mash: family / technology
I actually don’t believe you should spy on your kids: I believe in monitoring them, and I believe in letting them know they are being monitored. (I addressed my reasons in the Slender Man commentary.)
Some parents would argue that this is almost an insurmountable task given how techno-crafty kids are these days. In fact, a well-spoken Googler I corresponded with through my Google + account noted about the recent Slender Man stabbing:
The facts are that in this day and age most parents CAN’T do that. These girls plotted this for months, and were apparently smart enough to be discrete about it. It isn’t a lack of parenting skill, or love not given, or such… It’s the simple fact that these two were clever enough to secretly plan murdering their best friend, and to come up with an ‘alibi’ they could use to make people think they were insane.
And while the task of monitoring your children’s online alter egos might seem daunting, there are somethings you can do to make it easier. The truth is, I think we give kids too much credit. Many of the children today are users of technology. Beyond entering a password and setting basic profile settings, many of them have little knowledge about online security, the cogs and gears of how social media works, or the way information flows online. As a parent, if you are willing to spend a little time, there are ways you can be more aware of what your children are doing online. Here are a few tools you can add to your tech-belt to help “spy on your kid”. UKnowKids This company claims to be “parental intelligence”. They give you all the bangs and whistles, like graphs and charts, to monitor children’s social media use. On Android phones you can review text messages, photos, call history, and apps. (Only photos and contacts on the iPhone.) You also get Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram monitoring, “geo-based” notifications, and pre-established “check-ins”. They’ll even help you find social media accounts your kids try to hide from you. And this service is probably a lot cheaper than you probably think. Parental Controls Remember those good old fashion parental controls from your TV’s V-chip? Well some communications companies have them too (for a fee). For example, AT&T and T-Mobile can shut off a phone’s access to the internet, outgoing calls, and text-messaging during certain fixed hours. Sprint even says that they can restrict internet use to age-appropriate sites. NetNanny Netnanny has been around for a while. It seems to be a jack-of-all trades by providing social media monitoring, cyber bullying detection, pornogrpahy blocking, and time/day usage limitations. It also has an option that monitors several well-established social media sites in a way that isn’t tied to a device. (That means that they can use a friend’s phone to access the social media sites, but you’ll still see the activity.) Apple’s Family Sharing / Where’s My Phone Apple has a new “Family Sharing” option. It isn’t revolutionary. You probably do most of this stuff anyway of you have an iPhone. One thing I do like is that you can ‘find’ other family member’s phones. So you’ll know where you kid is–or at least their phone. And if it’s in the reigm of what you are comfortable with, you can even add their pictures to the ‘cloud’. That means you can see what they are taking pictures of. mSpy This seems to be the mack-daddy of commercial electronic intel. You can tell who your child is calling, when, how long they talked, and even record the phone call and listen to it. (I probably wouldn’t go this far, but some parents might need too). You can read messages, email, and see text messages. It even has a key-stroke logger for goodness sakes (that means you can have the password for any site they visit). Combine the GPS locator and the ability to “listen to device surroundings” and you’ll know where they aren and what they are doing anytime you want. You can also block unwanted callers and websites, and check what they talk about on Instant Messenger. Low Tech For low tech solutions, move electronic devices to a general space where you can monitor what kids are doing. This means laptops, tablets and smart phones. Also, set all of the devices your child can access to store the cache and cookies. Occasionally check to see if your child cleared them–this could be a signal you need to monitor their activity more closely. (Here is how to clean your cache. You should start with a clear cache, and monitor if it’s been cleaned by some else). Looking through the cache and cookies can help you spot trends, and see where they might be hiding social profiles you don’t know about. Also, you can search specifically for their face on Google’s face search engine (yes, that does exist). Get even a wider scope using Pictriev, which bring up look alikes. This is great if you think you kid is hiding a profile under a different name. If they slapped a profile picture up there, you just might find the account this way. In the end, I’m all about parents doing what they have to do in order to keep their children safe, even if it’s from themselves.
What methods do you use to monitor your children’s online activities?
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