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Monitoring Kids’ Smartphone & Social Media Use

Categories: Parenting Issues, Technology


I was at the bus stop the other morning waving goodbye to my son when I noticed the face of the girl sitting behind him. She seemed oddly illuminated, and at first I couldn’t figure out why. Was there a light inside the bus that was shining on her? Had an errant ray of sunshine managed to penetrate Oregon’s February gloom? Did she have a tiny flashlight for reading purposes? It wasn’t until the bus pulled away and I got a glimpse at her lap that I saw what was causing the mysterious glow: she was playing with a cellphone.

Did I mention this is an elementary school bus?

My oldest son is only in first grade, and I supposed it’s possible that by fourth or fifth grade he’ll be a responsible individual to whom I feel comfortable gifting with a cellphone. I gotta be honest, though, it’s hard for me to imagine WHY I would do this. For emergency purposes? Something tells me that little girl furtively pecking around on her iPhone wasn’t practicing her 911 speed-dial skills.

Still, it’s a brave new world we live in, and the fact is, most kids have smartphones. Maybe not most elementary-aged kids, but I’d guess by middle school they’re nearly ubiquitous. It’s more than a little hypocritical for me to hope my children choose an analog lifestyle, too, considering how much time I spend with my snout buried in various electronic devices.

I’m sure managing my kids’ screen time will become more and more of an issue as they get older, and it’s particularly challenging to think ahead to keeping an eye on their online habits. I mean, my husband and I are pretty active on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s bizarre to think that all too soon there will come a day when we’ll have to decide how we want our kids to participate in social media.

It’s kind of depressing, actually. I guess because it’s sad to imagine a time when my kids will prefer the online world to the boundless Lego-studded imaginarium they currently live in.

Monitoring kids and social media is obviously a fairly new parenting challenge, and there was an interesting study recently that suggests that half — HALF! — of parents using Facebook signed up at least partly in order to keep tabs on their kids. 92 percent say they’re Facebook friends with their kids, and 43 percent admit that they check their kids’ Facebook pages on a daily basis.

Oh man. Isn’t parenting hard enough without the burden of tracking your kids’ tweets and status updates? Any what do you do if they publish something you think is a bad idea? Let them make their own mistakes, or swoop in to offer your unwanted opinion? GAH.

Of course, the alternative — not having any contact with your child on social media, and therefore having no idea what she/he is posting — is even less appealing.

As for me, I’d prefer to bury my head in the sand and take comfort in the fact that I don’t have to deal with this stuff quite yet, but spotting that little girl with a phone reminded me that it’ll all be happening before I know it.

What’s your take on kids and social media? If your kids are online, do you monitor what they’re up to?

Image via cnast/Flickr

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2 comments so far...

  • It’s hard to imagine my soon-to-be 7 year old niece with her own cellphone! They have TV and internet parental controls - but do they have special phone settings too?

    Hillary  |  February 21st, 2013 at 3:21 pm

  • I couldn’t agree more. Monitoring kids online activity is an additional burden to us moms….but i guess we don’t have a choice.
    When my kid is online….i stick around….asking what games he is playing, what pictures he recently posted…and the best thing is i know his password. He gave it to me voluntarily….so i get to check his activity.
    It also helps that you know what is he up to…the latest games, latest app he uses. I see to it that I’m updated with what’s going on online, in this way I could have a conversation with him that really interest him.

    Andrea  |  February 26th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

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