Generally speaking, you shouldn’t have to spy on your kids while they’re online. But creating the proper Internet usage environment requires active participation on your part as a parent, and a lot of parents either don’t take the time or simply don’t know what to do.
There are a lot of options out there for parents from basic settings on web browsers to advanced parental monitoring software.
While a parent certainly has the ultimate say, kids should actually be involved in making the rules covering online use for a couple of reasons. One reason is that, if you treat your kids as being trustworthy and responsible, they will generally try to act that way. Another is that, by involving them in the process, they can learn why certain things can be dangerous and how to recognize those dangerous things.
Simply forbidding your kids from going online will often tempt them into doing just that. Maybe not at your home, but surely at school, the library, or a friend’s house. Even telling them they can’t go to certain types of sites might backfire.
Most teens don’t use email much anymore. They are far more into instant messaging when they’re online and texting via their cell phones. This means that any parent wanting to monitor their teen’s instant messaging activity needs to use software that actually does that.
Sure, a parent could actually block instant messaging, but most parents aren’t going to want to go that far. They want to trust their teens and they know that forbidding something only makes it ‘forbidden fruit’.
Instant messaging is done either via chat rooms or by using special instant messaging software such as Yahoo Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger. Indeed IM software comes with new computers.
All IM clients come with the ability to block unknown users, which means only people on your teen’s contact list can get through. As a parent, you should make sure that setting is enabled.
Sometimes a parent feels they need to check up on their kids, even though they know their kids want to be trusted. Nothing can break the bond of trust more quickly between a parent and a child than the child finding out their parent spied on them by, say, reading their diary.
Prying into a child’s privacy tells that child that you don’t trust them…particularly if the child has done nothing wrong.
But, just because a parent shouldn’t spy on their kids as a matter of course, that doesn’t mean that sometimes a parent doesn’t have to.
If you have reason to believe your kids might be doing something inappropriate or are concerned about them, you may feel you have to monitor their online behavior. If this is the case, knowing how to discreetly monitor your kid’s email may protect them both from what you’re worried about as well as their finding out what you’re doing.
While there are ways to discreetly monitor email without using 3rd party software, most parents won’t know how to do it. As a result, using parental control software that includes the ability to monitor email is the way to go.
In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to secretly check on your teen’s online behavior. The two of you would have sat down together, set up rules you both agreed on, and your teen would have behaved in a trustworthy manner.
Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world.
Whatever reason you have for being concerned about your teen’s online activities, you may decide that you need to secretly check on that behavior.
Keep in mind, though, that you won’t be able to check on everything. Teens nowadays have access to the Internet practically everyone, from school to the library to friends’ homes to Wi-Fi hotspots all over town. And with today’s new devices, they don’t even need a computer.
Not only that, but they probably have friends who can show them methods, such as using a proxy server, to bypass blocks you may place on their Internet access.
Computer and Internet technology provides parents with numerous options to block or restrict Internet access, from not letting them get online at all to restricting access to certain web sites to literally tracking every single keystroke.
However, as parents have discovered through the ages, the more you try to restrict and control a child, particularly an older one, the more likely they are to sneak around behind your back to get to the “forbidden fruit”.
As a result, establishing rules for the Internet should incorporate common sense, sound reasoning, and communication.
The first step is for you, as parents, to determine what you are trying to control with your rules. For example, if you are trying to protect your kids from online predators, then educating your children as to the dangers and giving them the skills to know how to recognize potential problems has been proven to be far more effective than simply forbidding them to go online.