As a parent, you’ll face this – guaranteed – you’re on your family computer and notice a few websites pop up in your history that shouldn’t be there. It can’t be your wife or your three-year-old, or your ten-year-old who’s usually out with friends. To be honest, it can’t be your teenager, either, because if you didn’t see them do it, which one could it have been?
Timestamps are everything. If one of your kids was on the family computer when something inappropriate was viewed, it’s likely that they viewed it or came in contact with a site that had a pop-up. Regardless of the scenario, check your timestamps and browser capabilities. You can block certain websites.
In extreme cases, parents can view and erase cache, cookies, and the history files. There’s keystroke software that allows you to see what’s been typed if you’re suspicious of their browsing, chatting, and overall internet use. Of course, there’s even screen monitoring, which allows the parent or supervising adult to display the content of the child’s computer screen in real time.
Telling them is either a gift or a curse; most kids feel like you’re invading their privacy and will find other ways to access the internet when you’re not around. However, if you do see your kid doing something suspicious and they had no idea you were watching them, how do you approach it?
As it happens, my ten-year-old was caught watching some interesting videos his friend had sent him. My wife was a little flabbergasted at the chats he had and the things he watched, but I digress – she tried to approach him about this stuff, in a disconnected sort of way – “Some kids your age watch adult material.” Naturally, he said he didn’t. So what did we do? We stopped being sneaky, of course. It wasn’t healthy.
We later set surfing rules and parental privacy settings, so when he or either of our kids uses the internet, certain sites are blocked. We also let him know he’s being monitored now, so he has to stick to homework research or simple browsing and chatting with friends. This way, he now feels involved and has a warning, instead of feeling like his privacy has been stepped in on.
The most important bit of advice is to not be sneaky. You should not, can not, be sneaky in terms of the relationship with your kid. Whatever they were browsing online is probably harmless in comparison to the damage it does between father and child, mother and child, and so on.
Another crucial piece of advice? Start early. Start with ground rules and don’t only implement them because you are suspicious. Iron fist parenting gets you nowhere with them, trust me. It might seem like a safer option, but really, it teaches your kids to have displaced trust in authority figures. Internet browsing cannot be such an extreme issue that parents face a lifetime of struggles from their tweens and teens. It’s just not worth it.
At the end of the day, you can use whatever tech helps you feel safe and sleep at night, but great parenting shouldn’t be replaced by technology. Your relationship with your child should be your first thought – allow them to humor you and check in on them ever so often. You’ll be surprised what you find.
Written by: Hank of HomeByHank