Here’s why you must invade your teen’s online privacy

Family/Kids, Privacy, Relationships

From cyberbullying to sexting, your teen’s digital activity is something to worry about, for many reasons. Monitoring teen computer and smartphone behavior is a no-brainer—but just how much should you be checking up on them?

Online presence

Every parent must cope with their child’s demands for more independence as they grow. Today’s teens, however, have more distractions to tempt them when they are left to their own devices (no pun intended).

As Pew Research Center reports, parents’ concerns over their child’s online presence include everything from their level and frequency of interaction with strangers to the management of their reputation and impact on future academic and professional opportunities.

Thanks to a difficult-to-erase online footprint and the pervasive nature of social media and texts, these concerns are justified. Plus, teens tend to overshare personal information, inappropriate photos, and details about comings and goings, which can invite harassment.

Monitoring strategies

According to a recent survey of parents with 13- to 17-year-olds, some current techniques being employed to monitor their teens’ online lives include:

  • Checking websites visited (61%)
  • Checking social media profiles (60%)
  • Friending or following their child on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media platforms (56%)
  • Looking through logs of phone calls and text messages (48%)
  • Using parental controls for online activities (39%)
  • Using parental controls to restrict cell phone use (16%)

Perhaps how often you monitor your kids is not as important as what you know about their online activities. “The most important thing is that parents know the passwords to all of their kids’ apps. That should be non-negotiable,” says Bradley Glonka, an internet presence specialist with Pistonbroke, a Detroit-based SEO agency.

Be up front about monitoring your teen’s digital activity

Online safety, privacy issues, cyberbullying, and text messaging are matters so real—with results that can be fatal—that lawmakers have enacted legislation to monitor and protect against harassment and intimidation. So don’t hesitate to be nosy and ask questions, and establish a clear message that their online activities are not going to be entirely private.

“One of the most sensitive, vulnerable ages are the tween and teen years. Your child is struggling between standing on her own two feet and needing proximity to you for dependence and comfort,” says Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist. You may discover that your child appreciates having you look over their shoulder. If disaster occurs, you can be the heavy, intervening on their behalf or limiting their digital interactions.

And don’t forget: monkey see, monkey do. If you are oversharing digitally, think how your kids will interpret your behavior. “Parents should vigilantly consider any personal information that they post about their kids’ lives online, regardless of age,” says Walfish.