Acronyms abound in technology, but SMS is one acronym parents need to know. So what is SMS? According to Twigby, SMS means Short Message Service. SMS includes any short messages, and texts are the best example of this message type.
So why do parents need to know about SMS? Texts, tweets and DMs (aka ‘direct messages) are some of the most widely-used forms of instant communication among teens.
If you’ve ever heard your teen proclaim that they planned to “slide into” the DMs of someone, you should be on alert! “Sliding into DMs” is code for messaging someone with romantic or amorous intent.
Since nearly every single teenager now has a smartphone, ‘sliding into DMs,’ sending texts (or sexts) and other instant messages is more common than ever. Unfortunately, parents aren’t always aware that teens are sending provocative or inappropriate messages to peers or friends.
However, a comprehensive parental control app/software should allow parents to monitor SMS communications. SMS tracker capabilities are key to ensuring that teens (or younger kids) understand online and mobile communications etiquette.
SMS Tracker: Let’s Talk Monitoring
Before you install any monitoring app or software on to a teen’s phone, you need to talk to them first. Parents should NEVER monitor a teen’s phone without their knowledge or consent. Monitoring software is not meant to be used to spy on kids and teens.
While a parent might think stealthy monitoring is for a teen’s safety, a teen might not view it that way. Spying breaches trust between parents and kids.
So talk to teens about the importance of safety through monitoring. Tell them about the software and why it will be used. Also set parameters to loosen the monitoring reins as they get older.
Good choices and smart online behaviors should lead to more trust and perhaps less monitoring. Set expectations and guidelines and let teens know that you’re watching out for their best interest…and their safety.
SMS Tracker: Social Media
SMS tracker capabilities vary by app or software. Some apps allow parents to view incoming and outgoing texts, but others may only allow parents to view one or the other. And SMS tracker functions for social media apps also vary.
So how do parents know what they need to view or review? All monitoring apps and software have limitations. However, parents really need to research the social media platforms their teens use most. Then be sure that the software or app used for monitoring allows SMS tracking for that particular social media app.
Parents should have already talked to kids about what is and is not appropriate to say and send online and via social media platforms. Some social media sites—especially dating apps like Tinder—shouldn’t be used by younger teens, as this is a violation of the app’s Terms of Service (TOS).
Many sites stipulate that a user must be a designated age to hold an account. Monitoring SMS content could also alert parents of adult-oriented sites being used by teens.
SMS Tracker: Text Messages
The parental control app or software you choose should have SMS tracker options that include text monitoring (both incoming and outgoing).
Text monitoring can alert you to inappropriate activities, new friends and contacts or even cyberbullying victimization. Of course, monitoring text messages also could alert parents that their own child is bullying others online.
When reviewing texts, don’t become confrontational with teens. Instead, open up a dialogue about what you’ve found and why the messages are concerning. Talk to them and establish consequences.
Be sure that the monitoring software you use also allows you to view deleted texts. Sometimes teens may try to hide problematic messages by deleting them. A good SMS tracker should let you view messages that have been deleted.
SMS Tracker: WebWatcher
So what software or app offers the best SMS tracker? WebWatcher’s SMS tracker capabilities are extensive; parents whose teens use Android-based phones can view SMS texts as well as incoming messages from Instagram, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, TikTok, Kik, and Viber. And, yes, WebWatcher also lets parents view deleted texts.
WebWatcher’s SMS tracker capabilities for iOS-based devices also are quite comprehensive. Parents can view texts, deleted texts and messages from Tinder, WhatsApp, Kik, and Viber.
But what about all those messages parents can’t see? Again, all monitoring apps have limitations. There will be some messages that cannot be accessed. This is where trust and open, honest communication become crucial.
Parents cannot monitor every single message. So talking about boundaries, kindness and good online etiquette is so important to ensure they become good digital citizens. Initiate discussions about:
- Sharing private information
- What you should/should not snap (photograph)
- Asking permission before posting images of others online
- Personal boundaries
Teens will turn 18 eventually, and then they will be responsible for their own actions as adults. Prepare them to self-advocate and to advocate for others if they witness bullying. Online actions, words and posts are forever. Whatever a teen sends into cyberspace could haunt them for life.
The wrong photo or shared text could cost them a job, their dream school or maybe even land them in legal trouble.
Using a monitoring app that features a comprehensive SMS tracker allows parents to glimpse into the actions and words of their teens. And while many messages can be viewed, some can slip through monitoring. Every app and software program has limitations, and parents can’t rely solely on monitoring to ensure their child behaves or stays safe.
Monitoring software is only as strong as the parent/teen relationship that it helps protect. Actions always speak louder than words.
Show teens through your actions that their safety is your number one concern. Tell them you’re monitoring and why. Sit down each night and talk to each other…meaningfully. You may find that those conversations tell you more about your teen than their texts will ever reveal.