As a parent, I am constantly bombarded with advertisements for Parental Monitoring software — applications that I can install on my child’s mobile phone or computer to make sure that he isn’t doing anything he shouldn’t be doing. Since my son is only 5 I don’t have to worry about that just yet, but considering that some of his friends already have iPads, I know that it’s only a matter of time that I will be researching what software option is the right one for our family. June is National Internet Safety Month, and as we bid farewell to this sunny month I pose this question: “Is it ever okay to spy on your kids in order to keep them safe?”
I do not believe it’s okay to spy. Yes, it’s important to monitor kids’ Internet usage to ensure that they are kept safe, but I don’t think parents should do it without disclosing it first.
I do believe that the most important factor in keeping your kids safe online is to have mutual trust in each other and to create an open dialogue within families. We as parents should be discussing with our children all of the potential online dangers and then giving them the tools and teachings so that they can keep themselves safe. We should be monitoring the sites they visit, the information that they post on Facebook and the texts that they are sending, but we should tell them that we are doing so. As soon as children start using a computer we need to inform them that their activity will be monitored; hopefully just knowing that their Internet history will be reviewed will be a deterrent enough from browsing inappropriate sites.
Children often model their behavior on that of their parents, so if we start to spy on our children and sneak around them to check where they are going online, then we are in a way telling our kids that being sneaky is okay. We should act in a way that we would want our children to act. Once trust is lost it’s hard to regain, so work together with your kids to ensure that you set fair limits and expectations.