Bullying Digital Parenting

Is it spying to monitor your child’s media use?

Stand for the Silent - October 06, 2021

What’s the difference between cyberspying and monitoring? Cyberspying means to secretly collect information, and it will likely backfire for your children because it doesn’t foster a relationship based on trust. Monitoring your child’s location or media use with their knowledge, on the other hand, is fair game because you’re their parent.

You have a right and a responsibility to know where your children are and what they’re doing with their devices, but it doesn’t take a clandestine action to have peace of mind. How far you go to intervene, whether it’s installing an app to deliver their content to you, or merely asking about their activities, transparency about your actions will be to your benefit.

Simply: Have the conversation about the difference between spying and monitoring. Explain that installing a location-sharing app or similar service is for everyone’s convenience and safety, not to punish them if they make an honest mistake or appropriately deviate from a routine. With locating sharing apps, for example, children are part of the equation. Not only can parents see their child’s location, children can see where their parents are, too.

Monitoring is only part of a parent’s comprehensive strategy. The American Association of School Librarians hit this nail on the head in a post on Internet filtering of school computers. “Installing parental control software is a personal, family decision,” it says. “Most of all, it is essential to realize that parental control software is not a substitute for active parent interaction with your children and supervision of their Internet use.” Being proactive and talking about sexting, appropriate sharing or how much time to spend with a device will reduce the likelihood that you’ll be forced to be reactive.

There’s no one answer for every family, but success is always based on trust. Giving children space to be their own person without feeling that they’re constantly being watched is critical. Above all, a parent’s success with monitoring comes down to trust. “It shouldn’t be a one-way street from a parent discovering their child is being bullied,” said Zack Whittaker, a writer-editor for ZDNet, in a debate on the subject among ZDNet users. “Yes, to a greater or lesser extent, parents know what’s best for their kids. But kids, despite their age and development process, aren’t stupid either. We should give them credit, and so should parents.”

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