A question that often comes up in all our presentations with parents is, “What about parent filtering and monitoring hardware and software solutions”. First, and most importantly, the best solution to help cope with some of the negative challenges mentioned in this e-book is always parental communication and participation. The best filter and monitor in the world is a child’s brain, and that’s why teaching good digital literacy is so important. The challenge, sometimes a youth’s brain has not fully matured enough to deal with some of the challenges mentioned in this book. Filtering and monitoring hardware and software can act as an adjunct to parental communication and participation, but never as a replacement. Also, just because we can monitor, should we – something we will speak to at the end of this chapter.
Depending upon the age and risk factors, we believe that youth have no right to privacy from their parents online until such time as they can prove to us that they are being good onlife citizens. Once they have demonstrated good onlife citizenship over a reasonable amount of time, then the filtering and monitoring should be removed from their devices because they have earned that right. We also believe that even when you delete all monitoring and filtering software, if you own the phone, you still have the right to conduct what we call the “24hr spot check” on the phone with your child present. In this strategy, you provide your child with a heads-up notice that in the next 24 hours, the two of you will be sitting down to go through the phone together. If you find something that causes you concern, have a discussion with your teen as there may be a reasonable explanation that you did not consider. If they continue to participate in less than desirable behavior online via their device, they need to know that as the parent who owns the phone, you will place monitoring software back onto the phone.
Remember, mobile technology is not a right to have, it’s a privilege to have. If your child abuses that privilege, they need to know there will be consequences to their actions that will be immediately enforced by you as the parent unless they have a reasonable excuse.
There are some child safety advocates that do not agree with us, and I respect their opinion. However, our experience has shown us that such filtering, monitoring, and parental overwatch, when used appropriately and reasonably can help to reduce some of the risks associated with the onlife world.
Some will say that using filtering and monitoring software is encouraging parents to spy on their children. There is a difference between spying and monitoring. Spying takes place without knowledge, monitoring takes place with the informed participation of the child. As fellow onlife advocate Richard Guerry shared with us,
“monitoring is like walking past your teen’s closed bedroom door and hearing something taking place on the other side of the door that causes you some concern. Other than in exigent circumstances we don’t just barge in, we knock on the door, wait for the invite in, we then walk into the bedroom and discuss what we heard. Spying is like standing outside of the same closed bedroom door, and looking through a keyhole without the other person’s knowledge to see what is going on”
We do not promote spying, but rather informed monitoring, there is a difference. Another important principle is to use monitoring and filtering tools to provide teachable moments for your kids, rather than punishment. Remember, adolescent brains are not fully developed so they are going to make mistakes in the onlife world. Where reasonable and appropriate to do so, use these mistakes as teachable moments and this is where filtering and monitoring can help. Also, given that the parent has signed the terms on service for internet access in the home, the internet service provider is registering a parent’s information and meta-data whenever the internet is accessed, and not the child’s. Monitoring software also allows the parent to protect their digital dossier.
If your monitoring enlightens you about the fact that your young teen is accessing online pornography, rather than punishing them use this fact as an opportunity to have a discussion about the difference between healthy human sexuality, pornography, and hypersexuality. Topics that we will be speaking to in chapter 13.
A Child’s Right to Privacy Online
It is important for everyone to know that we are huge supporters of personal privacy. We speak to youth internationally on this topic, given our belief that we are slowly giving up our actual rights to personal privacy, both to the government and private industry, in exchange for the convenience of technology, the internet, and social media. We also speak to these same students on how to minimize their digital dossiers and maximize their online privacy. We do not, however, support those who misrepresent privacy laws, acts, or agreements in an attempt to dissuade parents from taking reasonable steps to parenting their children in the online world.
Our stance specific to monitoring and filtering is sometimes challenged by those who like to quote Article 16 of The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which states, “No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honor and reputation.” When we first read Article 16, it was easy to understand how some can extrapolate its intent to include parents when it comes to a child’s privacy rights, especially when it comes to monitoring what they are doing online. We must admit, we too also became concerned given how Article 16 read.
