Obsessively Monitoring Your Kids’ Social Media Isn’t Parenting, It’s Spying

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girl on computer

I can remember when my parents bought our very first computer. A Gateway ordered from QVC that came in a box big enough for my little brother to live in. We got hooked up with AOL (naturally) and my parents laid down some ground rules. Above all, we understood that at any moment, our parents could ask to read what we were typing. The rules seemed reasonable and my brothers and I knew not to bother stepping out of bounds because we could lose our privileges entirely. I’m sure my parents would have preferred reading every single thing we typed but they must have realized that it makes little sense to spy on your kids online. It is better to teach them the right way to handle themselves so you know you can trust them on their own.

I know things are wildly different now as far as the internet is concerned. Monitoring your kids’ social media is a hot topic. There are seemingly endless ways for a child or teenager to cause themselves trouble in the digital age. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and texting present young people with many opportunities to exercise bad judgment and misbehave. However, parents obsessively spying on all of that is not an effective means of parenting. If a child is taught from the start how to handle themselves with the internet, then the parent can trust them to a reasonable degree. From the NY Post:

“You create greater danger than what’s out there online when you try to control every single aspect of a teenager’s life, to track where they are and take their phones and read their texts,” says Yalda Uhls, a developmental psychologist and media researcher for UCLA.

“It doesn’t build an honest, trustful relationship between the parent and child, and like with any extreme parenting, children will rebel like Jennifer Garner’s daughter does in the movie.”

Understandably, she says, “People are terrified, and they don’t know what to do now that technology is so pervasive in their kids’ lives.”

But much of the fear, she says, is overreaction.

“The truth is that very few children actually get attacked by sexual predators, and of the 25 prosecuted cases a year [nationally] of children who met up for sex with someone they met online, they had all exhibited problems in their offline behavior.”

The article is referring to a movie in which Jennifer Garner plays a parent who obsessively monitors all of her teenager’s online activity and of course, her child rebels. Uhls’ assertion that children who are attacked by sexual predators they met online are usually experiencing trouble elsewhere is backed up by Danah Boyd, author of the book “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens”:

“The risks that youth face online are not evenly distributed. Teens who are most at risk online are often struggling everywhere.”

In my eyes, the risks I am more concerned with are bullying and the chance that my child could be putting something on the internet that will never go away and could effect them for years to come. That is one of the main lessons I plan to instill in them before allowing them to use the internet.

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