The question of whether to monitor your child’s online activity can be a tough one. Many factors are at play. Maybe you trust your child and have even gone over some basic cyber security practices. However, you know the web is a wild place and even the most savvy users can get into trouble.
I understand that your child’s privacy and security is priceless. Every parent lives under a certain pressure to protect their children. Today that increasingly means ensuring they aren’t using an internet connected device for illegal or potentially harmful purposes. That’s especially tough when “internet connected device” means everything from a phone to your fridge.
Given how easy phones are to use and that they are easily portable I’ll go over a few methods to monitor phone use.
Let’s be very clear that the best method of monitoring your child is trust and open communication. If you have a strong degree of trust your child will listen to what you say and be comfortable sharing their experiences. However, this is easier said than done in some circumstances (teenage years…).
Here I go into a few methods that can be used to monitor your child’s online mobile activity if you need a bit more reassurance than a conversation.
Why You Need to Monitor Your Child’s Online Activity
Why monitor online activity? It’s a question every parent has asked themselves. You want to trust your kids. You raised them and they wouldn’t do anything bad, right?
Monitoring isn’t always about a lack of trust in your child. It could be a lack of trust in their school, peer group, or community. Monitoring tools allow you to know where your child is and what they are doing online. You should give them privacy as that is part of growing up. However, you also know the risks better than they do so you can spot trouble before it becomes a big deal.
The location tracking ability provided by phones can be helpful. If your child isn’t home on time you can quickly find out where they are. Sure, they could have missed curfew because they weren’t paying attention to the time. However, in the unfortunate instance it wasn’t their fault you will be happy to quickly find out where they are.
Any conversation of tracking tools inevitably leads to a discussion of rights and invasion of privacy. As I stated previously trust and communication should be the first option. However, if you feel more is needed then certain tracking software exists.
Some solutions, such as those that track social media activity and messages, can be a lifesaver for parents with children going through a tough time. We hear countless stories of kids being bullied in school and being pushed to the edge. If your child won’t speak to you about their issues it might be your duty to invade their privacy a bit.
Below I discuss a few apps to monitor cell phone activity. However, I’ll say it again that a direct and open conversation might yield better results than defaulting to a software solution.
Phone Monitoring Apps
FamiSafe is recognized as one of the best parental control and cell phone monitoring apps of 2020. The app help to ensure family members are using technology in a safe manner. This can be used for adults and kids, so it’s helpful if your spouse doesn’t have the best web safety habits. The app works great to monitor day-to-day activities and includes a location history and live-location feature. You can also block potentially dangerous apps and websites. This extends to blocking harmful YouTube videos. Finally, you can monitor text messages on leading social media apps.
The biggest drawback: FamiSafe works great for Android, but isn’t on Mac.
Next up is Spyzie. Off the bat Spyzie is a great selection as it works for both Android and iOS. Parents can monitor call history, media files, chats, photos, and much more. The user-friendly UI makes it a joy for less technologically inclined folks. You also get real-time tracking with GPS. One unique feature is the ability to lock and unlock your child’s phone from a remote location.
The pros and cons are the same for Spyzie. Since the app operates in “stealth mode” your kids won’t know it’s being used. That might sound good, but I again have to state that trust is critical in any relationship. That goes double for parent/child relationships. If you use Spyzie, or any other tracking app, be sure to explain why.
Parents also have the ability to take screenshots. Again, privacy and trust will be what I shout from my soapbox. Use it if needed, but be considerate. Remember you were a kid once. Would you really want your parents reading some of the harmless things you wrote in the notes you passed in class?
Moving right along to mSpy. Available on Android and iOS mSpy allows parents to track their children and monitor their activity. Location tracking and text message records are included. One neat feature is the ability to manage incoming and outbound calls. Much like Spyzie, mSpy operates in a stealth mode and is user-friendly. One drawback is that you cannot lock or unlock the phone from a remote location.
FlexiSpy comes with the standard features you’ve come to expect by now. It tracks calls, texts, and WhatsApp messages. One cool feature is that you can use it to track two phones at once and use GPS monitoring. So it’s great for parents with more than one kiddo to look after.
The biggest drawback for FlexiSpy is that you can’t block unknown callers and it does come with a fee.
Net Nanny is one of the best applications on the market for monitoring your child’s online activity. You can monitor multiple devices and has all sorts of web-based actions.
If your kids are frequent gamers, and setting boundaries is easier said than done, Net Nanny will be a lifesaver. Parents can block social media pages and addictive games. You can also set profanity filters to prevent your kids from accessing inappropriate sites.
The primary con for Net Nanny is the lack of geo-fencing. However, this is a small price to pay for the other awesome features you get with the app.
I’m sure many more tracking apps exist. The above are ones that I’ve used or have heard good things from friends and colleagues. Making the decision to monitor your child’s online activity can be tough. No parent wants to make their kids feel like they aren’t trusted. However, the internet is vast and trouble can find kids even if they aren’t looking for it.
My approach has always been to be honest and transparent. Explain why the app is being used and set boundaries.