Being a cop, Darren decided to do some academic and legal research into the UNCRC, (http://www.unicef-irc.org/portfolios/crc.html) and more specifically, Article 16. In his research, Darren became aware of a book titled, “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: An Analysis of Treaty Provisions and Implications of U.S. Ratification” by Todres, Wojcik, and Revaz (2006). https://bit.ly/3731fH8
This book is often cited in the literature as one of the “go-to” academic works specific to understanding the meaning of all the Articles located in the UNCRC. One of the reasons why this book is so commonly referenced is because of the three authors responsible for its content.
Jonathan Todres is an Acting Assistant Professor at New York University School of Law. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, where he teaches courses on children’s rights and health law. Professor Todres serves as Co-Chair of the Subcommittee on the Rights of the Child of the American Bar Association’s Section of International Law, Chair of the Section’s International Health Law Committee, and Vice-Chair of the Section’s International Human Rights Committee.
Mark E. Wojcik is a Professor of Law and Director of the Global Legal Studies program at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, where his courses include Public International Law and International Human Rights Law. He previously served as Co-Chair of the International Human Rights Committee of the American Bar Association Section of International Law.
Cris R. Revaz is Of Counsel with King and Spalding, LLP in Washington, D.C. He is co-chair of the Subcommittee on the Rights of the Child of the American Bar Association’s Section of International Law and previously served as Co-Chair of the Section’s International Human Rights Committee. Mr. Revaz is a board member or advisor to several non-profits focusing on child rights, protection, and adoption.
As one can appreciate, the three authors are North American legal juggernauts specific to issues surrounding the rights of children, and other human rights that can be associated with the UNCRC.
As we started to read their work, we learned that Article 16 originated in a proposal submitted by the US delegation to the UN working group in 1986 that dealt with political rights and freedoms, including the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom to peacefully assemble, and the right of the child to privacy. Canada became a signatory in 1990 to the UNCRC, and we ratified our commitment in 1991. In fact, the Spirit of the UNCRC played an important role in the development of our Youth Criminal Justice Act here in Canada.
We also learned that one of the concerns voiced when Article 16 was originally being developed and discussed: “Delegations expressed concern that the child’s right to privacy might impair the parent/child relationship, and therefore cause repercussions on the family” (Todres, Wojcik, and Revaz; The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: An Analysis of Treaty Provisions and Implications of U.S. Ratification pg193 2006)
To overcome these concerns the Delegation created Article 5 of the UNCRC which states, “States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights, and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.”
What became clear to us after reading a whole chapter dedicated to Article 16 in Todres, Wojcik, and Revaz’s book, the spirit of Article 16 was to protect children’s privacy specifically from State and corporate interests and not from their parents. In fact, Todres, Wokcik, and Revaz stated in their book, “The Convention was drafted, and is intended, to place obligations on states parties and not to be enforced by the state against the parent” (Todres, Wojcik and Revaz; The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: An Analysis of Treaty Provisions and Implications of U.S. Ratification pg 199, 2006)
“Articles 15 and 16 emerged from a USA proposal that was intended to protect children from abusive governmental actions and does not affect the rights of parents and legal guardians to provide direction and guidance to children. In addition, they point out that the Convention itself repeatedly emphasized the primacy, importance, role, and authority of the family in the child’s life. Also noted is that the civil and political rights and freedoms proposed by the US Delegation, during the drafting of the Convention protected children from Government action and would not affect the legitimate rights of parents to provide guidance and direction. Finally, these commentators stated that the Convention recognizes that the exercise of individual rights are to be exercised with due regard to the “evolving capacities of the child” (Todres, Wojcik, and Revaz; The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: An Analysis of Treaty Provisions and Implications of U.S. Ratification pg 200, 2006)
If anything, the UNCRC, and more specifically, Article 5, entrench the rights of parents which, in our opinion, could sometimes include monitoring where reasonable and appropriate to do so. As we have stated, monitoring in isolation does not work; it is only a tool that should be used in combination with parental communication and participation. As we have also stated, once a child demonstrates good digital citizenship to parents over an extended period of time, then parents should remove the monitoring software given that the child has now earned that right to privacy. We believe these fit well within the spirit of what Todres, Wojcik, and Revaz called the “evolving capacities of the child.” (Todres, Wojcik, and Revaz; The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: An Analysis of Treaty Provisions and Implications of U.S. Ratification pg 200, 2006)
Those who suggest that Article 16 of the UNCRC is the legal authority to move parents away from using online monitoring software have, in our opinion, have taken the spirit of Article 16 out of context. There may be other issues surrounding not using monitoring software, such as helicopter parenting, but Article 16 is not one of those issues.
