There is no parent alive, old or young, who will tell you that parenting is easy – it’s definitely not. And having online problems intermixed with regular parenting difficulties only makes it that much worse.
But it’s not all bad, as there are certain aspects of of parenting children online that makes it easier, as there are parenting apps that allow you to follow your children, such as Hoverwatch and Kidgy. And there’s always good ole stalking your kids’ social media accounts. But is it right to do these things? Should kids have online privacy and not be tracked by parents?
Alex explains that “children require a degree of privacy appropriate to their age in order to shape their own lives and identity.” While he knows it’s difficult for a parent to give up that control, “protecting children over the age of thirteen from online content is a fantasy.”
While children who are younger than ten would definitely benefit from close monitoring, children of this age also have a closer relationship with their parents and are more dependent as well, so “that kind of control doesn’t seem iron-fisted.” They need a “guiding hand” to be sure they don’t face anything too traumatic.
He suggests restricting content too much would leave children feeling sheltered and coddled. Alex doesn’t believe “mature” content would damage a young person’s psyche, yet challenging relationships with a parent leave long-term emotional scars. He figures it’s better to allow a child to see porn than permanently damage the parental relationship. He also notes he has “learned this fact intimately from long experience.”
Phil believes “children need to be managed until they can make their own healthy choices,” noting that means managing food, activities, friends, social interactions, and the “ability to go to the store without shrieking like a banshee every time they don’t get what they want.”
He doesn’t think children should have “unfettered access to the Internet, not in this day and age.” He reasons you wouldn’t let your children have control of the television without being aware of what they are watching and cautions to “not confuse privacy (a right for most humans) with a license to free-range consume anything they want without your permission.”
Simon sees the problem with allowing kids free rein of the Internet to be that they’re not “wised up enough to spot a scam or malicious person.” While they may be tricked into downloading malware that could damage a computer or get scammed in some way, that’s on the less harmful side.
But on the more dangerous side there are “people who prey on the trusting nature of kids which requires an adult to step in and protect the children from harm.” He thinks that until a child is old enough to spot malicious acts for what they truly are, they shouldn’t have complete control over their Internet use.
Fabio thinks kids should always be monitored. “They don’t have the experience an adult has and can easily get into trouble.” He adds there are online dangers that kids just aren’t mature enough to understand.
Sayak knows kids who are much more tech savvy than their parents. They might not be big on playing outside and reading books, but they know everything about “scoring free coupons, bypassing filters, and hiding stuff online.” He doesn’t think they’d allow their parents to monitor their online activities.
He believes parents should give their kids a sit-down speech regarding the dangers of sharing personal details with strangers on chats but also warns against giving children too many “dos and don’ts.” Sayak further suggests that if something is bothering kids, they will eventually tell you, so you shouldn’t force it out of them.
Andrew approaches this as a former kid who had Internet access and notes that to a certain point, tracking/blocking “just isn’t going to work anymore.” He believes that comes at a time when they should probably be given independence anyway. While there’s crazy stuff online they shouldn’t be exposed to, he figures they’ll probably be able to get around any restrictions.
He suggests a better solution would be to “educate them about how to spot fishy things on the Internet and create an environment where they feel comfortable asking for help if things get really weird.” Then again, he points out there are adults who can’t figure out if someone on the Internet is legitimate or not and thinks it should be part of an average person’s mental software.
Kenneth believes monitoring kids’ Internet usage is a good idea, at least up to a certain age. The Web isn’t a safe place for kids, and they’re likely to “fall prey to all forms of online predators” if left unmonitored. Kids might not have the courage or confidence to share with you that they’re being cyberbullied. Yet, it’s the worst of all, as it “instills fear and psychological distress that can impact their growth in many ways including low self-esteem and withdrawal from their family.”
He also notes exposure to adult content can make kids victims of sexual violence, and by tracking kids’ devices, you’ll know what they watch and do online and can take precautionary measures.
I do have to say as the only woman as well as the only mom hear on this panel that I have a deeper connection to this topic and that much of it hits very close to home for me. I have two adult children in their 20s, and at the time my oldest was a teenager, social media was a new thing, and it was hard to know how to police it.
I wish it was that easy to just sit down and have frank talks with children about the “dos and don’ts.” My life would be so much easier. But the fact is it’s a very difficult thing to navigate. Say or do the wrong thing, and you alienate your child, hurt their feelings, send them closer to danger, etc. Having navigated that roadway for the past 13 years, you would think I would have all the answers, but instead I think I may have just as many questions.
We have certainly given you a lot to think about with this topic, but we want to know your thoughts as well. Should kids have online privacy and not be tracked by parents? Let us know your thoughts and concerns about children’s online privacy in the comments.