You can find an app for pretty much anything these days, and there’s definitely no shortage of options when it comes to cell phone surveillance. Whether you want to call it mobile spy, spyware, surveillance, or mobile monitoring, there are plenty of companies out there that will sell you their software, claiming to “keep your child safe” or assuring you that it’s “for their own good.” Now the question “Should kids have cell phones?” is a whole other article. The truth of the matter is they have them. The Center on Media and Child Health shows that 22 percent of kids ages six to nine have cell phones. As they get older, the numbers rise – 60 percent of kids ages 10 to 14 and 84 percent of kids ages 15 to 18. If you’ve read your child’s text messages, you’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, about 50 percent of parents have admitted to doing so. Far fewer have used an actual spy tool, but more than 60 percent say they monitor websites their teen's visit and check their social media profiles. (Let’s be honest – this is probably the biggest reasons parents have Snapchat.) I have friends that fall on both sides of the question “Should you monitor your child’s cell phone?” For some, it’s a given – they see having a cell phone as a privilege that they pay for, so they make their child hand it over every night for review. For others, they wouldn’t dream of opening up their kid’s phone unannounced because they remember what it was like to have their privacy disturbed as a teen. While this is a very personal choice – whether or not to use a mobile spy – I’d challenge you to ask yourself a few questions before you say yes:
1 | Do you suspect they’re up to no good?
Is your child suddenly being dodgy or secretive? Did they go from being on their phone sometimes to constantly checking it, and going out of their way to keep you from seeing the screen? Before you get too concerned, think about it logically. Perhaps they have new crush or friend. Maybe they are at a really high level in the latest app game craze, and they can’t get enough. Before you assume the worst, think about other scenarios. And finally, just ask them. You have this right as a parent, even if they do try to roll their eyes and shut down.
2 | Are you worried they are in danger?
This is one you don’t want to overlook. If you truly suspect that your child is in danger, then it’s time to have a real heart-to-heart conversation with them. Better yet, make sure to have these tough conversations with your child before you suspect anything. Sure, it’s awkward to talk to your kid about child predators that pose as teenage girls and people in other countries trying to dig up security details. However, it’s a lot better that they know about these things. This way when that little alarm goes off in the back of their head, they’re comfortable enough to come and talk to you first.
3 | Do they already have a poor track record?
This is where the privilege part truly comes into play. If your child has been caught sending inappropriate messages, photos, or going on websites they shouldn’t, then it’s your job to stop the behavior. This is a case where having random cell phone checks could be in your best interest until they earn back trust. Remember, they’re not going to like it. They’re probably even going to despise you for it, but stay strong!
4 | Is it actually for your own curiosity?
Be honest – do you just want to know if Sabrina is dating Jake or if Tristan broke up with Megan (yet again)? If you find yourself getting sucked into tween and teen gossip, then you need to have a little chat with yourself and find a way out. This also goes for constantly monitoring what they do. Sure, you can watch on the sidelines as a silent observer and occasional commentator, but don’t be the first person that always “likes” what they post or comments on their status.
5 | Are you just bored?
If you said yes to the above, then this one might be true as well. Maybe you just have a habit of checking your phone – most of us check our phones 85 times a day! If this is the case, try to break this habit. Everyone talks about kids have a problem and addiction with technology, but adults are just as bad – or worse. Let your mind get lost in something else. It’s good for the brain.
6 | Do you want to lose their trust?
Before you use a mobile spy, this is a really good question to ask yourself because you will lose your child’s trust. Some parents might say that you should be your child’s parent and not their friend, and I agree. But trust is a two-way street. If you absolutely need to monitor your child’s activity, just know that this could affect that.
7 | Are you just doing this because other parents are?
Have other parents convinced you that this is the thing to do? Before you buy into someone else’s parenting method, step back and think of your own. If you have a trustworthy kid that has never given you any reason to question them, then maybe it’s good to give them the benefit of the doubt. Technology is a wonderful, crazy, and sometimes scary thing. And it’s undoubtedly going to change and evolve faster than we can imagine. Before you fall for a company’s “You MUST monitor your child’s cell phone” scare tactic, try having a conversation with your child first. There are so many things you can do before taking it to that level. After all, even though “there’s an app for that,” it doesn’t mean you have to use it.