Giving your child a phone opens up a world of concerns, especially related to their safety. So when your child is really young, snooping through their phone may make sense to you. However, as your children age, you’ll need new methods to ensure good cell phone behavior. Keeping an eye out for warning signs is good; obsessively checking their every text message is not.
If you continue to snoop as your children get older, they’ll feel that you’re disrespecting their privacy. Plus, they won’t develop independence or grow into responsible cellphone users if you watch their every move.
So how do you move from snooping to responsibly monitoring your child’s phone? The tips below can help you ensure your kids’ safety while respecting their privacy.
One option that can give you peace of mind as a parent is to buy a phone for kids. These phones are more limited than a full-fledged smartphones. If you don’t think your child is ready for a smartphone, kids’ phones can restrict their access to certain features. For example, some phones don’t allow for games, internet browsing, social media, or picture messages.
Another option to consider is getting an older phone that doesn’t have internet capabilities. Think back to your first flip phone. Some of them have been refurbished, and you can purchase them online.
You don’t have to worry about your kid accessing inappropriate online content if you pick either of these options. You can monitor their contacts. You’ll be protecting your child while they get to maintain some privacy.
Having honest discussions with your child about cell phones is a key part of ensuring their safety. Before they get their phone, make your expectations clear. Lay down your rules for apps and social media. When they have the phone in hand, go over the features together to fully understand the rules.
A cell phone is also a tool that they can use to engage with others. You’ll want to make sure that they know that what they say on the phone has consequences. Explain what kinds of pictures and texts are safe and appropriate.
You can also require check-ins or phone reviews. Let them know that you trust them, but ensure they know the rules of the phone. Perhaps if they treat this privilege with respect, the phone reviews will be fewer and further between. Your child will appreciate your honesty and that you’re not sneaking on their phone at night.
If you are a family of Samsung users, you can use “Kids Mode.” It allows you to set a user profile that only has certain apps in it. To access things outside of the approved apps, the phone requires a password. You’ll know that they’re safe, so your kid can use their phone without you watching their every move.
You can also set limits on screen time on iPhones. Set it up as a Child’s Device, and only you can approve what apps they can download. You can also change which apps run on data and which only run on Wi-Fi in the app’s settings.
iPhones also have a feature for younger kids who might just be using your phone. It’s called Guided Access, and you can lock your phone into the app you want them to use. To exit, they need to enter a pin. This is good for your little one who wants to play an educational game.
Your child can enjoy the game or show, and you don’t have to worry about what they’re doing. You’ll know that there’s no way they can end up deleting an important email or accidentally post to your Facebook.
You may have safety concerns about cell phones, but they are a great way to keep you connected to your child. They can even allow your kid to map their way home or call you when they’re in a tight spot.
Several of these even function as parental control apps. For example, Family Orbit lets you see messages, calls, and browsing history. You’ll know where they are and what they’re doing. You can also use the GPS feature to locate all the phones on your plan. This can be a handy feature when your teen is a new driver and on the road by themselves.
These apps can be helpful as you send your child out into the world. However, if your kid doesn’t know that you’re watching this closely, they may see it as snooping. Make sure you explain what you’re doing and why not break the bonds of trust.
Do you want to prevent your teen from staying up all night on their phone? Set a rule about when and where they can use it. You may already know that parental control settings and apps can limit data use. But consider restricting their phone use to a specific time.
If you have an eighth grader, you might tell them that they can’t use their phone after 9:00 p.m. Have them switch it to airplane mode, and then plug it in on the kitchen counter. This way, they’ll know you won’t violate their privacy by looking at any calls or messages that come through. Meanwhile, you’ll know they aren’t up all night talking and browsing online.
No nighttime harassment or late night gossip fests. Your kid can get a good night’s sleep and get their phone back in the morning. This can also help mitigate the impacts of cyberbullying and prevent other kids from influencing their behavior.
Using these five tips can help you keep your kids as safe as possible on their phones. Meanwhile, they’ll develop the skills and independence to use a phone responsibly.
An open dialogue about expectations is a key part of this process. If you explain your monitoring practices, they’ll feel more respected. Plus, your relationship will be stronger due to your honesty.
Ultimately, your kids should feel secure and safe. But you don’t want them to feel like you’re the enemy who doesn’t trust them. Help them grow by learning to walk that line between keeping them safe and snooping.