It’s a familiar scene of modern parenting: your kid, hunched over a device, furiously texting. You, dying to know what they’re saying. But should parents read their child’s text messages? If you decide to monitor your kid’s text messages, how do you do it?
Whether or not to read your child’s texts isn’t an easy choice. In this article, we’ll discuss how to make the decision and how to monitor your child’s messages both effectively and respectfully.
As you decide if you should read your child’s texts, here are a few factors to consider:
It’s wise to have some level of engagement with your child’s text messages, either by directly monitoring them or by regularling asking about their conversations.
Beyond the worst-case scenario of a predator, monitoring your child’s texts also helps you make sure their peer relationships are healthy, the content they’re viewing is age-appropriate, and that they’re not up to trouble.
Holding the reins too tightly inhibits your child’s ability to learn independence and valuable life skills, so it’s important to strike a balance between supervising and stifling.
Rather than reading every message (who has time for that?!), using spot-checks or a service that alerts you to concerning content gives your child freedom while ensuring you can spot any trouble.
Also, consider the privacy of those your child communicates with. If you find something alarming about another kid, you’ll have to decide how to alert their caregivers.
Technically, yes, but it’s a bit clunky.
If your child uses an iPhone, you can log into their iCloud account on another device and see all of their messages.
There are also apps that promise to let you see your child’s text messages, but many of them aren’t very reliable or easy to use.
For example, Bark requires that you install a desktop app on your home computer, then plug in your child’s phone. You can only monitor text messages on iPhone when your child’s device is home and on the same Wi-Fi as your computer.
Using Apple Family Sharing, you can establish limits on who your child messages and when. You can also set parental controls that perform a variety of safety tasks, such as blurring images that contain nudity and turning on location sharing.
Monitoring apps and parental controls are useful, but they’re only part of the puzzle. The most reliable method for monitoring your child’s texts is to look at their device and ask them about their messages.
The best thing you can do to keep your kid safe is to establish a framework of mutual trust. The specific details of how, when, and if you monitor their text messages is less important than open, honest communication.
Here are some tips for broaching the topic:
Don’t spy on your child’s texts. If they find out you’ve invaded their privacy without their knowledge, they’re less likely to come to you if they’re in trouble.
Instead, let them know your plan beforehand. Explain when and why you’re going to review their text messages. They may not like it, but at least they won’t feel like you went behind their back.
If you’re stumped, consider this conversation starter: “I respect your privacy, but I also need to make sure you’re safe. Here are the situations where I may need to look at your messages.”
Be upfront about how and when you’ll read your child’s text messages and what you’re looking for. You should also be clear about your red-flag concerns, such as suicidal thoughts, bullying, and involvement with a predator.
Let them know that if you find anything worrisome, you’ll address the issue together.
After you’ve established a plan for monitoring your child’s messages, consider writing it into a digital device contract. This will solidify expectations on both sides and help create accountability.
The safest chat apps, such as Messenger Kids and Kinzoo, don’t allow strangers to message your child. This limitation minimizes some concerns, but it’s still a good idea to play a hands-on role in monitoring their messages.
Deciding when to stop checking your child's phone largely depends on their individual maturity level and the trust you've established with them. As children grow and demonstrate responsible behavior, it's essential for parents to gradually grant more privacy to foster independence.
It's a good practice to maintain open communication with your child about this topic and adjust your approach based on their development and the unique dynamics of your relationship.
You can monitor your child’s text messages and social media messages on Android using Google Family Link.
While texting is a wonderful way for kids to maintain friendships and exercise their independence, there are a number of concerns parents should recognize. It’s advisable to maintain some level of involvement in your child’s text messages, using a combination of monitoring and open communication.