Tara Heath provided her thoughts on when to use apps to protect young adults while they are using the internet.
The internet is a wonderful tool, especially for young adults who are looking for new ways to express themselves, connect with people, and discover their personal interests and talents. The internet isn’t always a safe and helpful place, though. Teens are constantly faced with problems like cyberbullying and connecting with strangers online who aren’t honest about who they are. We’ve all heard horror stories about online predators, and while it’s unlikely that your child will get into a situation where their safety is at risk, it’s important to do everything you can to make sure they feel safe and protected while using technology.
When It’s Appropriate to Monitor Your Child
There are a number of apps and services out there like Teen Safe and Mamabear which let parents track their child’s activity online and on their phone. These apps have done a lot of good by protecting kids when they’re in risky situations and need help, but there’s a time and a place for them. If you use apps like this when it’s unwarranted, you run the risk of making the situation a lot worse, even if you have the best possible intentions. So how can you tell when it’s time to start using these types of tools to monitor your child?
The argument against monitoring your child has a lot of strong points. Social media, smartphones, and the internet in general are all modes of creation and self expression, and if you impose on those outlets you could effectively be taking away a part of your child’s identity depending on how involved they are with technology. Not only are you limiting their space for self expression, but you’re encroaching on their privacy, which could really hurt the trust between the two of you.
Before you jump to apps that let you monitor your child, there are some alternatives that you can try to help keep them safe. First of all, communication is everything. Be straightforward about how you expect them to use technology. This could include setting some ground rules for smartphone and computer use, such as:
- No technology at the dinner table or after a certain time of night.
- Technology shouldn’t get in the way of school. Homework should be completed before going on social media sites and cell phones shouldn’t be used during class.
- Never share personal information online and change the privacy settings on social media profiles so that only friends can see what you post.
- Tell someone if you experience cyberbullying in any form, even if you’re just a bystander.
- Never share something online that you wouldn’t want to be shared publicly.
- Never post pictures of content that could be considered rude, inappropriate, or offensive. Anything that could hurt someone’s feelings or hurt their chances of getting a job or being accepted into a university should never end up online.
- Don’t buy anything online without permission.
Still, talking about internet safety might not be enough. If you suspect that your child is doing something potentially dangerous online, such as talking to strangers and sharing personal information or experiencing cyberbullying in some way, it’s important that you act. This is when apps like Teen Safe come in (and can help a lot). Everyone deserves privacy, but when your child’s safety is in question it’s justified to overstep boundaries in that situation to make sure that they’re safe. Then the next question, when you decide to use an app of this sort do you tell your teen or not? Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to keep your child safe, and while they’re living in your home and you’re paying for their phone, computer, and internet those technologies are a privilege, not a right.
If you can avoid monitoring your child and keep them safe through open communication, by all means do so. You might find that they don’t really want to talk to their parents about internet safety, and instead encourage them to talk to another trusted adult like a school counselor or a teacher. It’s fair to say that most teens probably won’t always make the safest choices online and most likely won’t tell an adult if they end up in a potentially harmful situation. In that case it’s up to the parents and other adults in their life to step in, keep an eye on their behavior, and offer them the help and resources they need to make smart, safe choices online.
Tara Heath is a journalist who lives in California. She has a passion for helping people and enjoys writing about education, parenting and health & wellness. She thinks it is important for parents to know that it is ok to keep your children safe and educate them on technology in this world today.