Child with a phone

You’ve decided to buy your child a smartphone. You believe they’re at the age where they can bear the responsibility of having one. However, that’s just the start of it. While making this decision, you might even be wondering whether or not you should read your kid’s text messages and monitor who they’re talking to on a daily basis.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, you’re at the right place. This article will dive into the various factors you should consider when deciding whether or not you should monitor your child’s smartphones. So let’s get right into it.

When Should You Monitor Your Kid’s Phone?

There could be several instances in which you might want to monitor your kid’s phone. Additionally, your decisions in these situations will also depend primarily on your parenting philosophy, and how much you’re willing to trust your child’s good judgment with their new devices.

Ideally, you should find the right balance between ensuring their privacy, and protecting them when needed, because children at a young age, no matter how responsible, may not always make the right decisions.

Some of the situations in which you might consider reading their text messages include –

  • If you suspect them of sexting – While sexting as adults may seem quite fun and harmless, it is illegal in the case of children. Several states have laws against it, as the exchange of sexual content between minors or of images belonging to minors can be considered child pornography under the law. As a result, this could be one of the primary situations in which you might want to read your kid’s texts to ensure they’re not falling into the trap of sexting. You must also know how to talk to them about sexting.
  • If they seem to be making plans with strangers – Another serious situation in which you might want to read your child’s text messages is when you suspect that they’re meeting strangers without you knowing about it. These days, with the internet being as vast as it is, it’s extremely easy for someone to make friends with strangers and meet them online. And while adults often do this for various reasons, it can be extremely dangerous for kids, especially if the strangers they’re meeting are ill-intentioned or are online predators looking for unsuspecting kids. This makes it crucial to monitor your kid’s chats to ensure they’re being safe in their interactions.
  • You want to monitor their language – Many parents are conscious about ensuring that their children use the right language in their interactions with their peers or anyone else for that matter. For example, if your child uses a lot of swear words and if this is something you want to nip in the bud, you might consider reading their texts from time to time so you can remind them of the importance of not swearing. However, don’t worry about this, because most kids use swear words in their conversations, and as a parent, you just need to teach them the importance of how to preset themselves given the environment they find themselves in.
  • If you think they drink or consume drugs – When kids are with their friends, it can often be hard to control what kind of conversations they have or the kind of plans they make. Sometimes, these plans could involve young kids experimenting with alcohol or drugs, which can put them at risk because they might not be responsible enough to deal with the effects of it. As a result, it can be pertinent in such a situation for you to read their messages because it’s a matter of their safety.
  • To prevent them from accessing inappropriate content – With phones and the internet being o easily accessible, children also often end up accessing a lot of inappropriate content online, and they don’t always use their best judgment when doing so. This can lead them to access content like porn, films that aren’t appropriate for their age, or anything that might also be very graphic. If you notice this happening or are concerned about the content they might access on their phones after their interactions with friends at school, this could be another reason why you might want to monitor your child’s phone.

Trust is Crucial, and a Two Way Street

Parent talking to kids on a bench

Like any relationship, the one with your kids will always rest on the pillar of trust. While children do require the right guidance and in the right manner so that they can become smart, empathetic, reasonable, and caring individuals, they also need to be given their space to explore their identity. And the only way this is possible is if you can build a certain level of trust in your child, and show your child that they can trust you.

It’s crucial that they focus on their education and go through the various stages of life like their relationships, challenges, academics, personal growth, and more, and parents must always be there to support their children through these moments in their lives.

What Boundaries Can You Set In Terms of Your Child’s Access To Their Phone?

If you’re giving your child a phone for the first time, you might want to set certain boundaries about the extent to which they can use their phone. You can have an open discussion with your child about this, understand their needs, and then arrive at an agreement about their phone usage.

