When it comes to parenting, monitoring vs. privacy is an age-old argument. Still, the reason we bring it up again is that it has escalated drastically in the recent 5-10 years. Obviously, this change occurred when we gave up the communal ‘computer room’ that every family had and replaced them with personal, handheld devices for each. That’s where the problem lies. Because for a parent, estimating when monitoring becomes invasion of privacy has become more confusing than before.
So, in today’s blog, we’ll get to the bottom of this and come up with an applicable solution.
The Age Meter
Digital parenting rule number one: use your best judgment.
Children need different doses of privacy at different stages of growing up. At age 5, they’d start to attain bodily autonomy, so they might want to shower on their own for example. By the age of 10, they’d start looking for ‘hiding places’ because they’d want to be on their own for an hour or two. As they get into their preteen years, that’s when the need for privacy takes its full form. They might keep their bedroom door shut, or even demand locks.
The parent’s duty is to then judge where they kids are on the age meter and strike the monitoring-privacy balance accordingly. For example, if your child is 11, you should insist that they keep their bedroom door open at all time. If your child is 16, allow them to close their doors for a certain period of time. Establish a trusting relationship where they are aware that what they do truly is your business as the parent.
The Internet Control Meter
Moving onto internet monitoring. Choosing what you should worry about and what you need to go easy on seems to be the main problem for most digital parents. Try using this checklist to help you out.
- Checking their Facebook. Be meticulous with this one. Look at their friend’s list, read their wall posts. See who they talk to and what they talk about. A good parental monitoring app would let you go through their messages as well.
- Check their internet history. Nothing else will tell you of their browsing habits like this one. Make a random or remote check, otherwise, they might clear up stuff they don’t want you to see.
- Check their social media bio and look for things that might be too personal. Make sure they don’t have details like phone numbers, email addresses, or home address up. These are the things that might make them accessible to cyberstalkers—and real stalkers, too.
- Check their WhatsApp messages if you can. Again, a monitoring app can help you with this.
- Check what pictures they put up on Instagram and if they are appropriate.
This checklist consists of things that you should rigorously check. The rest you can go easier on.
Monitoring or Privacy? Both.
In parenting, monitoring and privacy are not mutually exclusive. Which is why when he choose one, we assume that it exists in isolation to the other. But you can simply not hand a child a smartphone without strings of mediation attached. You need to control how they use their technology so they can use it in their best interest. Leaving them alone with their personal handheld devices could be catastrophic.
So here’s what we’re deciding. When dealing with smartphones and adolescents, give preference to monitoring over privacy.