February 21, 2018

“Monitoring” Your Kids Doesn’t Mean “Spying”

By Mary Jo Rapini

Parents, I have to say, I am confused. As I continue to entrench myself in the phenomenon of social media as it relates to teens, parents, reputations and overall cyber safety, I continue to hear the same few words from parents, “Well, I don’t want to SPY on my child.”

And it leaves me very, very confused.

When I was raising my daughters, who are now grown, I was involved in many aspects of their lives. We had a close relationship as mother and daughter(s), but I was their mom first and found that an honorable and respectful position to be in. I wanted to be involved in their lives, not only as a confidant, but also as a teacher, mentor, and someone they could always count on no matter what they were going through.

I’d ask them daily about their lives. How was school, how was your job, your event, the fight you had with your friend? And, if I sensed trouble, I dug deeper.

Everything I did, I did to keep them safe and to learn more about what was going on in their world when I got that funny feeling in my gut.

But the world has changed a lot since then. Kids are living online lives. They connect with strangers through social networking sites, they post everything about their lives online, they share pictures of all types, and they also share more sensitive information about their feelings, mental state of mind, etc. They share everything in their social media world.

If I were a parent of tweens or teens today, I would CERTAINLY be checking their social media accounts (in addition to the many actions mentioned above), since most of their sharing occurs online, for the world to see!

When I talk to my clients and other parents about this, they look puzzled. “Isn’t that spying?”

No, keeping tabs on your kids and what they do online is not spying, it’s good parenting. The internet is not private, it’s public. So, if your child is posting information for the world to see, then you are free to see it as well!

In addition, monitoring your child’s online behavior will help keep them safe — safe from predators and strangers, safe from cyber bullies, safe from defamed reputations, and so much more.

So, my friends, monitoring is not spying. To monitor means:

  •   Keeping tabs on your children
  •   Checking in on their activity
  •   Keeping an eye out for their safetyParents have different ways of monitoring their kids online. Some allow their children to only open the social media accounts if they share their passwords (kudos, by the way). They can go in freely and poke around to make sure everything is okay.Other parents prefer to be connected to their children via network to keep an eye on what they are doing. That works well assuming a child hasn’t set privacy settings to keep specific content from their parents (yes, the systems have settings that allow them to share or restrict information from anyone they want).Lastly, some parents put parental controls and monitoring systems on computers and cell phones. These controls work filtering content and sending a flag or alert when suspicious behaviors occur. I’m proud to be associated with and a knowledge expert for TrueCare.com, who offers one of these monitoring tools for parents. I recommend them as an effective way to be connected to your child’s online world.

    Some parents tell me that they can’t figure out all of the new technologies or they simply don’t want to understand them. Parents, it’s worth the time and effort. These communication tools are not going away. They will only progress into more advanced means of social interaction. They are the future and we should educate ourselves in order to connect with our kids and protect them. 

    Mary Jo is a psychotherapist who is also a knowledge expert for TrueCare.com, a site that offers resources and education for helping parents monitor their kids on social media and other websites.

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  1. It’s only spying if your kids are not aware that you’re monitoring.

  2. I absolutely agree with your perspective of being the involved parent. Knowing what our kids do and who they associate with is what ever parent should be doing. Where I struggle with your message is using technology to do so. I worry that it breaks the lines of communication. Yes, I know the “my kids know I’m doing it” perspective, and the dangers to that is driving your child underground. Is it okay to record their conversations with their friends? Is it okay to strap a GPS on your teenager so you know exactly where they are every minute? Involved parenting isn’t attached parenting. It is a continuing process of stepping into and out of their world. I wrote a guest blog on the topic of online spying for a great technology organization – iKeepSafe, and offer you and your readers an opportunity for a larger explanation of my perspective. http://www.ikeepsafe.org/educational-issues/should-parents-spy-on-their-kids/
    Thanks for your post!!

    • Thanks, Joe. I read your post and agree that there has to be trust first and foremost. I think the word my guest poster used “monitoring” is key! It’s good to know you are out there too. I welcome any Kid Focused guest posts from you as well. Thanks!

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