Should You Monitor Your Child’s Phone? Guidelines & Tips

Parenting has always been a challenging responsibility, and the widespread use of cell phones has only added new challenges. The increasing popularity of social media and instant messaging has further amplified the problem of screen dependence.

The dependence and convenience of phones/social media have created a parenting minefield. Monitoring your child’s phone and online presence is an ethical and fundamental game of tug-o-war. 

Is it okay for parents to look through their child’s phone? Parents should monitor their children’s phones to protect them from online dangers such as bullying and predators. Teach your child safe and appropriate phone use while respecting their need for some privacy. Communicate transparently about why monitoring is necessary.

According to DataReportal, there are 5.03 billion internet users and trillions of media pieces circulating daily.

Of 5.03 billion internet users, “92.1% use mobile devices to access the internet.” It is parents’ fundamental responsibility to protect their children from danger. 

How can you balance your child’s privacy while monitoring their phone use?

Monitoring Your Child’s Phone Activity 

Monitoring your child’s phone can be done respectfully by communicating openly and having tough conversations. The focus of phone monitoring should be child safety, not privacy.  

Why It’s Important To Check Your Child’s Phone

Monitoring your child’s phone can keep them physically and emotionally healthy.

By communicating to your child that you are monitoring their phone while setting ground rules on appropriate phone behavior, you build a relationship based on respect and honesty.

Potential Threats and Dangers To Be Aware Of

The list of potential threats and dangers on the internet is overwhelming. Children are easy targets for various online hazards. The four most common online dangers children face, according to Norton Family Internet Security, are: 

  • Inappropriate Content – Content can include nudity, violence, drug use, language, and mature videos
  • Scams – Scams involving money and/or sensitive personal/financial information are the most common
  • Predators – There are “500,000 predators online daily.” They often groom children using popular games, social media channels, and chat rooms.
  • Cyberbullying – Bullies no longer have to leave their homes to face their victims. “37% – 50% of children 18 and under have been the victim of cyberbullying,” according to DoSomething.org. Young people who are cyber-bullied are more at risk for self-harm, depression, or suicide. 

How To Approach the Subject With Your Child

Be clear with your child. The best time to approach the subject of phone monitoring is when the child receives their first phone. 

Having a family discussion about why and how you monitor their phone will encourage future discussions on privacy. Focus on safety, health, and family fundamentals when approaching the subject.

Be kind, calm, and firm on phone monitoring. Make transparency the foundation for phone privileges. Make honesty the foundation for privacy.

Guidelines for Monitoring Your Child’s Phone

There is a difference between snooping and monitoring. Guidelines for phone monitoring should be an agreement between parent and child.

Monitoring your child’s phone without their knowledge or snooping can lead to resentment, anger, and distrust. Using various monitoring techniques with your child can make the experience more comfortable. 

1. Be Transparent

Be honest with your child. Tell them how and why you are monitoring their phone. 

2. Ask, Listen, and Look

  • Ask the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.  By giving your child the opportunity to communicate willingly, you are nurturing open dialogue and trust.
  • Listen to the details, reflect on the conversation, and save the teachable moments for another time.
  • Look – Use monitoring apps, pair your phones, sit by one another, share passwords, or follow one another on social media

3. Communicate

Communicate openly. Give your child the opportunity to ask questions and share their feelings. 

A young girl staring at a phone while under a white blanket at night.

Parental Monitoring Apps

Parental monitoring apps are abundant on the market. Apps can control how and when children use their phones. Apps can also filter or restrict content and features.

Parental monitoring apps can be customized to a child’s age, monitoring type, and notification delivery system. Many quality apps require a subscription or a one-time fee, but you can’t put a price on peace of mind.

Many apps come highly recommended. Here are my top four favorites. 

Bark

Bark is a subscription-based monitoring system. It monitors emails, texts, phone calls, internet usage, and over 30+ social media sites.

It is a comprehensive tool that navigates, detects, and alerts when the child’s account is threatened or when an unwanted activity occurs. Bark also limits screen time and app usage.

MMGuardian

MMGuardian is an AI-driven monitoring system. It allows you to customize your monitoring needs based on your child’s age. It alerts, tracks, detects, and filters content and activity.

MMGuardian allows parents to remotely access their child’s phone and gives parents full access to their child’s phone. This app is subscription-based and can be used for multiple devices.

OurPact

OurPact is intriguing. It is a subscription-based app that allows you to track, monitor, limit, and detect phone usage. You can also set limits, block features, and share content.

OurPact promotes a healthy relationship between parents and child(ren).

Essentially, OurPact is an agreement you make with your kids. They use their phone responsibly, and you monitor their activity and safety. They know and agree with the guidelines. 

Norton Family

Norton Family is geared toward families with older children. It allows children to roam the internet freely while giving you the power to block sites, apps, and content at your discretion. It does not allow you to see their messages or photos.

Norton Family can be used on numerous devices, and it is not discrete. Norton Family is subscription-based and can be applied per household. 

Related Questions: 

What Age Should Parents Stop Checking Their Child’s Phone?

Parents should stop monitoring children’s phones at the age of 18. At 18, children are legally adults. 

Should Parents Monitor Their Children’s Social Media?

Yes, parents should monitor their children’s social media accounts. Children and teens spend an average of 8 hours a day online.

The effects on mental and physical health are tremendous. Children are at risk for scams, cyber-bullying, predators, and exposure to inappropriate content.  

Final Thoughts

Parents must protect their children from danger. Monitoring your child’s phone is a modern-day necessity.

Communicating with your children about safe and appropriate phone behavior is the first step in supporting your child’s journey to independence.

Deciding on the monitoring method that works best for your family begins with reiterating safety. Have honest conversations, and support your child’s social-emotional growth.