot on, Martine! It’s about monitoring their overall behaviour. After an hour on the iPad, K-Bear totally loses it when we take it away from him. It’s like forcing him to break an addiction. Intervention is always a nightmare…

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Thanks Grace, it is really tricky when kids really love something but we know we have to put limits in place. We also knwo that the limits will help them in the long run.

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