Should Parents Monitor Their Children’s Texts and Phone Activity?

  • Two-thirds of parents say raising children is more challenging than 20 years ago
  • There are 4.66 billion active Internet users and trillions of media content online, significantly increasing potential threats for children
  • Parents cannot adequately protect children from online threats without a parental monitoring solution
  • Most children are ill-equipped to recognize online threats before it’s too late
  • There are 500,000 active online predators each day
  • Parents miss meaningful intervention opportunities if children phone activity and messages go unregulated
  • 50 percent of children have experienced at least one form of cyberbullying
  • There’s been a 70 percent increase in bullying or hate speech among children since the pandemic began
  • 7 out of 10 children are in favor of parental control
  • Transparency can help parents balance children’s privacy and parental monitoring
  • Parents can efficiently monitor children phone activity and messages with apps like MMGuardian

Are You Keeping Up with The Digital Era?

Parenting has never been easy. However, the widespread popularity of phones, social media channels, and instant messaging platforms introduces new challenges to parenting. As a result, many guardians are using parental monitoring apps to help keep children safe online.

One study by the Pew Research Center revealed that two-thirds of parents find it more difficult raising children today than 20 years ago. Many of those parents cite phones, social media, and other similar technologies as a primary reason.

As a parent, you’re the provider of an entire human being’s existence. You provide all the necessities for that person, such as shelter, clothing, food, and education. You help your children learn and navigate social life while simultaneously balancing your life and career.

So understandably, your plate is full. But you shouldn’t overlook the Internet-enabled devices your children use daily.

Should You Monitor Your Children’s Phone Activities & Messages

Responsible parents must protect kids from potential harm. Monitoring your children’s phone activities and messages is a significant part of that responsibility.

The fact is most of the time children spend using phones will be online, where anyone can publish anything. With 4.66 billion people accessing the Internet from all over the world daily – your children can easily encounter the wrong content and individuals, such as cyberbullies, child molesters, sextortionists, etc.

No parent can stop that from happening without a solid solution in place. Plus, contrary to popular belief, children favor parental control (7 out of 10), according to an Internet Matters study.

Even pioneers like Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs were advocates for monitoring how children use phones.

Parents monitor children's texts and phone activity

What Law Enforcement Experts Are Saying

Many experts in cybercrime have been vocal about why parents should monitor digital activities. One such expert is detective Richard Wistocki, who has dealt with Internet crimes for over 20 years. Mr. Wistocki believes one of the greatest threats to children is the devices they carry with them daily, and he’s not alone in that conclusion.

The overall consensus among law enforcement officials is that parents shouldn’t trust children to manage online threats. And while many believe a child’s privacy is important, children cannot 100 percent ensure their safety in every environment.

That’s because children are curious by nature, making it super unlikely to recognize pending danger. On the other hand, most parents can accurately assess shady characters due to having more life experiences.

If you’re not monitoring your children’s behavior on phones, someone else likely is – somebody you wouldn’t want to be exposed to any child.

500,000 Predators Are a Threat to Children Online Daily

According to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), more than half a million online predators pose a danger to children. All of these people use more than one account to reach potential victims. Additionally, 50 percent of victims are between 12 to 15 years old. These predators also prefer to contact kids primarily through online chat rooms and instant messaging.

According to Mr. Wistocki, the average online predator has 250 victims in their lifetime. That alone should be enough reason for parents to monitor phone activities and messages. But every vigilant parent is also helping others. Your vigilance can lead to capturing and removing a predator(s) from online spaces.

An Example of How Online Predators Operate

Online predators like to groom children and then use peer pressure to get whatever they want.

The predator often starts by visiting popular platforms among young people, pretending to be the same age, and securing the child’s trust with fake profile pictures. Sometimes, the person will pretend to share similar interests and may offer gifts to the child.

