With most monitoring software, parents can monitor instant messaging, chat sessions, view where their child surfed online and what pictures have been downloaded or exchanged. This secret backdoor into a kid's online communications sometimes alerts parents to their child's poor choices and involvement in potentially unsafe or illegal activity.
But, is this backdoor into a child's virtual diary an invasion of their privacy? According to PC World Magazines who explored this question, the answer by psychologists is no, but with two important conditions:
- Clearly define the rules you expect the child to follow when getting online.
- Communicate that their activity will be monitored at times.
The point in communicating Interntt rules and regulations is to offset the feeling that what you are doing is 'Spying'. It is not spying if you tell them you are doing it.
Dr. David Walsh, a psychologist and president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, told PC World, "Parents have a responsibility to monitor the whereabouts of their kids, whether it's in the real world or the cyberworld."
Is it Spying or Monitoring?Most kids would call it spying and probably accuse their parents of not trusting them to act appropriately and wisely online. But does that really matter when a kid's safety is an issue? When it comes to online activity, the playing field changes. Computer communication offers kids increased secrecy and can lure them from natural curiosity to unhealthy decisions.
Take for example an adolescent boy who may occasionally peek at online pornography. Most would agree that this type of activity is normal and to address it would be a breakdown of his right to privacy. However, if his activity then evolved into late night chats at porn sites or numerous e-mails exchanges with strangers online, he is then entering into unsafe territory and parental intervention can be the reality check that is needed to help set him straight.
Parents who deal openly and honestly about their intentions to monitor their kid's computers can offset some of the potential dangers lurking online. If a child knows that their parents can read any online exchange, then the temptation to engage in sexually explicit conversations, posting pictures or exchanging personal information, may be lessoned.
For parents interested in obtaining monitoring software, PC World has done a good job of breaking down some of the programs depending on what level the parent may decide is right for them in the article Should Parents Become Big Brother?.
Safe Practices for Children OnlineThere are other options for those who would prefer not to use this direction for keeping an eye on their children.
- Talk openly with your child about the potential danger online.
- Help your child understand what sexual victimization and do not be afraid to use specific examples.
- Surf with your child and find out what type of websites they enjoy visiting.
- Avoid having the computer in your child's bedroom. If your child is in a common room in the house when online the ability to engage in undesirable activity is reduced since the screen can be viewed by anyone in the house.
- Know your child's passwords to online email accounts and monitor them on a regular basis.
- If your child uses a computer outside the house, such as at school or at the library, find out what type of controls and safeguards are used on those computers.
- Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line. There is much more to the on-line experience than chat rooms.
- Not to meet anyone face-to-face who they have met online without parental involvement.
- Not to upload or post pictures of themselves on the Internet to people who they do not personally know.
- Not to give post or give out personal information which could identify them to a stranger such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.
- Not to download pictures from an unknown source.
- Not to respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.
- Not to believe everything they are told online.