Should You Spy on Your Kid’s Smartphone?

Teenage boy sitting at a desk with a phone.

In some ways, a smartphone can be a safety device.

It allows you to reach your child from anywhere, and for them to reach you. They can search for directions or even use GPS if they get lost, and they can receive emergency information about severe weather and other disasters. 

But in other ways, a smartphone can potentially be a safety risk. Your child will have access to the entire worldwide web – the good and the bad. That means that they may come across inappropriate pictures or videos, be contacted by strangers who have bad intentions or even have their data mined by anonymous sources for any number of reasons. 

Where is the happy medium? Should you hold off on getting the phone for your child, get it and hope for the best, or get it and keep tabs on your child’s use by using computer monitoring software? Here are some key points about what you need to know concerning the pros and cons of spying on your child’s smartphone.

Point 1: You Have a Right to Monitor Your Child’s Phone

If you’ve purchased a phone for your child and you pay the bill – or even if your child made the purchase and pays the bill, but they’re underaged and live in your home – then you have a right to monitor their phone usage. 

As a parent, it’s your job to keep your child safe from danger, and you can’t do that if you don’t know what your child is doing. For example, you probably ask them where they go whenever they leave the house. If they refused to tell you, you probably wouldn’t let them go until you learned what they were going to be doing and who with. 

The web is not that different. It holds some of the same dangers that the outside world does, as well as some that are specific unto itself. You need information in order to keep your child safe, and you have a right to gather that information. Sometimes that means monitoring your child’s phone, and if that’s the case, so be it. 

Point 2: Your Child Deserves Autonomy and Privacy

At the same time, your child deserves some space to themselves. They need to know that they can have private thoughts, interactions that they don’t have to tell you about, and that they can explore information without running it by you first. 

In short, your children need age-appropriate autonomy and the freedom to make some of their own decisions and even mistakes that they’ll learn from on their own. And a smartphone is one platform where today’s children do those things. 

Children deserve the chance to make their own decisions and their own mistakes because it’s the best way for them to learn to become independent adults. You can’t expect them to run all of their decisions and interactions by you forever, and it’s better that they start separating themselves from you as their age and maturity dictate while they’re still children or teenagers living in your home. 

Mother peering of the shoulder of her teenage daughter.

When they’re still dependent minors, they can turn to you if signs of real trouble arise, and you’ll have the opportunity to help them realize the consequences of their actions. Your children deserve at least some privacy in their lives because understanding personal boundaries is also an important part of becoming an autonomous adult. 

How Parental Monitoring Software Can Help

Fortunately, there are ways that you can keep an eye on your child while preserving their autonomy and privacy and giving them the chance to make good decisions for themselves. Parental monitoring software is one way to do that, and it’s a popular choice among parents who want to strike a balance between overprotectiveness and common-sense safety.

Parental monitoring software is not the same as picking up your child’s phone and looking through it. In many ways, it’s less invasive than simply going through your child’s phone every day, and most experts recommend that you tell your child when you’re installing parental monitoring software. You should also tell them what you’re looking for and what you’re not looking for, and how they can expect you to use the software. 

Parental monitoring software can also let you see more than you would just from picking up your child’s phone and scrolling through it. It can be surprisingly easy for children and teenagers to hide things from a casual viewer, and with parental monitoring software, you can see what your child has downloaded to their phone, who they’re text messaging with, and what pictures, video clips, or audio clips they’re storing. 

Your best course of action as a parent is to have a straightforward talk with your child about their rights and responsibilities as a smartphone holder, as well as the potential dangers associated with smartphone use. Let them know that you consider it your right to keep an eye on their activity, but as long as they’re following the rules you set and being responsible, you won’t be too intrusive. 

You can set alerts with your monitoring software so that you’ll be notified of certain unwanted behaviors, which will keep you from having to snoop through innocuous posts, texts, and activities that your child might prefer to keep private, for example. 

If you turn on GPS tracking on your child’s phone, you might agree to only use it to find them if they don’t respond to your calls within a certain amount of time, so that they don’t have to feel like you’re constantly tracking their movements, and you can have peace of mind knowing that you can find your child if something is genuinely wrong. 

“Spying” is a loaded term when it comes to your child’s safety and wellbeing online and concerning their smartphone use. You may want to avoid the term. However, monitoring your child’s smartphone use is just smart and conscientious parenting. When it’s handled with tact and respect for your child’s growing independence, it shouldn’t cause a huge conflict between you and your child. 

Just keep your child’s needs in mind and make sure to explain your thinking to them as well. To find out more about your parental monitoring software options, WebWatcher invites you to get our risk-free trial.