Does Your Teen Have Unlimited Data? You May Want to Rethink That

Looking at cell phone screen

Highlights:

  • A data cap could help your child stick to the rules.
  • Parents need to understand why and how teens break the rules.
  • Parents can protect their children with data restrictions, web monitoring tools, and open communication.

Unlimited data for every line in your house may seem like a no-brainer. Most plans offer it now, and if you’re a certain age, you probably remember the frustration of hitting your data limit. However, you might want to think about data caps for your teenager, or at least keep a close eye on the amount of data they’re using, because it may not match up with what your parental monitoring reports tell you about what your teen is doing online.

What Data Can Tell You About Parental Restrictions

Whether it’s your phone plan or your home’s WiFi plan, the actual data usage might tell you a different story than the one that your teen and your parental controls are telling you about what your teen is doing online. 

For example, you may install a security suite on your child’s laptop that sends you reports showing that your teen is visiting only approved sites. But the fact is that your teen could dual-boot the computer, add a second operating system, and use that to have unfettered access to the internet. 

If your parental control reports show that your child is doing very little with their device, but the data (or your own eyes) tell you that they’re online all the time, something is going on. 

The truth is that children and teens push boundaries, and the internet is a common way for tech-savvy kids to do that. 

For example, you may not see incriminating texts in your child’s SMS history because they’re using a free online messaging service like iMessage or Snapchat. 

Or if you restrict the home WiFi, kids can use their unlimited data plan to create a mobile hotspot to run their other devices from, bypassing your home internet connection entirely. 

Teens also learn how to set up second routers, bypass OpenDNS, and use features like internet browsing and messaging on game consoles that parents may not have thought to protect. 

It’s a good idea for parents to assume that their teens are better educated when it comes to tech than Mom and Dad. They can (and often will) find ways to bypass parental controls wherever they can.

What is Your Teen Thinking?

Looking at a phone in bed.

Teens break the rules. They push boundaries. And in today’s world, that includes rules and boundaries you’ve set up for safe internet use.

They may not do it out of a desire to break the rules or be malicious. Teenagers want privacy. They want to separate themselves from their parents. They want to do the things that they see other kids their ages doing. And if their parents seem too strict, finding a way around the rules is an easy behavior to justify to themselves. 

It doesn’t help that teens often don’t realize when a rule may be meant to keep them out of danger rather than restrict their fun. And unfortunately, the internet is full of potential dangers, from cyberbullies to identity thieves to sexual predators. But chances are that your teen isn’t thinking of the possible risk to themselves when they lie about their age on their finsta, post their home address on their Facebook page, or join online dating apps meant for adults.

They also aren’t thinking about the potential dangers when they make plans with someone through an internet messaging app that you can’t access, then tell you that they’re doing something else. It rarely occurs to them that If they go missing or get hurt, you might not be able to find them to help. 

These are things that parents think of, but kids and teens can be impulsive. It’s not that they’re incapable of seeing potential consequences; it’s more that they don’t have the life experience to see and imagine far ahead. They can also make choices impulsively, usually with what they want in mind more than what’s good for them. 

Today’s parents need to do more than set rules. They need to know how their teens think so that they can anticipate possible problems or steps that their teen might take to get around rules or restrictions. They also need to be aware of the reasons teens fight certain rules and restrictions. 

Parenting in the Internet Age

Looking intending at a phone.

Teens need limits. Choosing to give your teen a data cap is one way to make sure that they’re following yours. If your teen can’t use unlimited internet, then hopefully, they’ll choose to do the things that need to be done and keep unwanted activity to a minimum. And if you see them hitting their data cap or using much more data than usual on an unlimited plan, you’ll know something is up. 

It can also help to install protection at the device level. Parental monitoring software like WebWatcher, for example, can provide you with reports, alerts, web filtering for Android phones, and other tools to help keep your child’s internet use within the restrictions that you set.

Talk With Your Teen

But the best way to head off problems is to have honest conversations with your kids. No matter how good your parental monitoring tools are, there’s always a chance that your child will find a way around them. Establishing an open line of communication with your teen helps to ensure they won’t need to find a way around your rules. You want them to come to you when they run into a problem online, even if they weren’t supposed to be there. 

For that to happen, your kids need to trust that you’ll prioritize their well-being over punishing them for breaking the rules. Building that kind of trust means a lot of honest conversations and being willing to discuss the reasons for the rules. Most teens will also respond positively to your willingness to negotiate in good faith. 

WebWatcher is only one tool in a parent’s toolbox when it comes to keeping teens safe online, but it’s a valuable tool. To find out more about how WebWatcher can help keep your family safe, get our free trial.

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