I'm about to have a teen, should I be tracking her phone? DILEMMA!
TGIF Beautiful People! We made it through the week!
In about two months my 12-year-old will move from tween to teen and in the age of influential social media and ever-evolving technology, I am nervous; she is getting older and peer pressure has taken on digital form and it reaches far. Early this fall, one of her classmates was involved in an online conflict with a boy she was seeing; she decided to post on social media a penis pic that he had previously sent to her. Needless to say, my daughter saw it, she confronted me, "mommy I want to show you something, I am not comfortable but you need to see it" when I asked what, she presented the dick pic...I kept my cool but deep inside was livid..first, why the hell would her friend post this (it is regarded as porn distribution) and second how much of a dumb ass is this boy to have taken a photo of his penis (if it was actually his), more so why aren't the parents monitoring this???
I gave my daughter space to process what she saw as well as the opportunity to convey her thoughts and feelings. "I am going to talk to "T" about this, this wasn't cool," she said; "plus I never pictured my first experience with a penis to be seeing it on an IG post." I was proud of the level of maturity she displayed and the way she was able to articulate her thoughts; I was still angry though...
As uncomfortable as it was for her to bring that to my attention, it was a friend of hers caught in the drama, not her; but what if it were? would she tell me or would I find out by accident? My daughter has Instagram, Tik Tok, and House Party; I have her passwords to all of her apps, and would randomly check out what she is doing; however, is it enough? or will she do what a number of her peers are doing- creating secondary accounts unbeknownst to their parents?
I did a little research and much to my surprise there are a number of apps geared towards tracking smartphone activity beyond the GPS. MamaBear, Life360, Canary, My Mobile Watchdog are just a few of the many apps in existence. The most popular seems to be TeenSafe which allows parents to monitor their children's location, social media activity, text messages and call log. According to Ameeta Jain, TeenSafe co-founder, there are more than 500,000 users (DAMN!). Parents can log in to TeenSafe on their own phone, tablet, or desktop and see what their children are saying and doing on their iPhone or Android. This app has helped parents identify online bullying and has kept teens out of dangerous situations such as meeting a stranger or circulating inappropriate photos. As per Jain's perspective, If parents do not know what is going on in the digital world how can they protect their children?
I am conflicted, the parent side of me wants to track EVERYTHING; hell if I could, I'd microchip her ass until 18; clearly that is unrealistic. As a clinician/educator I understand that constant monitoring can harm parent-teen relationships, giving the message that "I don't trust you."
Parent and teen relationships can be very complicated; would tracking my child's social media activity add to the complication? I don't know. There are adolescents who need to have their phones tracked (I know this based on the students I work with) and if that is the case, instead of the hassle of being the parental watchdog, why not just take the phone or hold off on buying one until that teen shows that he or she has the mentality to be responsible enough to handle the responsibility of owning a smartphone?
I trust my daughter; I am grateful that we have a relationship that is open and honest; if we didn't, she would not have relied on trust to share what her friend posted. I guess this is what it boils down to; the ability to effectively communicate to your child, establishing a relationship built on trust, unconditional love and non-judgment. I believe I have that with her, so maybe I should hold off on any tracking app...for now.
"It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength"