Nowadays, it is starting to become a norm for kids to already have their own phones. The world is becoming more and more technologically-inclined as time passes by. More and more parents are warming up to the idea of introducing various gadgets and gizmos to their children at a young age, and understandably so. Such gadgets could help you and your kid communicate more conveniently. Giving them phones is also essential so they can contact you during emergencies. However, this could be a double-edged sword. Giving your kids access to phones could also open doors for different kinds of threats to enter your children’s life. Phishers, scammers, pedophiles, trolls, and cyberbullies are just some of the predators that might find their way through your child’s inbox without you knowing. That’s why, while they are still not capable of navigating their own way through the labyrinth of media information literacy, it is you responsibility as a parent to supervise them and monitor their phone activities, specifically, the people that they talk to.
How can you monitor your child’s text messages?
There are many ways for you to approach this task. First, you can just talk to your child about it. Set several ground rules for using the gadget. Demand that they report it to you every time someone they don’t know tries to contact them. Expect that your children would answer you with pure honesty every time you ask. Or, you could also go for the more controversial route which involves snooping through your kid’s phone without them knowing, controversial because it arguably tows the thin line between “supervision” and “invasion of privacy”. Still, it can’t be denied that the latter is the more effective method since it gives you the chance to catch the predators red handed. The first method would only work if your kid is always being hundred percent honest. Unfortunately, predators are also skillful manipulators. Remember the Momo Challenge? A predator managed to make several kids do scary things to themselves and their families that resulted to serious injuries and even death (i. e. take an entire bottle of pills, turn the stove burner on while everyone’s asleep, etc.). They accomplished all of that right under the parents’ noses because they were threatened of getting their entire family killed if they ever told anyone. This is to say that once predators get to your children, they could turn the tide against you by having your own kids protect them from you.
It is normal for parents to want to protect their kids from any possible dangers. But as our world advances, more and more hazards pop along the way. Abusers can now get to your kids within a few seconds just by the click of some fingers. But don’t worry! There are a lot of ways for you to stop them.
What can you do?
Well, as said earlier you can either go to the old-fashioned route of just fumbling around their phones when they’re not around or go down a more modern approach which is using an app to do so. The former is the simpler, easier solution. However, it comes with a lot of risks. Using this method would give you a bigger chance of getting caught while the latter is more discreet. Most phones also requires a password before it lets anyone in. Unless you know your child’s password, then sneaking off with their phones would be for naught if you wouldn’t be able to open it anyways.
So if you really want to crack open the chamber of secrets (a.k.a. your child’s inbox), you can go for the latter option and hope for the best.
To get you started, here are some of the apps that you could use:
- PhoneLeash: SMS/MMS Forwarding
This free app lets you see the messages that your kid receives by forwarding a copy of it directly to your email. On top of that, it also gives you the chance to reply to the said messages anonymously.
For IOS users, this will allow you to monitor the contents of your kid’s iMessages. This app has two versions: the free one and the paid one. Both almost have the same features, only difference is that the free one would only work if the app is also downloaded and activated on the phone that you’re monitoring. But if you want to maintain the veil of secrecy, you’re required to pay $29.99 monthly for the premium version, since it works even without installing the app on the other phone.
This paid app lets you view everything in your child’s inbox, even deleted messages, for a discounted price of $19.99.
This one is a Holy Grail for many parents out there. It has all kinds of feature such as: it can help you oversee both text messages and calls, it can track the actual location of your kid’s device, it lets you see all data made by your child through its keylogger, and more. For a price of $39.99 per month, you can have full monitoring power over your kid’s phone.
This app is definitely another cult favorite. Just like Spyzie, it can also track the current location of your phone target. It also doesn’t only work for messages but it could also monitor your child’s social media activity in social networking sites such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and many others. It also lets you access their phone’s gallery, thus letting you become aware of the kinds of photos and videos they’re taking and sending.
However, keep in mind that setting up all these parental control software should only serve as temporary measures. It should only be implemented while your kid is still not mature enough and responsible enough to guarantee their own safety while using phones, continuing this kind of practice until they grow as young adults would be downright abusive and controlling. That is when you draw the line between supervision and invasion of privacy.
How to stay safe when using phones?
You should also start educating your kid about proper phone usage the minute they get the phone, or maybe even before that. Here are some advice that you could give them about smart cellphone use:
- Think before you click.
This is probably the most cliché advice that you could possibly give but, nevertheless, it still rings the truth. Just like in the internet, thinking twice before sharing a certain information or picture with a person is still a must. Because once you’ve already pressed send, it’s done. There’s no way for you to take it back anymore. Remind your child to always be mindful of the content of the messages they are sending and who they are sending them too.
- Don’t reply if the number is unfamiliar.
If a strange number is reaching out tell your kid not to engage with it just yet. Wait for the sender to give their identity first before getting back to them. If it didn’t, just leave it on.
- Block the number.
If a certain someone keeps bugging you or your child for some reason, you can always block their number. Blocking them means they wouldn’t be able to contact you or your child in any way, thus they wouldn’t be able to text you or call you anymore.
- Don’t give out personal contact number to everyone.
Tell your kid to give their contact number only to a few trusted friends and adults, doing so will not give way for people they don’t know a chance to contact them.
- Be mindful of location sharing.
More and more apps are starting to require turning on location sharing. Make sure that the apps that your kid is using are trustworthy and wouldn’t leak their location to certain predators.
- If something happens, tell it right away.
Remind your kid to never ever be afraid of telling you as parents if something unfortunate happens. Like If they are being cyberbullied; If someone sent them something that they didn’t want to see; If someone is disrespecting them through the phone; If someone is threatening to leak their private information or pictures; If someone wouldn’t leave them alone or If someone is making them uncomfortable. Talk to your kid that they don’t have to face it alone and as parents you wouldn’t reprimand them or judge them for it. Chances are, you can both handle the situation better if you’re together.
As the old adage said, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Same goes for this situation. Ultimately, the best way to ensure your children’s safety is by arming them with the proper media and information literacy that they need to survive. This is the long term solution that they need to adapt, for these skills will be with them even as they get older and once they finally learn how to use phones wisely your confident that your child will stay secured and not swayed by any predators.