How to Monitor Your Teen’s Instant Messaging Activity

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.Should you Monitor Teen’s Instant Messages?

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. 

However, you still may feel the need to monitor your teen’s instant messaging activity.  Perhaps it’s because you feel something’s wrong.  Or perhaps it’s just because there’s always going to be someone who tells them how to change the settings, assuming they can’t figure it out by themselves and assuming they won’t abide by the ground rules you’ve set up with them.

This is where parental monitoring software and parental controls come in.  Newer operating systems come with parental controls that will allow you to monitor, even block, instant messaging.   If considering third-party software, you need to look for monitoring software that will allow you to monitor discreetly so that your teen won’t know they’re being monitored.  You also want software that will log the activity that occurs.  Preferably you should get software that not only records keystrokes, but also takes screen shots of activity on a regular basis for a “picture” of what’s happening. Some good examples of these types of software are Spector Pro, Advancd Parental Control and WebWatcher.

Some monitoring software allows you to be emailed with reports.  However, you want to make sure that your teen won’t know emails are being sent out.  Logging should also be kept in a hidden, password-protected database that will allow you to search by keyword, the most common users, and so forth.  Not only that, but some IM monitoring software comes with a “translation” feature…in other words, it translates those common acronyms all teens use (like PRW…’parents are watching’.)

With luck you won’t need to monitor your teen’s instant messaging activity, but if you do, make sure you use the right tools.

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