You know you need to ask your children for their passwords so you can keep tabs on their online activity. But the thought of having that conversation causes you to break out into a cold sweat. What if they push back? What if they think you don’t trust them? Is this the internet equivalent of sneaking into their bedroom and reading their diary?
Even though your intentions are good, you have to tread lightly.
First, take a deep breath. You can do this. Remind yourself that you don’t need to have all the answers. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll course correct. The important thing is that you’re taking a crucial first step toward monitoring your child’s online activity.
After you’ve taken that deep breath (or two!), the next step is to have an open conversation with your child about why you need their logins. Here are some helpful tips for how to talk to them.
Listen more than you talk. Find out what your child’s online experience has been so far and if they have any concerns. Here are some examples of conversation starters:
Internet safety is an ongoing conversation and it’s important to create an open channel of communication right from the start.
Two of our biggest jobs as parents are to keep our children safe and to raise them into good adults. Let them know you aren’t interested in becoming a digital overlord spying on their every online move. Your goal is to respectfully guide them to develop responsible digital habits they’ll carry with them into adulthood.
It's like when you taught them how to cross the street. You didn’t just throw them into traffic as a toddler, did you? Of course not. You went from carrying them, to holding their hand, to walking next to them, until they were eventually ready to go it alone. Along the way you taught them to look both directions, pay attention, and use the crosswalk.
Think of Google or YouTube as the intersection of the internet—it’s your job to teach your kid how to safely get to the other side.
Kids need and want clear boundaries. (Not that they’ll ever admit it.) They feel safest and most confident when they know where the guiderails are.
And since you just talked about partnership, you can make expectation setting a collaborative effort. The more opportunity for input they have, the more buy-in you’re likely to get. You might even consider writing a digital family agreement together.
The beauty about a monitoring service like BrightCanary is that you don’t need to directly monitor every little click and tap to know your child is safe. (And let’s be honest, that is bound to be a relief for both of you. Because who has time to scroll through hundreds of interactions?)
Let your child know what kinds of activities that will trigger an alert and your plan for following up when one occurs.
After a few weeks of having their logins, sit down again to discuss how it’s going for you both. Periodically checking in and giving your child space to voice any questions or concerns they may have is vital for building trust.
Now that you have a game plan, it’s time to set it into motion.
Asking your child for their passwords can be awkward, but you can do it while maintaining two-way trust and respect. First ask questions about what they've seen and experienced online and on social media. Set expectations, tell them how you plan to use their logins, and set a regular time to review their activity.
You have your plan in place, so go ahead and call your child in to talk. Except they probably can’t hear you over the YouTube video they’re watching. Try texting them. No, wait . . . kids don’t text anymore. You’ll need to DM them on Instagram. Better yet, just wait until they wander into the kitchen for a snack.
You’ve got this.