Do you know what your children are doing online? There are a myriad of online threats facing children as they grow up in a digitally connected world. Used correctly, Internet monitoring software provides a tool for busy parents to help keep their children safe online while respecting their privacy and independence.
Safe online practices are critical to mitigate against threats such as cyberbullying, online predators and exposure to inappropriate content. Children and teens need time to develop the cognitive capacities to identify risks, and to learn the real implications of what they share digitally and who they share it with.
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The aim of parental monitoring software should be to encourage open dialogue between parents and children, to then provide a level of guidance as they explore the online world. However, not all monitoring software takes the same approach. To understand the pros and cons of Internet monitoring software, it’s important to appreciate that the available solutions vary in terms of the levels of privacy they maintain for your children.
The challenge for parents is to find the right level of online monitoring to keep children safe without hindering their growing independence. Younger children look for greater levels of parental involvement and tend to be less concerned with privacy, but this is normally the opposite for teens. This means the choice of monitoring software needs to be considered within the context of your children’s age and maturity.
The prime motivating factor behind the use of monitoring software is to protect children and keep them safe from online threats. Just as parents prepare their children to navigate the dangers of the real world, our technologically-integrated lives now require a whole new set of rules for the digital world. Parents know it’s important to guide their children, especially when they may not have the experience or cognitive maturity to make responsible and safe choices. The frontal lobe of the brain does not fully develop until young adults reach their mid-twenties, meaning the reasoning centre of a child’s brain is still growing and they are less able to identify threats . Monitoring software is designed to be a practical solution to protect children from a range of online dangers by providing parents with the ability to supervise their children’s online choices and behaviours.
Monitoring software allows parents to gain an understanding of how much time their children are spending online and where they are spending their time. Monitoring can be used to protect children from overuse of technology and ensure parents encourage them to remember there is life outside of the Internet.
Most parents grew up before the Internet existed, but today’s generation are growing up in an increasingly interconnected world. What children choose to do and share online now leaves a digital footprint that could easily follow them into their adult lives. Your child’s digital footprint could have job consequences or even legal consequences affecting their future. Monitoring software encourages children to think more about their choices and to think carefully about what they post, partly because they are aware they are being monitored . A good rule to communicate to your children is that if they wouldn’t feel comfortable showing a photo to you then it isn’t appropriate to be shared on social media - monitoring software can help reinforce this rule.
Internet monitoring solutions can be described as ‘spyware’, if your child’s online activity, such as sites visited, keystrokes, photos, texts and private messages are accessible in their entirety. This can be compounded if monitoring software is installed without openly discussing this with your children, or worse, if the software is installed without their knowledge. The use of invasive ‘spyware’ has the potential to communicate to a child that they cannot be trusted, which can damage the relationship between parent and child. Parental monitoring software should be used to start open conversations, as opposed to attempting to ‘catch’ children or teens when they do something ‘wrong’.
Unhealthy monitoring practices, such as spyware, can result in children feeling that they are not permitted a sense of privacy or allowed any responsibility for their own actions. It can be difficult to teach the value of privacy as children become more independent, particularly if they feel like they aren’t entitled to it themselves . Children should be encouraged to develop good instincts and to learn appropriate limits, so they can make better decisions for themselves.
If parents monitor their children’s online activities without discussing the underlying reasons, this can potentially damage trust and encourage them to be secretive. It is crucial to communicate why monitoring is important and how it is designed to keep them safe, so they don’t see it as a punishment or an unfair restriction. If your child feels trapped, distrusted or that their privacy has been breached, then it becomes more likely they will find ways to evade monitoring. Children are highly curious and intelligent, and many parents will confirm that when rules feel too strict their child’s natural instinct can be to look for loopholes. Many young users will quickly learn more about technology than their parents can hope to, which is another reason why monitoring software is most effective when used as a tool to encourage open dialogue.
Internet monitoring software can be an important component of modern parenting in the digital age. Though monitoring software has the potential to encroach on a child’s independence and opportunity to make mistakes, the balance between protection and privacy can be achieved with a combination of the right software and the right parental guidance.
Monitoring software is not a substitute for parents having open discussions with their children. It should be considered as a safety measure, like Internet training wheels, used before they learn to be independent. Children need to learn the skills to thrive in the digital culture of modern society and monitoring software allows parents to be involved in this important developmental process. Monitoring software simplifies the challenge parents face to allow children room to grow, learn and navigate within the digital world while balancing online safety and protection.