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This is Janice, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom, to share why I am monitoring my son’s iPhone — and why he is okay with it. Please note that TeenSafe provided me with a free account for the purpose of review but I am not financially compensated nor required to write this post.
The conversation went pretty much how I expected.
No teenager wants to hear that you are installing monitoring software on their mobile phone.
There was the initial, “No way Mom — how could you do that to me?!?” Followed by the perennial, “No one else’s parents do that!”
But sometimes making unpopular decisions is part of the “parent” job description.
And after the initial shock faded, (and my wise words sunk in a bit,) my son accepted his new reality: Mom might be watching.
Nothing is More Embarrassing than Your Mom Reading Your Texts…
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t grab a glass of wine every evening and settle in for an entertaining evening of reading my son’s texts and social network updates.
In fact, since I installed the monitoring software a couple months ago, I have only checked in a couple of times.
“What good is that???” you may ask.
I don’t need to check too often, because I know my son is keeping himself in check.
You see, for all the lectures I had given him over the years about the public nature of social media, for all the times I have stressed that every photo, text, and video you make can live forever online, the thought that HIS MOM might be watching is a lot more real.
As adults, we can understand the long term ramifications of online mistakes. But for kids, grasping the abstract concept that their futures might be impacted by something they text or post online can be hard to grasp – or worry about.
With my son, I already knew that he was well versed in online responsibility. As a professional blogger, I have taught him from a young age that everything he does online is “branding” him.
He may have a solid case of ADHD, but my kid is careful. He has big aspirations in life and doesn’t want to mess them up. So I haven’t been too worried about his online choices.
But adding in this extra line of protection has been extremely helpful. It has made me feel more comfortable knowing that I can check in on his online activity if I feel I need to and it has given my son that extra pause to check in with himself before he hits send/share/tweet/etc.
Because Mom is the Least of their Worries
Honestly, at first I thought about agreeing with my son that I wouldn’t look at his texts. But then I realized something.
I am the least of his worries.
The fact is that no text is really private – especially texts sent to other kids whose parents might also be checking in on their kids’ phones.
We all know that an “embarrassing” text or photo has the potential to cause irreparable harm.
But the problem is that kids believe the ILLUSION that what they are sending is private.
By telling my son I might be checking his phone, the illusion of privacy is broken.
He has to be accountable in a much more tangible way.
But Don’t Kids Deserve Their Privacy?
Yes, yes they do.
If my son wants to keep a journal tucked under his bed, I will respect his privacy and not read it.
If my son wants to have a private conversation with a friend, I will not eavesdrop.
But, if my son is texting or sending/posting photos or videos, let’s not fool ourselves, those are not private. They could be used against him one day.
If the fear of his mother – or his friends’ parents – reading his texts keeps him from saying or posting something damaging, then I have done my job. (He can thank me when he is older.)
Teaching Our Kids to Monitor Themselves
I have been blogging for almost ten years. And every time I hit publish, I put my words through my own checklist:
- Is this something I want my children to read?
- Will my post hurt my children or anyone else?
- Are my words in line with who I want to be, both online and offline?
- Is there anything about what I am posting that I might one day regret?
(And now that my kids are older, if my post is about them, I check with them before publishing. And yes, my son read this post and gave me permission to publish it.)
Teens don’t have the self control and emotional processing that adults have.
What parents have known forever, science has now proven. The frontal lobe in their brains will not be fully developed until they are 25 years old.
That is a lot of time to make some serious mistakes.
Fortunately for us old folks, when we were growing up we didn’t have digital records of our mistakes.
But our kids have a surreal burden — no one is anonymous.
While I am praying that the future holds a hold new version of grace for one another, the reality is our kids have to face a world where peers, parents, teachers, college administrators, and employers can, and probably will, search their digital history.
So, along with teaching my kids how to safely cross the rode, signal when they are riding their bikes, and not to go anywhere with someone before checking with me, I need to teach my teens how to “monitor” themselves — both offline and online.
What Software am I Using?
TeenSafe approached me this winter to test out their software. After reading up about their company and their software, I agreed to check it out.
The sign up and installation was simple and intuitive and their interface is appealing and user friendly. iPhones do not need to be “jailbroken”, nor do Android phones need to be “Rooted”.
TeenSafe is available in the US and Canada and works with iPhone and Android phones. The app is not detectable on iPhones and on Androids, an app is installed in the background, but does not appear on the Android phone’s home screen or app dashboard.
As for cost, after a 7 day free trial, TeenSafe costs $14.95/month and you can add an unlimited number of kids to your account.
Using TeenSafe, parents can see:
- Sent, received and deleted SMS and iMessages.
- Call logs of sent and received phone calls.
- Device location and location history.
- Web browsing history, bookmarks and contacts.
- Messages sent via Whatsapp and Kik Messenger.
- Instagram images, posts, comments and followers.
- Facebook messages, friends, posts and more
TeenSafe does not display images nor videos sent via text. You can see that an image or video was sent (when and to whom) but you will not be able to view the image or video itself.
TeenSafe also has a helpful resource blog called Teenology that offers great advice such as this Parenting Guide to Tech Safety.
And if you would like some help with that difficult “I am monitoring your phone” conversation, check out their post, 5 Ways to Tell Your Teen You Are Using a Mobile Spy to Monitor Their Smartphone.
Tell your friends, they’ll thank you…
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