When your child is still young, keeping track of his online activity is relatively easy. You can set filters, give him easy rules to follow, and even block him from all sites except a select few.
As he starts to grow, however, he will realize that there are many more things he can see and do, and either he will begin to ask you for more freedom or he might become impatient and try to find ways around the established rules without your knowledge.
Is there a way to avoid a fight for control? How can you make sure to balance your child’s need for protection with his or her desire for freedom? Is there really a certain age in adolescent years when you can step back and let a teen have unfettered access to the internet?
Thinking of your child exposed to the internet at large might worry you, and for good reason. There are many, many dark corners on the web, and untold predators, stalkers, hackers, and scammers are always evolving their schemes and stratagems to catch unsuspecting youth.
Still, you don’t want to alienate your child as he grows and begins to chafe under his restraints. Extremely strict, controlling parents tend to raise rebels, and that’s the last thing you want. All the same, even plenty of moderate parents struggle to keep their kids from feeling annoyed or resentful because of the parents’ choice to use spyware to monitor computer and phone usage. Even when based on the best intentions, these decisions can damage relationships between parents and teens, especially if the spying was initially done in secret.
So how do you balance the respect for your growing child’s privacy with the need to protect her through parental supervision?
The best way to avoid future problems is to stay up-to-date on what your little one is doing online now and what she wants to be doing. Ask her about what she does online, who she talks to, and if she has anywhere else online that she wants to go. Because you show interest in what she wants and does, she will know that she can tell you when the filters have become too limiting or when her friends invite her to play a new game. Setting the trend now means she will be much more likely to ask your permission in the future instead of sneaking behind your back and breaking rules.
More importantly, you should talk candidly with your child about the dangers present online, from predators[February 2017 blog] to scams[January 2017 blog] , so he understands that the reason why you are making rules and keeping him from accessing the whole internet is for his own safety. Children understand much more than we sometimes think they do, so you should find ways suited to your child’s age to explain the reasons behind the rules you’re enforcing.
The same tactics extend easily into any monitoring through spyware that you want to do later on: When your child matures enough that you are ready to trust him with online freedom, you can tell him that you are lifting the filters that were previously in place, but, in his best interest, you are going to replace them with software to help you keep tabs on what he’s exposed to. Being upfront about the changes and helping him understand that you’re sticking around a little longer to keep him safe will reduce any exasperation on his part and any attempts he’ll make to cheat the system.
Starting young is one of the best ways to handle any safety issue, and in this case, it could save some future heartbreak in your relationship with your child as well.