Thursday, May 4, 2017

Kids and internet privacy

With a child reaching her tween years, my husband and I have been worrying more and more about what to do about monitoring internet and phone use.

I have friends who say they have passwords for all their kids' Facebook/email/whatever accounts and check them either nightly or at least periodically.  But my husband feels that this is an invasion of privacy and she'll find a way to circumvent it.  We should just educate and trust her.

I'm not sure.  I feel like there are a lot of creeps out there on the internet.  But at the same time, it seems impossible to be able to monitor everything.

What do you think?


  1. It is impossible, but I wouldn't just let her loose, either. Her critical thinking skills are still being developed-- she doesn't have an adult's ability to judge. I wouldn't let a tween kid wander around for weeks unsupervised, with no checks in Las Vegas or New York City, trusting her judgment to keep her from seeing or encountering things that might harm her. The internet is, if anything, a bigger city.

    My child is too small for it to be an issue yet, but my plans are:
    * Delay getting her her own tech for as long as possible.
    * Her computer will live in my office.
    * I intend to have passwords and monitoring software for her tech once she gets it.
    * I intend to install firewalls on the household internet.

  2. I think education and trust are waaaaay more important than constant monitoring and having all her passwords. I was a high schooler at the start of the facebook era, and I feel like my parents and I had a good relationship when it came to electronic use. I had my own email, facebook (neither parents were on fb), and a couple of online blogs/chatrooms. The biggest thing was that my mom just TALKED to me about it - about not sharing too personal information, about how nothing is ever truly private on the internet, about how I would respond if a person from a chatroom asked to meet me in person, etc. She would ask to see my fb page maybe every couple of months, but it was posed as "Hey, can I see the photos that you are sharing on there? What do you talk to your friends about on here?", which I *knew* was her way of checking in, but it never felt oppressive. The computer was kept in a public area (but that was more a function of the time - we only had one computer, and it was before tablets.) On the other hand, I had friends whose parents never let them have fb, or never let them have private passcodes, and it definitely strained their relationship, and my friends felt like they couldn't trust their parents with anything.

    The bottom line is your kids are going to need a little freedom to make (hopefully small) mistakes, and learning how to be a responsible internet user is now part of learning to grow up. Good education and talking with them and TRUSTING them are going to go a lot further than limiting their exposure.

  3. Education and trust are important. Keeping her safe is more important. And, really, it's not her that you don't trust. It's the predators who have honed their skills.

    A friend takes her kids' phones every night at bedtime. This not only keeps them from staying up all night texting, but also gives the parents the opportunity to check in.

    1. "it's not her that you don't trust."

      Her dad already said he doesn't trust her.

  4. Education and trust is important. But verification is, too. So, yes, get the passwords and do use them occasionally. A changed password w/o telling you says a lot. With me, that was the death penalty. Of course, my daughter's first phone was a "minutes" phone which she hated. And taking (and occasionally checking) cell phones is a good idea. Insisting you are a "friend" or whatever on any social media she is on is good. The checking and strictures can be loosened as she gets older.

    It sounds draconian, but youngsters (of either sex) are vulnerable. You didn't let her cross the street alone when she was younger, and this is not different.

  5. Unrelated to this post,
    In the past there was this post when the injection for a nerve block hurt the child more than the procedure would have without any anesthesia. Can anyone direct me to that post? Please?

  6. I agree with education and trust along with checking from time to time. Scary world out there, biggest fear is scammers. I don't know what parental controls are out there but look into them.
    Hate to say that where there is a will there is a way, secret accounts can be set up, going with peer pressure is hard, so help her by using you as an excuse to stay on the straight and narrow.
    Keep yourself educated on the newest bad stuff out there and make sure to share it.

  7. Your husband is right. Kids can circumvent anything you do to limit them, up to and including using someone else's phone or computer to go where you have restricted them. No easy answer.

  8. Buy them an apple product attach it to your own account and anything they surf can be tracked thru your account not quite sure how you do this ask the apple store. They wont necessarily know your snooping. We have a rule, cant have anything with wifi in your room without leaving the door open and it all has to be parked in moms room before you go to sleep. Kids could circumvent if they really want but it is important for them to know you care enough about them to try to keep them safe.

  9. I forwarded all your comments to my husband, but it hasn't changed his opinion!

    1. Is he against primarily the password sharing? I can see his point on that since any one can create other accounts to circumvent this tactic. Even at the library they can create a different FB account and just not share it with you.

      One thing I wouldn't want is teens accessing their FB accts on my pc, because it's so easy to get viruses and mal ware from FB apps, hacks, etc. I do my banking on my PC so it has to be kept secure.

  10. I agree with all of the above related to trust but verify.

    I'm not religious bit Godspeed to you and your daughter as she goes forth.

    Collecting the devices at night 8, 9 or 10 pm depending on age sounds smart to me. We weren't allowed to use the house phone after 9 pm when we were in high school. And supposedly sleep quality is best when screens aren't used the hour or 2 before bedtime.

  11. Start off tough. It's a lot easier to be tough now, and ease up when the child proves themselves worthy than to crack down later when they violate your trust. I say this as the parent of a 16 year old and an almost 12 year old.

    And she is a tween, not a high schooler! How (why?) is this even an issue?? If you waffle now, you're dead come high school. You're her parents, not her friends!!

