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Parental Digital Corner: Cell Phone Monitoring

By Ms. Janice Nass, LCSW

Do you ever say, “Since I'm paying for it, I'm entitled to read my kids' texts, check their call logs, and know who their friends are?" Most of us have at least thought this way at least one time or another. We also know too however, that our teens consider their phones to be as personal as diaries. So how should a parent proceed? Spot checks are a good idea. You know your teen best. If you sense something isn't right, spot-check more often. Explain that your rules are for their safety and protection and that you need to be able to make sure they're using their devices appropriately.

The major cell phone service providers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile) each offer add-on packages for a fee that let you keep an eye on things, including monitoring usage (you can have their phone shut off during certain times of the day for example), managing access to features, and tracking the location of the phone. Also, third-party software programs such as TeenSafe, WebWatcher, and PhoneSheriff, which you install on your computer, can show you texts, website histories, photos, and more.

No monitoring service is 100 percent reliable. The programs require you to enter some of your teen’s log-ins and passwords to track the phone's activity, and your teen can always change passwords on you or sign up for services you don't know about and can't monitor. They also can make your teen feel spied on, which can lead to sneaky behavior. And if the phone is off or discharged, its location can't be tracked. Try talking about responsibility and appropriate use first and consider the monitoring programs as a backup or extra insurance.

 

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