Should You Monitor Your Teen’s Internet Use?

When the answer is “It’s nothing mom,” every time you ask your child what’s on his or her phone, you may start feeling anxious as your parent radar glows red. Fears of cyber bullying, chat rooms and inappropriate YouTube videos race through your mind. These are not trifling concerns.

Children and teens don’t need to be sitting at a Chromebook to be constantly accessing media online. More than 75 percent of teens have smartphones, and a stunning 91 percent of young adults, aged 16-25, say they use the internet for social networking. With this kind of access, the imperative question is, should parents monitor their children’s online usage, and if so, how should they do it and how much should they monitor?

Reasons to Monitor

While many parents choose not to use technology to monitor their children’s internet usage, those who do cite many reasons for their choice. One of the largest groups of parents who monitor is those who have children under age 13. These parents are more likely to want to see which websites their children visit, or simply to know if their children have made it safely to school using GPS tracking. Almost half of these parents of younger teens use technology to monitor or limit their children’s internet use. Regardless of age, many parents are concerned about the threat of cyberbullying, sexual predators in chat rooms, and the pornography that is readily available in social media and elsewhere.

To Monitor or Not to Monitor

Part of the reason this debate is so diverse is that parents of teens come from many different generations. Studies have found that almost two-thirds of younger parents, those 45 and under, are monitoring the websites their children access, as compared to only half of the parents who are older than 45. These aren’t from a technology-rich era, and many don’t know how to access their teen’s accounts. Younger parents are often more tech savvy and use monitoring tools, such as pcTattletale, to track their children online. It is nearly undetectable, and for concerned parents, it allows them to track keystrokes or remotely view recordings, making it one of the best keylogger programs for Windows that is available. Other parents find a middle ground, talking to their children and installing monitoring systems the children know about. Frequent discussions, set boundaries and an open dialogue are encouraged by internet safety experts, regardless of where you stand in the monitoring debate.

Discussing Appropriate Online Behavior

Though all parents do not agree about monitoring, nearly all, 94 percent, say they have talked to their teen about what constitutes appropriate behavior online. Such conversations happen more frequently with parents of younger teens than those with older teens. Internet safety sites promote the importance of discussing the dangers of risky behaviors, such as posting personal information online, ‘friending’ strangers or sending them personal information, visiting X-rated sites, or talking about sex with strangers. These behaviors make the teen an easy target for predators.

If You’re Worried

There are many ways to monitor usage. Parents can find simple apps that limit time, and more complex technology, such as pcTattletale, that will covertly monitor a teen’s online activity. This great solution will your child both online and through GPS tracking. It’s compatible with iPhone and Android so you can check in anytime and the technology has a free trial period. Setting up a laptop docking station also allows parents to connect a teen’s laptop to other devices that they use to monitor their online activity. These technologies not only make parents feel reassured, younger teens often feel more freedom when they don’t need to constantly check in to reassure a nervous parent. Finding ways that help parent and teen safely navigate the internet is essential, and parents need to be aware and involved in finding what works best for their family.

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