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Cell Phone Monitoring – Should You Be Doing It?

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With three teenagers at home who spend a large amount of time on their cell phones, it has occurred to me that perhaps I should be monitoring their activities on their phones. Before making a rash decision, I thought I’d consult someone who has studied the topic more thoroughly. Today I’ve invited Hilary Smith to share her thoughts on cell phone monitoring.

Cell Phone Monitoring

There comes a time in our child’s life where our sons and daughters want their own independence and privacy. The prevalence of digital technology and devices in our lives only magnify this craving for adolescent secrecy. While experts reassure us this is normal development that naturally comes with raising teens, many of us find this reassurance silences the nagging voices in our heads questioning what our kids are really doing online. Today, parents are faced with the modern dilemma of whether or not we should use cell phone monitoring in our parenting tool arsenal.

two teen girls looking at their cell phones with white blinds behind them with title text reading Cell Phone Monitoring Should You Be Doing It?

Reasons Parents Consider Cell Phone Monitoring

It is believed that 70 percent of our kids seek ways to hide their online activity to keep us in the dark. Many of our children will resort to dimming screens or quickly shutting browser windows when we walk in the room. However, these behaviors can cause parents to worry about the dangers and negative behaviors our children are exposed to online.

The following statistics about kids and technology are just a few concerns facing us:

  • Today’s cell phones are mini handheld computers that allow unlimited access to the world through social media and the Internet.
  • Cyberbullying rates have tripled within a short time frame. Previous data showed 27 percent of our kids were affected by cyberbullying. Today, that number is at 87 percent! With numbers like those, it is more than likely our sons and daughters will encounter digital cruelty at some point in their young lives.
  • Many teens and experts view sexting as a normal part of development. This act can expose children to ridicule, exploitation, and even felony charges for possessing or distributing child pornography.
  • Research is finding a majority of our teens are not getting the sleep needed to function at healthy levels. One reason contributing to this problem is the interruption our devices can have on sleep and circadian rhythms.
  • A teenager’s brain is undergoing a unique stage of development that can cause addictions to easily form to the Internet and our devices.
  • Oversharing and inappropriate conduct on social media can expose children to identity thieves, predators, and ramifications in the future with employers and schooling options.
Teen typing on her cell phone

The Cons Of Cell Phone Monitoring

Cell phone monitoring can obviously lead to arguments between parents and children. If monitoring is done secretly or involves spying, adolescents are more than likely to see this act as an invasion of their privacy. This can result in a complete breakdown of communication and trust within a family.

Besides hurting communication, monitoring a child’s cell phone might prevent kids from learning the proper skills needed to handle phone ownership. There will come a day when our sons and daughters will not have the privilege of having mom and dad there watching over the shoulder to make sure they are minding their digital manners.

The Pros Of Cell Phone Monitoring

By being in the know, we have increased opportunities for engaging children in meaningful conversations about their social media etiquette and situations encountered over their cellphone. Research has even found that acts of bullying often stop within ten seconds if an adult or peer intervenes which can greatly reduce the chances that a child will suffer anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide as a result of cyberbullying.

Many proponents of cell phone monitoring reason that actively knowing a child’s activity can keep them safe in a world that is full of hidden dangers. Monitoring a child’s device usage can also help parents keep tabs on their children’s sleep schedules to double check that they are sleeping when they should. Looking at a child’s patterns of use can also alert us to potential problems of overuse before they manifest into full-fledged addictions.

Teen and Daughter Talking

Talking To Children About Monitoring

If we decide monitoring is a good fit for our families, it is essential that we are honest with our kids about checking their cellphones and teach them tech safety. This will prevent sneaking, spying, and lying from becoming daily visitors in our households. Parents need to encourage a dialogue that allows children to openly talk about their digital lives without feeling judgment.

In doing this, we need to acknowledge that privacy does have a time and place in a teen’s development, but anything posted or shared online has the potential to become public. A good rule of thumb for kids to follow is the “grandma rule”, only posting items that are appropriate for grandma’s viewing pleasure. Stress to children that nothing really disappears, it can always be unearthed either by a screenshot or retrieval system.

What tips do you have for dealing with children and the topic of parents monitoring cell phones?

Hilary Smith

About the Author

Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics. Keep up with Hilary’s latest articles by following her on Twitter.

1 thought on “Cell Phone Monitoring – Should You Be Doing It?”

  1. This is something we’ve seen happen with extended family and it’s not pretty. Teens today have all of the problems we did, but in a much more public way. My children are only 6 & 8, and we plan to hold off for years yet before they have a phone or a personal internet device. Some of the things that inadvertently come across my screen are not right and I don’t want my kids to see things they shouldn’t, or take actions they shouldn’t.

    I like your grandma rule! Best one yet!


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