Why Monitoring Teen Phone Use Isn’t a ‘Once and Done’ Task

Teens can make positive use of their phones, but they’ll always need guidance.

Nothing about teens is “set it and forget it,” and that’s especially true of teens and their smartphones. Even if your future adult is well-behaved and never breaks the rules, and even with parental control apps keeping an eye on the big picture stuff, the developers behind the apps they love may have different ideas about what “the rules” are. Here’s how to stay on top of what’s happening on family phones.

Check On Apps

The nature of apps is that they change constantly. Developers like to fiddle with buttons, marketing teams like to change the names of features or even entire apps, and new tools might be applied to apps behind the scenes that change their function completely. Sometimes, what was once an innocuous app has its permissions changed at the store level, and becomes a problem.

A good recent example is Instagram, which switched the locations of the “save” and “post to your story” buttons in an update, and immediately annoyed users by having them accidentally share photos they didn’t want to post. Imagine, for a moment, being a teen with strict rules about what goes on Instagram, and thanks to a faceless developer messing with the interface, they’ve just broken it. Keep an eye on the apps your kids love as they update, so they don’t wind up causing trouble.

Chat About What They Do

Another important method is to talk to them about what they use the internet for. What are their friends doing on the apps you let them use? Who are they talking to? What are they talking about? Sometimes teens are put in awkward situations by people they thought were friends, and don’t know how to bring up the topic. Talking to them lets them bring it up at their pace. It also gives them an avenue to make requests, like if they get a job to add certain apps to their phone, without it being a big production.

That said, if they claim a teacher or a boss has asked them to add an app, it’s better to go straight to the source. The person making the request should be able to tell you why they want the app on your teen’s phone, what it does, and anything else you need to know.

You can’t protect your kids from everything, but you can help them out. Keeping the lines of communication open is the key.

Have Them Teach You

If you feel a bit out of touch with an app, ask your children to sit down with you and show them what the app does. They should show you what all the buttons do, take you on a tour of the settings, and in the case of social networks, add you as a friend, at least temporarily, so you can get a sense of how people interact on the app. Showing is sometimes better than telling, especially in the case of apps.

Technology is more and more necessary in all our lives, but it can also feel profoundly overwhelming. But with the right parental control apps, and some sensible approaches to tech, you can be aware of changes and act accordingly. To learn how apps can help, get our free trial!