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Modern Parenthood

Social media monitoring: Is it good or bad parenting?

Social media monitoring for your kids is becoming easier, thanks to new child-tracking apps for parents. Striking a balance between trusting and protecting your child's online activity may not be so easy.

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Software or parenting?

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Guest Blogger

Anne Collier is editor of NetFamilyNews.org and co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. She lives in Northern California and has two sons.

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The Time article lists half a dozen other child-tracking apps for parents who prefer constant silent tracking to giving their kid a call or tapping out a quick text. Some also record every text a child types or just lock a kid’s phone down so he or she can’t use it.

A newer app not listed in the Time article – MMGuardian – can lock a kid’s phone when it senses that child and phone are moving faster than 10 miles per hour, a way to ensure teens aren’t texting while driving. That’s fine, but it can also be a little clumsy, because the feature could lock a kid’s phone when he or she is a passenger in a car someone else is driving, too – even a parent. Which means the parent should pull over to use her phone to unlock the kid’s! Kind of kidding, but there are good features in MMGuardian, including the one that turns off phones at bedtime so kids get their sleep and the ability to locate a lost phone and lock it so no one else can use it. Other features coming soon to MMGuardian (only on Android phones for now) will allow parents to manage kids’ contact list and detect what apps they’ve downloaded.

But I still maintain that most parents don’t really need software to parent.

Related links

  • Anyway, as author and parent Michael Levin points out in the Huffington Post, what kids are doing online is mostly good.
  • Think about this in the context of (acting from or using fear in) parenting: A research paper from the University of Toronto’s Center for Health Promotion that tells when fear does and doesn’t change behavior (i.e., increase safety). Very basically, a fear appeal works when two things are present: relevance and efficacy (when the listener sees its relevance to him personally and feels able to do something about it). When those are not present, he moves from “danger control” (behavior change) to “fear control”: denying he’s at risk; avoiding or mocking the message; or becoming angry at the source of the message (e.g., a parent) or the issue. This is why it’s so important that we try to understand or be informed about our children’s experiences with tech (relevance) and give them a sense of agency and efficacy (see this about that). [Thanks to my ConnectSafely.org co-director Larry Magid for pointing this paper out in this talk.]
  • “What does ‘safe’ really look like in a digital age?”
  • “What’s wrong with Net safety ed … and what we can do about it”
  • My thanks to Amy Jussel of ShapingYouth.org for pointing the Time piece out – I’ll add a link here as soon as she posts about this.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs.

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