After establishing an online relationship, the predator slowly steers conversations towards more inappropriate topics. Over time, they may pressure the child to make explicit videos, take inappropriate photos, or even meet in person. Some predators prefer to use blackmail, such as threatening to release private text messages, photos, or videos.

In most cases, victims never recognize the grooming and consider the predator a friend. These types of interactions often occur when the child is at home or school, so it’s hard to detect.

The Ethical Dilemma

Deciding whether to monitor children’s online activities is challenging for some parents. But it’s hard to arrive at a decision not to because responsibility always falls on the parent’s shoulders.

Parents are responsible for life necessities and the technologies bestowed upon children. And with technology, too much privacy can endanger kids. No good parent wants to ignore a child’s real-world activities, so why is it ok to ignore the digital ones?

Think about all the things a good parent monitors, such as the child’s phone bill, the odometer on the car after a trip, school activities, etc. Since most parents check those things, it’s uncertain why parental monitoring of adolescent phone activities and messages will differ.

Left unregulated, parents may miss important intervention opportunities to prevent permanent damage to a child’s development.

Parents monitor children's phone activity

Trusting Your Child Isn't Enough

Most parents are unable to properly protect children from the dangers circling online. The most common ones include:

  • CyberbullyingStatistics show that 50 percent of children have experienced at least one kind of cyberbullying. There has also been a 70% increase in bullying or hate speech among children since the pandemic.
  • Cyber predators – Sexual and other predators stalk children online. Since most children don’t fully understand social boundaries, some may post personally identifiable information (PII) on the Internet.
  • Phishing and other scams – Phishing is when a cybercriminal uses email or another communication method to trick victims into clicking on malicious attachments or links. These communications often appear to be from friends or family, making it especially difficult for kids to detect.
  • Blackmail – Not all children understand that information stays online forever. Things like questionable party pictures, messages, and other embarrassing moments could resurface years later.

If you’re worried that spying on your children will affect trust, consider being transparent about everything. You can let your kids know there’s a parental monitoring app on the device and explain why to avoid impacting trust.

Further, despite how much you trust your children, peer pressure is a real problem. Children often do things out of character to feel accepted and valued by friends.

Balancing Privacy and Protecting Your Children

Contrary to some opinions, you can establish a middle ground between privacy and protecting your kids from online dangers. 

As previously noted, parents should let children know about the safety measures to avoid mistrust. As long as your child is aware, you’re not snooping or performing some secret operation, just protecting them from potential harm. Being transparent also means your child won’t feel uneasy about parental monitoring and should understand why it’s necessary.

While some parents may feel permission is unnecessary when protecting children (understandable), transparency is still wise. Transparency is how you balance your child’s need for privacy and ensure their safety.

How to Properly Protect Your Children from Online Threats

By now, you can probably see how many online interactions can go unnoticed by parents, especially with phones. Children can be interacting with the wrong individuals for months and even years without adult intervention.

Usually, a parent’s first instinct is to grab the child’s phone and go through it occasionally. While that may work for some, it’s very inefficient. That’s because most children are tech-savvy enough to delete text messages, call records, browser history, and even downloaded applications.

Instead, consider installing MMGuardian, an AI-driven parental monitoring app for smartphones (Android and iPhone). It will allow you to:

  • Set screen time rules and limitations
  • Remotely control access to the phone, such as locking it up if necessary
  • Receive regular alerts and reports regarding usage
  • See everything, including messages, calls, apps downloaded, browsing history, and more
  • Get alerts about potentially risky interactions or threats to your child

You can explore all features of MMGuardian here.

For many parents, the decision is quite clear. Installing a parental control app on all Internet-connected phones is a great way to regulate children’s digital habits. However, it all comes down to what you want for your kids.

As you plan for parental monitoring, consider your child’s age and customize the conversation accordingly. The level of freedom you give to a tween (ages 9 to 12) should be different from a teenager. Lastly, while there’s nothing wrong with monitoring your children’s phone activities and messages, avoid nagging about every little thing. Good luck.


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