What About The “You Are Violating My Privacy” or “It’s My Diary” Arguments”?
As mentioned, we have stated for years now that our kids have no right to privacy from parents and/or legal caregivers when it comes to their onlife world, but they can earn that right by showing parents good digital citizenship and digital maturity over time. When we share this message with parents and caregivers, often we are asked the question, “what do we say to our kids when they confront us with the argument that we are violating their privacy or “it’s my diary”, especially when it comes to monitoring their online activity”? Here are some of our thoughts:
#1) Specific to the privacy issue, and as already mentioned in this chapter, there is no privacy law in Canada that supports a child’s right to privacy from their parent or legal caregiver. There are some exceptions specific to child/doctor or child/lawyer communications, but nothing specific to their activities online. It has been our experience, that youth use the word “invasion” in the hopes that the parent will evade the interpersonal conflict associated with the implementation of reasonable parental overwatch. This often works because many parents just don’t want to deal with conflict – this is something that we like to call, “being your child’s best friend, rather than being their best parent”. Remember, being your child’s best friend can often enable less than desirable online behaviour; enabling can result in dangerous or damaging behaviour!
#2) Specific to “it’s my diary”- diaries are meant to be read by one person only, the author. Once something is posted online, no matter what the privacy settings, it now becomes public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable, shareable, and maybe even publicly marketable by anyone. When youth post online it’s not a digital diary, but rather a “public” digital dossier that can be seen by all, there is a difference!
#3) Until such time as the child has their own device that is paid for by them, and they are paying for their own internet access, then any of their online activity becomes a legal liability risk to the parent or caregiver in the first instance. If there was some form of criminal activity by the child – threats, intimidation, or non-consensual distribution of an intimate image to name a few, then the police will be issuing a search warrant on the parent or caregiver whose IP is registered to the internet service provider; now by proxy the “privacy” of the parent and their online activity is now at issue, not the child’s. As well, if the child is posting content that is a clear violation of an internet service provider’s (ISP) terms of service, home internet access can also be canceled by the ISP; no one, including parents, will have internet access. As you can imagine, this can be very problematic for parents, especially those who work remotely from home or pay bills via the internet.
As soon as we allow our children to access the internet, we have increased our responsibilities as parents to mentor, reasonably monitor, and become our child’s digital sheepdog online until such times as they are digitally mature and earn their right to privacy, or move out of the home. Remember, our job is to be our child’s best parent and not their best friend, there is a difference. Is the child going to like the fact that you will be taking “reasonable” monitoring steps? No! Oh well, that’s what makes us parents, and sometimes we parents have to do and say things that our kids are not going to like. Having said all this, it is also very IMPORTANT to explain the reasons “why. Just saying, “because I said so” or “I’m the parent and you are not” without explanation is not recommended when it comes to teaching digital literacy and understanding. Will you still get pushback from your kids? Yup!, welcome to becoming a parent, but at least you did your due diligence in explaining the why.
