What Age Should You Stop Checking Your Child’s Phone?

dad next to son in front of car

If you’ve been monitoring your child’s phone since they were young, great job! But now they’re getting older, and they may want (and need) more freedom. Read on for tips on how to decide when to stop checking your child’s phone and how to support your teen online as they mature. 

Minimum age to stop monitoring your child’s phone 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), parents should monitor their children’s social media until at least age 15. But not all children mature at the same rate. It’s not like a magical switch gets flipped on their 15th birthday, suddenly turning them into a responsible, independent young person. The human brain actually continues developing until around age 25.

Some children need a parent’s support longer than their peers do. In fact, a majority of parents who responded to a PC Magazine survey said they believed parents should actively monitor their child’s tech use until age 18. So, it’s up to parents to make a judgment call based on their child.

Deciding what’s right for your family 

Chronological age is different from age of maturity, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule on when your child will be ready for you to stop monitoring their phone. (Wouldn’t it be easier if there were?) 

Here are some factors to help you decide: 

  • Personal safety risks: Consider your child's friend group and the apps and websites they frequent to assess their likelihood of exposure to online risks. For example, if your child primarily interacts online with a close-knit group of responsible peers, their risk is likely lower.
  • Do they follow tech rules? Think about how smooth your child’s phone journey has been so far. Have they been great about following your tech rules and managed to avoid trouble online? If they have run into issues, how did they handle it? 
  • Are they generally responsible? Personality comes into play quite a bit when deciding to loosen up on monitoring your child’s phone. If your kid is the responsible type (online and off), they might be ready for more phone freedom sooner than a peer who has difficulty managing themselves.
  • Maturity level: Some children practically emerge from the womb as little adults, while others take their sweet time growing up. If your child hasn’t reached the maturity level of their peers yet, that’s okay! It just means they may need phone monitoring a bit longer. 
  • Are they open with you? A big factor is trusting your child will seek help when they run into trouble online. If you’re confident they’ll keep you in the loop if anything goes sideways, it’s probably fine to take a step back. 
  • Impulsivity and decision-making skills: Basically, this comes down to whether your child has a good head on their shoulders. If they tend to be more impulsive and demonstrate questionable decision-making skills, they likely still need adult support online. 

Even if your child still needs you to actively monitor their phone, it’s also important to prepare them for adulthood. As they grow older and display more maturity, look at ways to increase their autonomy and privacy. 

Supporting your older teen online 

As your child matures and you become more hands-off with their phone, there are some issues you’ll want to continue checking in with them about. This includes asking about their mental health and any challenges they may face online. 

Fortunately, you can reduce your direct involvement while staying supportive. Start by keeping communication open. With less monitoring from you, it’s more important than ever that your child knows they can come to you if they run into trouble online. Make it clear you’ll support them without judgment. Period. 

Check-in regularly. Ask your child what’s going on in their life — including online. We recommend having online safety check-ins on a regular cadence that works for your family.

Finally, use a customizable monitoring app. BrightCanary allows you to give your child space while keeping an eye on the big stuff. You can monitor their online activity, or you can just review the content reports that summarize potential red flags. After all, you may not feel the need to read all their texts, but you still want to know if your child encounters anything dangerous like drugs content or self-harm content.

The bottom line

Most children still need some level of parental monitoring beyond the age of 15. It’s also important for kids to have freedom and privacy as they get older so they can mature into adulthood. Parents of older teens should continue to check in with their child on major issues like mental health, while looking for ways to increase their autonomy.

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