Mother checking in with her child who is looking at a laptop screen.

Parental Control Apps: Monitoring Isn’t the Same as Spying

by Screen Time Team on 19/02/2020

Families need trust between all their members to operate, and that can often make for conflicted feelings in parents. Kids need to be trusted, but how much is too much, and how can you balance trust, their safety, and your responsibility as a parent? If you install a parental control app, is that the same as looking through their diary? Here’s how to draw a line between responsible parenting and being too intrusive.

Be Transparent

Trust starts with transparency across the board. When your family sits down to discuss the rules under your roof, you should not only make the rules and the punishments for breaking them clear, but also the rationale behind the rules. Giving everyone a full understanding of what you’re concerned about and why you’re taking the steps that you are will make rule-breaking less likely.

Similarly, steps you take to enforce the rules and why should also be open and up-front: If you’re installing a parental control app on their device, take the time to explain what you’re doing with it, precisely what it does, what you can see, and why.

Model Good Behavior

If you set rules for the family around devices, that should mean the entire family sticks to them. Rules like “no devices at the dinner table,” “no sharing anyone’s personal photos,” or “TV only at certain times” should be stuck to by everybody, both to limit the temptation to break the rules and to help create a specific standard. Similarly, respect their privacy in the “real” world; simple habits like knocking on closed doors and having them in the room when you collect laundry will help them understand courtesy and respect.

Father trying to talk with his son at the breakfast table.

Engage With Their Internet Habits

Talking with kids about what they’re doing online, and what you’re doing online, is a good way to keep up transparency. Ask your children about the games they’re playing, the apps they’re using, the friends they’ve met online, and encourage them to ask you about that as well. They probably will not be excited to learn about your bill-paying, but if you set a standard for honesty and openness, they’ll follow

Practice Trust

Trust is earned, not given, and the best way to build it is to let your kids earn it. There are limits, of course; no matter how trustworthy a grade-schooler is, they probably shouldn’t be at the store alone, for example. But look for ways to show you trust your kids, such as letting them do chores and homework on their own.

Be Honest

The truth is that even the best kids will sometimes break your trust. They might do it for all sorts of reasons, from the sincere to the selfish. But when they get caught, you should maintain honesty both in how you caught them, and how you feel about it. If an app brought rule-breaking to your attention, be sure to inform them of how you learned about it.

Building and maintaining trust takes work, and parental control apps can help by proving that kids are following rules. To learn more about how a parental control app can help, try it for free!

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