Recommended Privacy and Filtering Software:
Before we drill down into this part of the chapter, I wish to quote Chelsea Brown ( Digital Mom Talk) who stated:
“Parents think they need to control their children, and that’s actually a misconception. We have this myth because security tools were not designed to be parental controls. They were advanced security settings and some marketer came in and said, “We’re going to make these parental controls.”
So, for parents, I tell them you need to shift from controlling your child to focus on controlling the device. Because if you try to control your child through the device, you’re going to end up with the “tech battle,” which is where you lay down the law, set some rules, give them the device—and they’re eventually going to screw up. And when they do, your response is naturally to take away the device. That’s sometimes needed, but then after a while parents give the device back without teaching proper use. And then the cycle repeats, and you’re going to be in this constant battle.”
We like this approach from Chelsea Brown!
We do not promote a product unless we testing it first. The products on this list have passed our testing and evaluation thus why we feel comfortable promoting them in this e-book. Given that these products will be used on a child’s device, we wanted to also ensure that the products recommended are not collecting a child’s personal information and selling it to a third party like Google or Facebook, which to the best of our investigation they do not.
Protection in the home
For computers, laptops, gaming consoles, tablets & iPads, and cellphone we recommend the following hardware:
#1: The Gryphon router: What we like about this product, it’s an actual powerful router that can cover a home to a maximum of 3000 square feet. This router was specifically designed to have malware/virus protection, port protection to prevent external attacks on the home network, pornography filtering, and parental controls all packaged into one unit; it is a simple plug and play to set up using a free admin mobile app that comes with the product. Gryphon allows the family to create folders for each child so that you can create protection and filtering to meet the specific needs of each child. It also allows for screen time limits, content filtering, and usage history. Any device that uses Wi-Fi to connect to the internet will have to use the Gryphon router to gain access. Gryphon also comes with a mobile app, “Homebound” that can be downloaded onto the child’s phone, so that when the child leaves the house with their device, and they attempt to access the internet, it will immediately route to the Gryphon router in the home to access so that you get the same protection and parenting tools. The price tag is about $209.00 USD to purchase, but for smaller homes, you can also purchase the Gryphon Guardian for about $99.00 USD. Here’s a video review we did on this great product.
UPDATE May 2021:
Gryphon has now released their newest product the “Gryphon AX” which supports the new WiFi 6 standard. This allows the Gryphon router to be about 40% faster than the older Gryphon router and will provide 25% greater coverage distance in the home. They have also updated their new mobile app to control the Gryphon router, as well as their paired “Homebound” parenting app for mobile devices so that both offer more features and are easier to use by the parent!
#2: Circle: Circle is not a router, but rather a piece of hardware that connects to your existing router and hacks its IP to connect with your home network, which also makes it more vulnerable to being bypassed by older teens. Circle allows custom settings by a family member, screen time limits, usage history, content filtering, a setting of bedtimes, automatic internet connection pausing. Circle is unique in that it also provides an award process, also known as gamification. If youth do certain things throughout the day, the parent can reward the child with an increased amount of internet usage time. Unlike Gryphon, it does not offer malware/virus protection, or port protection for the home network. Set up of Circle is also more challenging than Gryphon. The price tag is approximately $129.00 for a one-year subscription. https://bit.ly/3q2uQcG
Protection Outside the Home
Given that many youths use mobile devices, like cellphones, how do we protect, monitor, and filter once they leave the home? Both Gryphon and Circle offer mobile solutions that are effective, but maybe not as rich in features as other filtering & monitoring apps of the market. Here are some that we recommend:
