A generation ago keeping tabs on your kids was relatively easy. Parents knew the parents of their children’s friends. Children knew that their friends’ parents would likely report back on any misbehavior to their own parents. Kids knew where the imaginary lines were drawn around their home to define the region they could play unsupervised. Kids came home for dinner when the streetlights came on.

The world for children and teens today is so vastly different it’s almost impossible to comprehend. Our entire way of communication has changed with the advent of the internet and smartphones, but despite the fact that it seems we should be more connected than ever many parents are concerned that the internet and the ways their kids are using it could put them in dubious territory.

Not to mention the fact that your teen won’t take their eyes off their phone during a family dinner.

As parents we want our children to grow up to be responsible, aware, compassionate adults and there needs to be an element of trust to make that happen. However, although you may feel guilty about invading your child’s privacy and you’re bound to experience some backlash, you need to monitor your child’s activity in the digital world and this is how to do it.

Set the Rules

To be fair to everyone involved a sit down meeting with your kids is the first place to start. Explain to them that while the internet is a wonderfully useful tool it can also be a place where people aren’t what they seem. Explain that you’ll be setting rules in place that give you, the parent, the right to track their smartphone and monitor their internet activity, which includes the handing over of usernames and passwords.

Don’t expect this to be an easy pill to swallow but be firm and fair. Also explain the consequences of breaking the rules, such as the loss of phone privileges altogether.

Tracking a Smartphone

In the interest of mutual respect it’s best to inform your child before you install any tracking devices on their phones but if, for whatever reason, you need to keep that information to yourself there are many apps available that track smartphones at various levels.

The most basic of these apps use the phone’s GPS service to alert you to the actual location of the phone. So if your teen says she’s at her friend’s house but the location is different then you’ll be ready to take action. Other apps are more comprehensive and include GPS tracking as well as access to their contacts list, calls made, websites visited, and texts sent and received. If you see something amiss, especially in their call history, you can use a reverse phone lookup service to determine who it is your child is talking to.

Securing Laptops and Other Home Computers

Most newer computers and operating systems come with built-in parental controls that allow you to set up your child’s user account and restrict access to certain parts of the web. This is especially useful for younger children and those using a shared computer. The computer should also be restricted to a high traffic area of your home. Your child is less likely to visit forbidden websites if the screen is visible to others.

Other tools and software can be installed that records all of the computer’s activity and saves the data. Some of these products also allow you to view your child’s internet activity in real time from a separate device. These tools might seem overly harsh and you may feel a bit guilty for spying on your children but this is the best way to monitor activity, especially if there have been transgressions in the past.

Of course, you can’t monitor the activity of a computer outside the home, for instance one at a library or the laptop belonging to a friend but if you have usernames and passwords you can still check their social media accounts and email for suspicious activity.

The dangers a child faces on the internet are real, from cyberbullying to stalking and more. Granting a certain amount of privacy is an important part of parenting but keeping your kids safe will always come first.

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