Kids will be kids – and they’ll get around it anyway.
It’s a parent’s biggest fear. The world wide web is full of information – both educational and unsavory. Children spend their lives online, tapping, clicking, and liking content in a panoply of different apps and websites.
Some of those sites are reputable and have distinct policies designed to prevent children from being caught up in unpleasant situations. Others are renowned for their laxness. Headlines seem to scream about the risks of being a child online every single day, and the clamor gets louder.
Little wonder then, that parents often feel the need to step in.
Monitoring their children through baby monitors is normalized from a child’s birth, and the protective nature of parents makes people feel like they should be watching their children like a hawk. But should they?
Let your child be free – with clear limits
The answer, in almost all circumstances, is no. While a range of products that market themselves as being parental guidance and oversight services exist just a simple Google search away, they’re better described as what they are: spyware. And you wouldn’t want spyware overseeing your every digital step.
While it’s important to have conversations with your children about the kinds of dangers that exist online and the ways to mitigate them, peering over their shoulder – literally or in the form of software installed on computers – isn’t necessarily the best way to broach the subject. Doing so breeds mistrust and encourages children to try and hide any troubling behavior they come across even more.
It’s also often easy to underestimate a child’s awareness of right and wrong.
Most children can sense danger, and are often quick to extricate themselves from awkward or difficult situations. Child grooming is a big issue, and it’s important to discuss how your child uses the internet on a frequent basis, but presuming they’re doing something wrong can cause your child to retreat further into their shell.
Child-friendly services exist
Many of the most popular apps and services we encounter online have child-friendly or appropriate versions. YouTube Kids was launched to provide a safe space for children to watch videos, while TikTok likewise has child accounts that prevent users from sending and receiving direct messages, and allows them to post videos but for them not to be seen by the rank and file users.
These services aren’t perfect.
They’re often maligned and reported on for their failures, which constantly crop up. But they’re a useful on-ramp if your child is determined that they want to participate in the digital world.
Talking about the risks and how to identify them with your child is often the best way to head off any problems before they arise. Installing spyware that stops your children from accessing devices or services, or monitoring what they do on those apps, isn’t.
Children can get around bans
One of the formative experiences that set off a 19-year-old hacker, who asked not to be named, was being prevented from watching videos on his iPod when he was nine. He used to stay up late watching silly videos on YouTube until his parents found out and installed software that prevented him from doing so.
He simply learned how to circumvent the system and watch the videos anyway.
Starting from a point of openness and conversation, rather than one of suspicion and secrecy, is the best way to ensure that any issues you fear your child may be encountering are addressed and dealt with.
Unless you want to encourage your son or daughter to learn the basics of programming and how to hack into systems, of course.