A friend of mine recently shared that he and his wife regularly monitor their 11-year-old’s technology use. Under the guise of “charging” her cell phone, they review her text messages daily and they also comb her computer’s browsing history to see where she’s been on the Web. While Mom and Dad have an agreement with Daughter that they *can* do this, they’re unsure if she’s actually aware they *are* doing it. Regularly.
On one of these “digital recon” missions, Dad learned his daughter was planning her first kiss with her pint-sized beau, (aptly nicknamed “Sugarlips” by Dad.) So, as a result of “digital snooping,” Dad was able to stay on top of his daughter’s social life. He didn’t tell her he snooped, but the info he found prompted him to initiate a meaningful conversation with his daughter about her impending smooch.
Another friend has an agreement with her 12-year-old to do “spot checks” on her cell. During one of these surprise checks, Mom found an “I hate u!” outgoing text on her daughter’s phone. “Mom, it was an inside joke,” the daughter insisted when confronted. “We all do it to each other.” But this discovery launched a discussion on “tone check” and cyber bullying that Mom might not have had with her daughter otherwise.
Do you spot-check your child’s media use? Have you ever found something surprising? If your kids don’t know you’re monitoring them, is it an “invasion of privacy” akin to reading a diary? Or is “digital eavesdropping” good parenting sense?
Parents eavesdropping on kids is nothing new. Remember Mrs. Hatch in “It’s a Wonderful Life”? But “digital eavesdropping” takes things to a whole new level, and it raises issues of privacy, questions regarding what age should you start, what age should you stop, and how frequently should you be monitoring. It also raises questions about digitally savvy kids who are able to clear browsing histories, delete texts and otherwise superficially “cover-their-tech-tracks”.
Personally, I’m of the school that “spot checks” should be understood and expected, because it instills in kids the idea that they should think before they write, post, or send. It reinforces the fact that they are – in fact – writing for (and likely broadcasting to) a broader audience than just the intended recipient, and that audience could include Mom.
My own mom always gave me the advice, “If you wouldn’t want your mom to read it on the front page of the newspaper, don’t write it.” And I confess, many times I didn’t heed that sage advice. But that’s the type of caution “spot checks” enforce. Had I known my mom had access to every note I ever sent, I might have been more judicious about what I wrote.
Kudos to my parent friends who are monitoring their kids’ media use and using these opportunities to have meaningful conversations with their kids. While it might be viewed as an invasion of privacy in the short-term, the discussions will stay with their kids as they grow.
True, kids should be allowed to have the freedom to write and say what they want, but they need to understand and be aware of the consequences of doing so on a digital, permanent platform… And reminded of it regularly.
I can only hope Sugarlips’ parents are having the same conversations