Every week, we come across a new study that contradicts the last one on how much screen time should be allowed to kids. When you buy your child their first tablet, phone or computer, you have to make some hard choices. One of these choices is to decide how much digital privacy you should give to your kids.
Leaving your child unsupervised with a phone/computer and Internet is an invitation to lots of troubles. Identity thieves, online predators, cyberbullies, and data miners are on the outlook of attacking young audience that is new to the world of Internet and smart phone. But truth be told. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. This is exactly why as parents, you should ponder over how much digital privacy to assign to your children.
As tough as this decision seems (since it can raise questions related to privacy concerns), you have to do it. So, here is how you can manage their digital privacy at home:
How much digital privacy to give?
What amount of privacy does a child deserve? This depends on their age. Here is a breakdown of the privacy rights according to the age of your kid:
- For kids with elementary-school age: Kids who fall into this age category need zero privacy. Don’t let them go out of your sight when using tabs or phones. Use parental controls to keep them from unhealthy content.
- For kids with middle-school age: Kids in this age category should be allowed to visit approved sites but you should not let them retreat to their room and surf the internet freely without any supervision.
- For kids with high-school age: The amount of digital privacy you offer to kids under this age depends on their emotional and social wellbeing. For instance, if your child is socially isolated or reclusive, then don’t let them retreat into the digital world alone.
What about password privacy?
Should you have access to all the passwords of your kid’s social media account or even email account? That depends on the level of trust in the relationship with your child. It also depends on the family dynamics and your kid’s maturity level.
By the way, you will not be breaking any rule if you have access to their passwords. If your child is in elementary or middle school, I suggest you must have their passwords and maybe even occasionally check their social media accounts. However, be as transparent about it as possible, you don’t want to come across as a mom or dad who snoops. Let them know when and why you checked their accounts. This will also make your child cautious so, they might hesitate to get involved in something rebellious online like responding to strangers or posting inappropriate pictures.
Note: Keep in mind, checking occasionally is different from checking constantly. You will have to take a leap of faith in the relationship with your kid no matter how worried you are about their digital lives.
Should you read their conversations or not?
After password comes the concern of reading their conversations. All parents have the opportunity of reading the text messages and other personal conversations of their kids but that doesn’t mean you should.
All their conversations are confidential unless you sense that your child may be bullied, has a drug problem, coming home late all of a sudden, hanging out with wrong friends, etc. Parents usually have a great intuition and when that natural gut feeling kicks in, that’s when it’s OK to read their conversations. On the other hand, if you are simply curious and that has nothing to do with the behavior of your child, then it is recommended not to read.
Whatever the case, you are well within your rights to check their conversations since you are paying for the phone they use. It is perfectly healthy if your kids themselves know that you will read their messages once in a while since you are doing it for their digital safety in the first place.
Have a conversation about digital privacy
Checking the conversations and the way your kid uses technology is one thing but what if your child turns the tables and argue that you are violating their privacy? To avoid the rage, it is important that you have a conversation about digital privacy in your home and communicate your expectations clearly to your children. That’s the only way your child will be able to handle their emotions.
That’s not it, you must make them understand the importance their own digital privacy online. Before managing the tech usage of your kids, you must educate them about the good and bad out there. Only then they will understand why they have limited digital privacy rights at their own home.