The Futile Effort of Monitoring your Child’s Social Media Behaviour
It starts out well intentioned. We monitor our child’s on-line activities, we put the lap top in our kitchens, do the “over the shoulder” parental screen check and compile a list of passwords. We “friend” them on facebook and “follow” them on twitter, we threaten to cut off the wifi, and ground them from the computer if rules aren’t followed, but the reality is, and brace yourself, …we don’t have a clue what our children are up to on-line. Perhaps in the beginning we did but now the on-line social scene has changed and multiplied so dramatically that short of tossing out all things technological and relocating to Mars, we will never, ever, be able to keep on top of our children’s on-line habits. If they have access to a cell phone, an iPod, an iPad, a laptop, an e-reader, even a library card, our kids will find their way to multiple social media sites that we have never heard of. Detective Sergeant Darren Parisien from the Saskatchewan ICE Unit with the Saskatoon Police Service says, “The vast majority of social networking takes place on mobile devices, which are routinely taken and used in bedrooms, bathrooms, or other private and secluded places. The days of the family computer safely located in the kitchen or family room as a measure of safety and prevention from the dangers of the Internet are more or less behind us.”
Keeping on top of their activity in this ever-growing, mind-numbing, digital landscape is an impossible task. Snapchat, Instagram, Ask FM, Kik Messenger, Tumblr, Skype, Wechat, Pinterest, Oovoo, Vine , Wanelo, Pheed, Google+, Mxit… are we monitoring all these social sites and Apps? Not likely. The dizzying array of assorted social sites and apps are out there and our kids are all over it.
“I think most parents would be surprised if they simply pick up their child’s phone and look through the pictures stored on the device, the list of social networking applications installed, and the content which their children are subjected to and access each and every day”, says Parisien. “In addition, because technology changes so rapidly, it is very difficult to keep up and have a true handle on what their child’s social profile is truly comprised of without being immersed in it. Children are often careful and purposeful as to the information they post on profiles and applications which are linked to or monitored by their parents or other family members.”
So how can we as parents get a handle on this? Perhaps realizing that our kids do not want us at their party and they will go to great lengths to keep us out would be a good first step. That said, it all boils down to communication and trust. Just as we have discussions about sex, drinking and driving and drugs, all of which we have minimal control over, we must have the social media talk, admit that we can’t monitor it all and trust our kids. As parents we instill in them our values, plant the seed of common sense and reiterate the positives and negatives that come with being connected. “Children are becoming more conscious as to their decisions because of increased attention being given to online bullying and sexual exploitation (both self and by adult offenders)” says Sergeant Parisien, It’s not all doom and gloom.” In the end, all we can do is sit back, keep calm and hope and pray they’ve heard us.