Parents can put software on children’s computers to keep tabs on their Web browsing activities. (Illustration by Anibal Santos)
Social media, being an outlet for 81 percent of teens (aged 12-17), according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, has caused parents to resort to programs that allow them to rifle through their child’s internet activity.
Although maintaining children’s safety online is important, the products being used to do so aren’t aimed at keeping them safe, but rather becoming a “Big Brother” figure in the lives of those impacted by it.
A monitoring website, known as uKnowKids.com, was created in 2009 to allow parents to follow most, if not all, social media posts, likes, tweets, etc. This website pulls all of the social media information and activity onto an “easy to understand” dashboard that translates slang for the parents among other tools, according to uKnowKids.com.
It doesn’t stop there, however. The site also offers a variety of tools that allow parents to receive text conversations and more from their teen’s iPhone or Android.
Being able to secretly access all of this information can also create a barrier between the parents and children. The parents may view information that, although not dangerous to the child, may show they are depressed or going through a fight with friends. When given that information, it becomes a whole new game of whether or not they should approach the subject and risk damaging the trust between one another. This could cause a sense of uncomfortable realization for the children if brought up, or cause a feeling of uselessness in the parents should they choose not to broach the subject.
Damages in trust can linger in a relationship between parents and children and may even result in the child shutting the parents out even more.
The main argument to support this new programming, or rather more advanced form of the programming, is that it protects children from cyber-bullying or receiving inappropriate messages/pictures. However, rather than having to become an almost co-user of their kids social media, parents could be teaching their teens safer ways to use the internet.
Social media programs, such as Facebook and Instagram, offer safety features that would help to prevent your teen from having their private information viewed by those who shouldn’t have access to it. If there is a big enough concern about the social networking itself, maybe the parents should consider keeping their children from using it. At least that would be less intrusive than an over-analyzing program having access to all of their conversations.