#1 Bark (iPhone & Android): At this time, Bark is only available in the United States but they hope to have it as an option in Canada soon. On their site, Barks states, “Bark helps families manage and protect their children’s online lives. “Bark monitors 30+ of the most popular apps and social media platforms that are popular with youth, including text messaging and email. Bark also offers screen time management and web filtering tools to help parents set healthy limits around how and when your kids use their devices. Often parents will ask us if Bark will monitor Snapchat. Yes, it does, but given Snapchat’s design, it does not provide as deep of insight as it does with other messaging apps. One of the criticisms of Bark is that it can be quite intrusive specific to privacy, which we believe may be reasonable in some circumstances. Bark is also “reactive” rather than “proactive”, in other words, you only get a notification after something has been sent. The price tag is approximately $49.00 to $99.00 USD per year depending upon product choice, but you can also get monthly pricing. Multiple device coverage https://www.bark.us/?ref=ZKX6VDJ
#2: SafeToNet (iPhone & Android): At this time, SafeToNet is only available in the United States but they hope to have it in Canada soon. SafeToNet is using pioneering technology that educates children “in the moment” as they are using their devices. It is “proactive” rather than “reactive” unlike Bark. SafeToNet uses a smart keyboard that detects risks in real-time and steers a child away from less than desirable behavior by filtering harmful outgoing messages before tech can be sent and any damage being done. The smart keyboard provides children with immediate feedback as they type, recognizing signs of low self-esteem, doubt, and dark thoughts. The SafeToNet keyboard gives messages of support and guidance on how to deal with the issues of living in a digital world. The parent monitoring side of the app provides invaluable insights into your child’s digital wellbeing and has a unique safety indicator that sends a real-time view of your child’s movement towards, and away from danger. The app also provides parents with your child’s patterns of safety and risk over a given period of time and will help guide you on how to deal with and discuss any challenges identified. The vendor states that this product has been specifically designed for this youth under the age of 15 years, but after testing this product we believe that it is best suited for those under the age of 13 years. The price tag, presently free to download with some in-app purchase choices to enhance the app. Multiple device coverage https://safetonet.com
#3: Boomerang (Primarily Android and Galaxy). Available in both Canada and the USA, Boomerang advertises that it works with the Galaxy/Android phone as well as all Apple iOS products. In our testing, we found it was best suited for the Galaxy/Android market. Boomerang is an app-based product that also has robust features much like NetSanity. Price tag, free to download with in-app purchases. https://useboomerang.com
Boomerang also has a FREE fully featured kid-friendly web browser for both the Android and Apple mobile platforms called “SPIN”, that helps to block bad content such as pornography gambling, drugs, hate and racism, violence, nudity as well as many other categories. Not only does SPIN prevent private browsing, it also enforces “Restricted Mode” to help prevent inappropriate videos and searches on YouTube. https://useboomerang.com/spin/ . Here’s a great how to make the SPIN safer browser the default browser on Apple’s IOS14 https://useboomerang.com/2021/01/29/make-spin-safe-browser-default-browser-ios-14/
Our interview with the CEO and founder of Boomerang
#4: Kinzoo (all devices): Although not primarily designed as a monitoring and filtering app, Kinzoo is the best private and secure messaging apps on the market designed for both pre-teens and teens which is fully scaffolded by parents. Think of Kinzoo as training wheels for preteens and their parents. Other messaging apps like Facebook Messenger for kids, or What’s App, are owned by companies where it is reasonable to expect that they are collecting personal information about your child’s online behavior for their financial benefit. Kinzoo does not do this. Price tag, free to download with in-app purchases that only a parent can purchase.
Our interview with the CEO and founder of Sean Herman
Parents often ask us what we would choose if we had the choice. My answer depends on the needs of your specific family and how much money you are willing to spend. Remember, there is not a “one size fits all” solution given that every family is unique. Specific to this issue, you can connect with us for a free consultation via our website www.thewhitehatter.ca, to help you make a decision that best suits your family’s needs.
