Parenting Tips, Info, & Advice
When Your Child’s Friend Needs Help: Score One for Monitoring (Part 1 of 2)
Truth: My husband and I use both parental controls and monitoring for our daughter’s cell phone. Yup, we’re the mean parents. 😉
It’s her first internet-connected phone, so using parental controls, we restrict the number of hours she can be on it, prohibit access to certain websites, apps, and content, and shut it off entirely after a certain time each night.
The phone sleeps in our bedroom, and we have a contract with her so she knows the rules, the consequences, and that using the phone (that actually belongs to us) is a privilege not a right.
We also use Bark monitoring to make sure she is using the phone responsibly, respectfully, and safely.
I obviously don’t think so, but let me put it this way:
I don’t intend to simply send my kiddo off in a car when she turns 16 without any training and supervision. And I see the phone much like that car. She needs me in the passenger seat while she learns to drive it safely.
Further, In the overwhelming number of calls my colleagues and I get about a child being exposed to pornography, we discover there were no parental controls or monitoring in place.
Now, for the most part, we’ve been clipping along like this with no issues for the several months since she got her phone, but then last week, something happened.
We got a Bark alert and opened it to find some text messages sent to our daughter with some pretty concerning content.
It turns out a friend of hers had inadvertently stumbled upon some incredibly graphic sexual content online a while ago and had gotten quite consumed by it. When this friend decided to stop watching, the disturbing imagery wouldn’t go away. It became pretty pervasive, and in response, they developed a coping mechanism that was equally unhealthy and creating some real problems for them.
When I read these messages my stomach dropped.
I was worried.
This kiddo was describing symptoms that screamed PTSD to me.
Kids are dealing with so much these days, and frankly after COVID, this kind of thing is the last thing any kid needs.
But score one for monitoring.
Without it, this kid would have continued to suffer in silence. Until, perhaps, the silence became deafening. And no child deserves that.
So, if monitoring seems like an invasion of privacy to you, consider that it just might be *your* kid who gets saved.
To find out how I handled this discovery once made, come back next week.
*Quick note: Please note that I said we use parental controls and monitoring. I did not say we rely on parental controls and monitoring. While important, especially as a child is learning to use a phone, they serve only as a complement to regular, meaningful conversations about safety, digital citizenship, reputation, kindness, consent, and more. All of these make up a comprehensive, holistic approach to managing online life.
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Christy Keating is a certified parent coach, positive discipline educator, and motivational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of The Heartful Parent Collective, which includes Heartful Parent Coaching, Savvy Parents Safe Kids, and Heartful Parent Academy.
The mother of two amazing daughters, Christy strives to build a happier, healthier world - one child, one parent, and one family at a time.