As kids approach adolescence, their need for privacy and insistence upon keeping parts of their life away from the prying eyes of a parent can make it difficult to monitor their activity. With the advent of smartphones that allow your child to carry the Internet around with him in his pocket, the need to make sure that he’s not getting into online trouble can feel even greater. While it’s usually more effective to attempt an open dialogue about what is and is not considered appropriate online behavior before resorting to spy-level surveillance, there may be times when snooping feels like the only choice.
Even less than tech-savvy parents can learn to navigate parental monitoring software, which is designed to run in the background and be undetectable by users. There are several varieties of monitoring programs, all with different features and levels of functionality. One thing that they all have in common is an ability to reveal all the things your child is doing online when you’re not there to look over his shoulder.
Limit Computer Use to Common Areas
If you’ve opted not to give your child a web-capable smartphone or a laptop, then you may find it easier to snoop while he’s online if the main computer is located in a high-traffic area of your home. When your child knows that a simple glance his way could reveal questionable web content he’s viewing, he’s more likely to think twice about what he looks up. Not only will you be able to keep an eye on what your child is looking at, but you’ll also be able to influence him into making better choices based solely on your nearby presence.
Check Your Browser History
Older kids with more advanced computer knowledge may be savvy enough to delete their browser history, but younger kids and tweens may not yet have the required know-how. After your child uses the computer, take a moment to scroll through the browser history. You’ll be able to access all of the pages your child has recently viewed, allowing you to get a good idea of what areas need to be addressed most.
Fake Social Networking Profiles
If your children haven’t deleted you from their Facebook friends list yet, there’s a strong possibility that they’ve learned to manipulate the safety and security settings so that they can block what you’re able to see. One way to make sure that you’re seeing everything posted on your child’s timeline and every interaction he has is to sign up for your own fake profile and use it to add your child. Unless he’s naturally suspicious of strangers, he probably won’t block the visibility of his posts to a new friend.
Keystroke Recording Software
Every email, every message and every web search can be recalled with a keystroke recorder, along with your child’s passwords. If you have a serious reason to believe that something is wrong and you’ll need to be able to confront your child with concrete evidence to make a difference, keystroke software may be the way to go. Be warned, however, that a child who’s not actually involved in questionable activities will almost certainly feel that she has no privacy or grounds for trusting her parents. In the event of an emergency, these programs can be quite valuable tools for parents.
There are ways to remotely view everything the webcam in your child’s computer sees, but it’s wise to think long and hard before resorting to such things. No invasion of privacy is as personal or as upsetting as being actively watched when you’re not aware of it. Furthermore, there are some sights a parent just doesn’t need to see.
Do you want to track your child’s movements with an online GPS service connected to his phone or block content he’s able to view with the device? There are a slew of kid-monitoring apps available for smartphones that can help you keep tabs on your child when he’s away from home.
These methods will help you track and monitor what your kids are doing online, but there is no app or program to replace the trust that is almost certain to be lost when your child discovers the depth of your investigation. Before resorting to underhanded means of finding out what your youngster is up to, you may want to attempt having an open, judgment-free conversation about boundaries, appropriate behavior and the implications of being careless on the Internet.