Specific to filtering and monitoring hardware and software, I like to quote Anne Collier, well-respected social media safety and digital literacy advocate, who stated:
“While tools ranging from content filters, routers, firewalls, and anti-malware have their place, they are not a substitute for the lifelong process provided by critical thinking. The best technological filter is not the one that runs on a device, but rather the software that runs in our heads”
It is important that parents know that sometimes the above-noted hardware and software solutions do not work well together. As an example, if you are using NetSanity, it’s not easy to use Bark at the same time. It is important that you check with each manufacturer to make sure they are compatible to be used with one another.
Just Because We Can Monitor Should We?
In this part of the chapter, we are talking about “monitoring” software and not “filtering” software. Filtering software allows parents and caregivers to prevent youth from accessing specific websites, social media sites, apps, or to set specific restrictions like time limits. Monitoring software allows parents and caregivers to see what a youth is doing online like reading their emails, text messages, or viewing pictures and videos sent. Filtering is about restricting access for a specific reason, monitoring is about viewing what your child is doing online no matter what their access.
We have been sharing for years that youth do not have the right to privacy from parents and caregivers in their onlife world, but they can earn their privacy by showing good digital literacy and maturity over time. It should be noted, in Canada and the United States, there is no law or legal precedent that makes it illegal for a parent or caregiver to monitor their child’s activities online. However, even though there is no such law, should parents and caregivers be doing so?
We believe for youth under the age of 13yrs, parents should be monitoring their child’s use of technology, the internet, and social media. In fact, a 2021 Canadian research paper found that those under the age of 13, “…see parents as an important part of their privacy infrastructure because parents help them steer clear of online pitfalls” https://bit.ly/3w9stZn and this is what parental monitoring hardware and software can assist with.
This Canadian research also found for those under the age of 13:
“At this life stage, sharing the same online spaces with parents can accordingly facilitate privacy and autonomy because parents can help children learn how to make their own choices. They do this by teaching their children how to assert boundaries around their online lives so their children can actively manage invasive behaviour on the part of ill-intentioned online actors. This in turn creates a manageable field of choices for young children who can then navigate the online environment in ways that make sense to them. In this case, privacy and autonomy are not so much about being “left alone”. Instead, they are cultivated through respectful and supportive social relationships with parents.”
Given the above noted, it is very rare that parents will receive push back from youth, 13 years and under, when it comes to parental monitoring software.
Where parents do get privacy concerns push back – with teens between the ages of 13-17yrs, especially when it comes to parental online monitoring. Often, we will hear from this age group that parents have no right to monitor what they are doing in their onlife world. Reflectively, this makes sense to us given that at these ages, youth are starting to spread their wings, looking for autonomy from parents, so that they can develop their own identities. Again, the 2021 Canadian research mentioned above stated:
“This requires a certain amount of privacy from the family, so teens can interact with peers and experiment with different – and new – roles. From this perspective, privacy is not about control over personal information nor solely about being “left alone”; it is about being able to assert appropriate boundaries between a young person’s various social roles and relationships. Privacy is violated when these boundaries are breached.”