  12. I am Anon 1:39. I had a few more things to say, since you asked for opinions. The fact that your husband ALREADY thinks "she'll find a way to circumvent it" should suggest to you (and him!) that your daughter is NOT ready for this internet access. He has already said, if not in so many words, that she is not yet to be trusted - yet he's ready to give her the means to do who knows what!? When she's 16, will she get the keys to the car just because her friends have cars? or because she has proven herself mature enough to handle the responsibility? You know - not all kids will break rules, but the ones that do are the ones that need them THE MOST. She may "hate" you, but it just means she is not ready for this privilege. You asked for opinions - well, mine is, your husband needs to grow a backbone. Again, you're parents, not her friends. Time to act like it.

  13. It's really disheartening to see so many people are OK with letting kids - kids who are not even highschoolers yet - parent themselves. :(

    1. I hardly think education and open conversation constitutes expecting children to "parent themselves".

    2. Oh, I don't think that education and open conversation are bad. The fact that anyone would think those things are sufficient - that verifying rules are in fact followed is "spying" - with *children* (not even teenagers, but *children*) is the part that boggles my mind. Yeah, I stick with too many people are letting their *children* parent themselves. The teen years - not the tween years - are supposed to be the "learn to be an adult" years. How the hell did it reach the point when 9-10 year olds are given the same privileges as 16 year olds?

  14. Ha, of course your child will circumvent whatever protections you put in place! It is easy, and the average tech savvy 12 year old can do it. My friends who work in IT security and monitoring have stories about their teens getting around protections.
    Education is WAY more important. Making children use the internet in public areas is a great step. Also make them understand that you can come up and ask what they are up to (when you do this do a quick history search). Don't do it often, otherwise they just get sneakier. Of course, initially you should be monitoring way more closely, and having many more conversations about what they see on the internet.
    The final bit about education (don't give out personal details, don't meet people from online, how will you respond to dick pics or someone wanting nudes etc), ask them who they are talking to, be interested. Ask about their (boring) fandoms they are in, what TV shows are they watching at the moment? Have they seen anything they aren't sure about on Tumblr? ETC.
    It is way more intensive to do it this way, but it is better than forcing them to be sneaky. Which is what will happen.

    An easy to read story you might pre-read before deciding it is suitable for your child, it explores some of the very real dangers online.

  16. We are not letting our tween have a smart phone. She has a Kindle to do anything she'd like to that the 'extras' of a smart phone will do, but limits her to being on wifi and for us that is only at the house or in our presence. We hope to activate a flip phone this summer as the "house phone". She can use it to text friends if she'd like (she hates to talk on the phone) and it gives both my girls a way to reach an adult on the occasions they are at home alone which isn't frequent. Honestly, for me as a high school teacher, the social media aspect and the DRAMA that creates is the main reason why she isn't getting a smart phone. We aren't allowing her on social media on her Kindle either. Kids her age aren't mature enough to handle themselves appropriately on social media even if they are educated. She gets exposed to enough drama at school where at least for her it is in an environment where she has to be physically present to talk to someone. She doesn't need it where someone (herself or a classmate) can "hide" behind a device causing them to not filter themselves and what they are saying. I say wait.

  17. Think about other areas of development. You don't send a two year old outside to play alone. A 2yo needs supervision and to be taught how/where to play safely. A 10 year old can hand a lot more freedom than a 2yo, and a 17yo can handle even more. A 5yo shouldn't be using the lawn mower, but a 15yo should be proficient at its use. Internet & social media are similar. Kids should start off constantly supervised as you do things together to teach them how to use a computer safely and responsibly. As they demonstrate the ability to be safe, you can give them more freedom.

    My kids have to give me their account passwords. This is to protect them, not because I don't trust them. They end up friends with kids on their sports teams, and some of those kids send out inappropriate material. My kids are able to say, "Don't send me stuff like that; my parents have my account password and will see it." They like having an easy out, and it keeps other kids from sending stuff to my kids that they shouldn't.

    Now, the fact is that I have never used those passwords. I just check what they're posting. They are required to have me as one of their friends and include me in all of their posts. They are required to ask me before accepting any friend requests, and they never accept friend requests from people we don't know 3D.

    Kids do not get computers in their bedrooms (my kids get a laptop when they're getting stuff for college, until then, they share the family computer sitting in the computer room where everyone has access). They don't have the opportunity to do anything on there that they're not comfortable having anybody see.

    "Everyone else is doing it" is usually not true, and definitely not a good reason for letting kids do things. That includes cell phone usage. It can be helpful to let kids see the price tag. How much does a phone cost? How much is the monthly line charge? How much extra is tacked onto that in fees/taxes? A little dose of reality can go a long way.

    If someone's life is such that a phone would be a useful tool, then a phone makes sense, but nobody needs a phone, and there's definitely not any reason to go to the expense of a phone just because your kid's friends have one. When kids get a driver's license, a cell phone is probably a good safety net. My two youngest got phones earlier because I got them each a flip phone when they started playing school sports and needed to call me to tell me when to meet the bus. They didn't get a smartphone until high school (this year's Christmas present for the youngest, and he was greatly appreciative). I think that waiting until later made my kids appreciate their phones more, and not take them for granted.

    No phones in the bedroom. I once scrolled through messages on my youngest child's old flip-phone and discovered that he was getting texts all night long. Even though he was supposed to be asleep, and his friends were supposed to be asleep, they would send messages, and the phone vibrating under their pillows would wake them up if they'd fallen asleep. After that I followed through on enforcing the "no phones in the bedroom" rule.

    Others have already mentioned it, but I'd agree with them that if your child is doing things that lead you to believe that she'd be sneaky and try to defy your rules and do things you'd specifically told her not to do, then you have a problem that needs to be fixed now, before it gets worse. If that's her character now, then she is not ready for unsupervised access to computers or phones.

    Best of luck