This could be related to their overall screen-time in a day, the apps they can install and use, who they can talk to and when, and more. With these healthy and mutually agreeable boundaries on their texting and phone usage, you’ll be able to ensure your own peace of mind and ensure that your child is using their phone in the most productive way. However, that’s not to say that they shouldn’t also use their phone as a means of entertainment, but it must be age-appropriate.

Setting these boundaries is the best policy when it comes to parental monitoring, especially given how much access your child will have to different forms of technology in their day-to-day lives. Further, you must always be open with them and answer any questions they might have. As parents, we often tend to avoid talking to them about certain topics, but the best way to deal with them is to have a conversation with them about it. This is because when children wonder about different things and don’t get the answers to their questions from those around them, it leads to them looking for these answers on the internet, which might not always lead to desirable results.

This is especially important when it comes to social media. With kids having accounts on different social platforms, you must teach them the etiquettes and rules of these platforms, and explain the importance of respecting others’ privacy online. It’s essential that you teach them that their actions have consequences and that they must always be thoughtful in their interactions with their friends or anyone else online.

Whether you’re raising a son or a daughter, try your best to ensure that the rules apply equally to each so as to not differentiate between them merely on the basis of their sex. After all, all the basic rules of responsibility, privacy, and more must apply equally to everyone, without their gender being a factor.

How Can You Monitor Your Child’s Smartphone?

Now that you have an idea of how to go about the process of giving your child their first phone, and the boundaries and rules they must abide by, you will have a clearer idea about what to look for when you monitor their phones. However, how can you monitor them? The solution lies in parental control apps for iOS and Android. There are several well-known options in the market and a lot of other associated names that you can check out.

However, you must also be vigilant about software that make tall claims but could be harmful to your child’s devices and their privacy. Here are some of the features that the best parental control apps offer –

  • Phone call monitoring – You can use the app to monitor all incoming and outgoing phone calls made to the target device, along with details about the call duration, timestamps, and the phone numbers at both ends.
  • Text message monitoring – You can track who your child is texting by reading all their incoming and outgoing text messages. This way you can comprehensively monitor your child’s text messages. Some of these text message trackers also give you access to deleted messages, you can see what they spoke about even if they tried to hide it from you.
  • Social media tracking – Monitor all their conversations on social media applications, along with any media files shared between them. These cover apps like WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Kik, and much more.
  • GPS tracking – Track your child’s GPS location at any given point in time. You can also use their geofencing feature to set up virtual boundaries around unsafe areas so that you’re alerted every time they enter these zones.
  • Media file access – Access all their media files like pictures and images so that you can ensure that your child isn’t sharing any explicit images with someone while talking to someone.
  • Web browser monitoring – Using parental control software, a parent can also track all the websites their child visits on their smartphones, along with when and for how long. Some programs also give you the frequency at which these websites were visited.
  • Keylogging – If you want to find out what your kids are typing or if they’re changing the passwords to their social media accounts without telling you, the in-built keylogger can also give you a log of all the keystrokes entered on the device, along with other information such as messages on their devices, so that you have all the knowledge about their activities.

Is it illegal for parents to read their kids’ text messages?

No, it is not illegal for parents to read their kids’ text messages in the US. As a result, many parents use parental control apps to monitor their phones. However, if you live elsewhere, do check your local laws to understand the regulations about monitoring your kids’ phones.

Can you read your child’s text messages?

Yes, you can use a parental control app or an SMS tracker to read your child’s text messages. You can also use these apps to monitor their calls, track their social media conversations, track their GPS locations, set screen-time limits, and much more.

Key Takeaways

Whether you should or shouldn’t monitor your children’s text messages can be a huge dilemma for many parents. And while there could be several factors influencing your decisions, you must always encourage your children to be as transparent and open with you as possible. This way, they can work on building better relationships with themselves, their parents, peers, and also their teachers at school.

Note, that the key element behind all of this is trust, and if you’re worried about your child, you need to help them believe that they can trust you with their thoughts and actions and that you have the ability to understand them from their lens or perspective.

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