Protection Via Monitoring vs Digital Literacy Education and Onlife Participation
In a 2020 report from Media Smarts Canada, they found that parents were so concerned about their child’s safety online, they felt like they needed to constantly monitor what their child was doing online no matter what their age to keep them safe. https://bit.ly/3kR4YiA
This doesn’t surprise us, given the fact that parents and caregivers are constantly being bombarded in the media with messaging surrounding how dangerous technology and social media can be to their child’s emotional, psychological, physical, and social wellbeing. Yes, there are dangers online; something that we discuss with both parents and teens in our presentations, but the same can be true for the offline world as well. In fact, research has shown, “youth who are vulnerable offline are more likely to encounter multiple risks online. https://bit.ly/39LP8n5
Based upon our experience in presenting to over a half a million teens from across Canada and the United States, there are far more positive and creative things youth are doing online than there are negative, but these positive things get nowhere near the media coverage as the negative do. This is why we believe digital literacy education and parental onlife participation with youth, in all age brackets, is so important and can go a long way in decreasing (not fully eliminating) a parent’s fear when it comes to their child’s participation in the onlife world. We also know through research, parents who engage with their children in their onlife world via parental communication and parental participation, these youth are far less likely to find themselves in a less than desirable situation online. https://bit.ly/37pJnKZ
More importantly, some great research out of Great Britain specific to a youth’s onlife exposure to risk stated:
“Exposure to risk seems to play an essential role in the development and manifestation of online resilience. Although many parents worry about risk, some risky experiences give young people the chance to develop ways of coping that can minimize or prevent experiences of harm in the future. If we regard coping as itself a form of digital literacy, this finding can help explain the common finding that digitally literate young people encounter more risks online than their less digitally literate peers.” https://bit.ly/3JtkUBx
To compound this message further, the 2021 Canadian research mentioned at the beginning of this article found:
“However, our qualitative research suggests that when parents do respect their teens’ privacy and trust them to exercise their autonomy in a mature way, teens have the space they need to use networked media in creative ways and come to parents for help when they need it”
NetSanity was a well-established (9yrs) multi-award-winning parental monitoring software application for both Apple and Android devices and a product that we did recommend to parents where appropriate and reasonable to do so. However, recently NetSanity is no longer in business. Why, NetSanity has not provided a public announcement as to the why, but it has been hypothesized that the new privacy settings/restrictions in the Apple iOS software would no longer allow NetSanity’s product to work as effectively as it did in the past. This made funding the company problematic for investors. In fact, we spoke to a highly respected parental monitoring software representative who stated to us, “Apple and Google have killed this space for the most part. Their guidelines have become so strict” This expert, as do we, believes that such third-party monitoring software, for both Apple and Android products, will cease to exist.
For parents who solely depend upon third-party monitoring software to keep their child safe, without combining it with parental communication, parental participation, and digital literacy, they will be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to keeping their child safer in the onlife world. This is why we recommend choosing age-appropriate tech products (rather than a monitoring app) such as the PinWheel Phone, the Tanoshi computer, or the Gryphon Router combined with their homebound app, would be the better option for pre-teens and younger teens in their digital literacy journey. These products do not depend upon another vendor’s privacy settings, restrictions, or terms of service.
Based on the good academic-based research, and our own empirical experience working with youth and parents, what are our thoughts when it comes to the use of parental monitoring apps?
- For youth who are 13yr and under, parents should be engaging with their child in their onlife world via parental communication, parental participation, digital literacy education, and the reasonable use of parental monitoring hardware/software.
- For youth over the age of 13yrs, as your child is showing maturity and good digital literacy, we believe that they can earn their privacy from parents, and monitoring software should be phased out in an incremental process. However, continued onlife parental communication and parental participation are a must when it comes to the continued parental protection process.
- No matter what the age, if your child is truly vulnerable and at-risk offline/online, then the research supports the fact that parental monitoring is a reasonable option when it comes to the continued parental protection process.
- There is a real risk that over the next couple of years, many of the most popular third-party monitoring applications that are being sold to parents, will become obsolete given that they will no longer be in congruence with the privacy requirements and guidelines implemented by both Apple and Google. This is another reason why teaching youth about good digital literacy, combined with parental participation and communication is so important in keeping our kids safer in their onlife world.
Remember, the use of parental monitoring software and hardware in isolation, without a dedicated effort to parental communication, parental participation, and digital literacy education, will fail in keeping youth safer online. Ultimately, the choice to use monitoring software and hardware on a youth’s device is a parent’s decision, which can differ from family to family and child to child, based upon a variety of factors mentioned in this article. Any decision a parent or caregiver makes comes with risks and consequences. However, we believe that it’s all about a balanced approach to risk management that is important, especially when it comes to the development and manifestation of youth online resilience, a skill needed throughout life. We hope that this article will provide parents and caregivers with some information to help in this decision process. However, it is our suggestion that just because we can use parental monitoring software and hardware, doesn’t mean we should in all cases.