Why Checking Your Kids’ Devices is Smart Not Snooping
“You check your kids’ phones? Like read her texts???” She typed to me incredulously in a parenting Facebook group. “But you’re invading her privacy,” she continued.
I replied directly, “She’s ELEVEN and doesn’t understand netiquette and the consequences of texting something inappropriate. On devices, there is no privacy in our house.”
And the debate ensued. A flurry of comments, replies, and shaming sparked the debate to the digital age question, is it OK to check your child’s phone? My husband and I thought we were doing the right thing, but I decided to check with the experts.
Glen Pounder, COO of Child Rescue Coalition says, “Perhaps the real question should be why not check your kid’s phone? Think about it this way – would you be happy for your child to meet a 43-year-old strange man in a park while you stood only 10 or 15 yards away? Why should it be any different when your child is in their bedroom meeting a potential child predator online?”
When we were children – sure, we had privacy. We wrote notes to our friends that our parents couldn’t see, or we talked on the phone, if we were lucky in our own bedroom on our own phone line (an old-school luxury)! But our parents knew who we were communicating with and we didn’t have a computer in the palms of our hands.
Nowadays children are getting access to devices at a younger age; and privacy, even for children, is seen by many as a right not a privilege. It’s the norm to download social media apps, Google anything whenever and wherever, watch videos on several platforms on any subject, and send nudes via Snapchat. With this new technology comes the ability for predators to find our kids easily, and an enormous responsibility for parents. Do we really think children are in a position to protect themselves at such an age?
“Does your child’s perceived right to privacy supersede their safety? It’s 100 percent your right to check their devices,” said Bill Wiltse, President of Child Rescue Coalition.
Child predators want to invade children’s lives, an abuse that they may never recover from. The horrific truth is that some children are driven to suicide having suffered online abuse.
Glen Pounder adds, “Children make online connections and believe, sometimes very quickly, these new connections to be friends. Your child may think that a profile called “13Mary” really is a 13-year-old girl, when it could be a 32-year-old child predator. Despite the best efforts of any social media or online gaming company you can think of, they currently cannot control child predators on their platforms. Worse, these predators are actively looking to groom and sexually abuse children online by getting them to move to private messaging on a different platform or messaging service. This makes detecting their behavior even more difficult.”
The internet can be a frightening place and we need to give our kids the tools to navigate it safely. So how can parents combat child predators and keep our children safe from childhood sexual abuse? Three simple steps.
- Check your kid’s devices. This includes reading texts and direct messages. All parents will need to make their own judgment of what is right for their child. Having open, two-way conversations about children’s online activity will help inform you to set the right frequency for your family.
- Download tracking software. Technology like allows for safe exploration with the notification to a parent when potentially dangerous activity is taking place. These apps will give parents peace of mind. As a working parent, they help me since I don’t have the bandwidth to manage multiple devices daily.
- Communicate with your kids. Ask your children who they are playing with or talking to online, and have them show you their favorite apps and games. If you take the time to show an interest, you will learn exactly what your child is doing online.
Not every person your child meets on the internet can harm them, but the fact remains that wherever kids are playing online, so are child predators. You wouldn’t give your child a bike without a helmet, or a car without driving lessons, so please don’t hand them over the keys to an iPhone without putting these safety measures in place. Now is the time to keep them safe, and let them be little just a few years longer.
For more safety information, please read and download our two-way contract so your child knows what to expect when they receive a device.