Should you monitor your child’s phone? The simple answer to that is yes. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure your child’s safety, even if it refers to their online safety. There are a serious number of threats towards children online, ranging from age-inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and identity theft to kidnappers and sex predators. Children are unaware of these dangers and are intrinsically vulnerable to falling victim to them. As a parent, you should have an honest discussion with your children and set up monitoring rules.
In this digital era, most children have access to computerized or smart devices, most of which have access to the internet. Very few of these devices have any security measures set up against the potential threats for children. It is only natural for parents to be concerned about their children’s safety and exposure in the digital world.
We have talked to various experts to explain why it is so crucial to monitor your child’s phone, what dangers are out there and what you can do about it.
Monitor their Online Activities
“Despite my busy schedule handling business, I always make sure to do my responsibility when it comes to my kids safety. Kids nowadays discover and learn a lot through their phones online, sometimes they can see things that’s not actually healthy or good for them. That is why me and my wife always check their phones from time to time in order to monitor their activities on the internet, like who they are talking to, what their social media activities are, and more. In some cases, teens to young adults make social media platforms a place to vent out personal problems, issues, etc. Which is why it is very important for parents to check their accounts because it is a way for parents to know what their children can’t tell them personally.”
Robert Johnson, Founder of Sawinery
Identity Theft, Cyberbullying, Kidnapping
“Child identity theft: 14 percent of parents say that they have a child or children who have had their identities stolen. The biggest risk factor for child identity theft, according to 53 percent of parents, is social media, so make sure that your child isn’t revealing any of their personally identifiable information like their full name, address, or phone number, online. Cyberbullying: According to our research, 21 percent of parents say that they have a child or children who have been cyber bullied. It’s important to check kids’ phones to make sure that no cyberbullying is happening, as it could affect them emotionally. Damage to reputation: Make sure your kid isn’t posting something about themselves that will affect future school or employment prospects. Kidnapping: Also, make sure that your kid isn’t talking to strangers online, which could lead to either digital or real-life kidnapping.”
Aliza Vigderman, Senior Editor and Industry Analyst at home security, digital security and smart home technology website; Security.org
“As a father of six boys, retired Federal Agent and current criminal defense attorney, when I see a kid with a phone, I see danger. Teenagers and even preteens are consumed with curiosity about sex. Sexting is alive and well and very common, where you find kids sharing intimate pictures of themselves and others with both children and adults, some of whom are sexual predators. Kids do not realize that not only are they breaking the law, risking jail, expulsion from school and even placement on the sex registry, but they are also putting a bullseye on themselves and people they love and care for. I have represented kids who have paid the price for their youth, youthful curiosity and immaturity. Beyond sexting there are numerous other problems associated with kids with phones. For example, kids love to take pictures of themselves breaking the law by smoking pot, getting into fights, and even burglarizing cars and homes. Why do they do this? Because they’re kids, and kids may do the darndest things, but they also do the dumbest things. As a retired law enforcement officer (LEO) that has taught over 200 criminal justice college classes I can tell you this, cops are not trained to be stupid or to ignore the obvious and they will endeavor, hopefully lawfully, to see what is on a kids phone, as too often it offers a treasure trove of evidence.”
Joseph Gutheinz, Gutheinz Law Firm, LLP
Online Threats for Children and What you Can Do
“Child safety is an important topic to parents, and digital devices have brought an entirely new and oftentimes surprising number of threats into the home. Children who have cell phones, tablets, game systems, or computers are now regularly online and able to interact with others with little to no supervision from their parents or guardians. Some of these threats include bullies, predators, and thieves with no remorse for their victims. You can protect your children from these online threats by implementing a handful of sound strategies into your life. The number one thing to do is speak to your child about these threats and explain to them that not everyone is who they say they are online. Children are often naive to the tools and tactics used by these threat actors and could be lured into harm by them. Also understand that applications targeted at younger audiences are often times infested with predators. Android and iPhone apps designed specifically for children, when allowed to facilitate communication, are cesspits of predators who will use these tools to reach out to younger kids who believe they are interacting with other children. Older kids will often install applications designed to look like one thing while being another. These hidden apps are designed to bypass the security tools installed and used by parents, and so it is important to know what to look for. Apps that require special button presses to access or appear suspicious should be looked into as they may be tools used to circumvent safety tools. The internet and technology in general is wonderful, and children exposed to the CORRECT parts of the internet can become more educated, worldly, and more likely to succeed. However, like anything, the digital devices used by kids present their own dangers and parents must stay up to date with technology, trends, and software in order to know what is or is not right for their kids. Also understand that these threats will evolve with the age of the child and their maturity levels, so constant communication with your child will be key to their success.”
Aaron Jones, Program Champion of Cyber at the University of Advancing Technology, is a software developer who currently creates applications for law enforcement.
“Don’t let your child fall victim to a hacker!: As someone who works in cybersecurity, I understand the importance of keeping your child in check while they’re using a smart device. The internet is a dangerous place, and I don’t think enough of us recognize the full scope of security concerns that come with it. It’s important to check on your child’s phone, but it’s also important to implement privacy software into the device as an extra layer of protection. I have parents come to me all the time asking what they can do to protect their children online, and there isn’t just one answer. The most effective solution is to not allow your child to use a smartphone, but that’s not always feasible. The next best thing is to ensure your child has parental restrictions turned on, an always-on VPN, and even advanced browser settings enabled.”
Heinrich Long, Privacy Expert at Restore Privacy
“We live in a dangerous world, where everyone regardless of their age and gender has access to the internet via their phones, laptops, tablets/iPads, TV and other electronic devices. Children generally lack the sense of what’s right or wrong, even if you teach them a million times. Their brains are not developed enough and can easily get themselves in very sticky situations. Certain shows and games, regardless of their ratings can be very inappropriate. There have been reports of games and videos with sinister subliminal messaging and inappropriate/sexual dialogue and suggestions embedded deep into show or game which you may not be able to pick up initially. Most unpaid and easily downloadable games have pop-up ads, the nature of these ads can be very unpredictable. Some children have been reported to max out their parent’s credit cards via unmonitored shopping and spending money on games. Most devices require credit card information, and if you do not have the settings on for password protected spending, the children are essentially free to spend the money however way they please. Parents don’t find out until it’s too late and sometimes can’t even claim the expenses through their bank. This one is obvious, but no one likes to think about, giving children electronic devices with an internet connection puts them in the radar for sexual predators and traffickers. These people pretend to be children themselves and chat for long periods to build a friendship, they gain all the information they need and then lure them out into very dangerous situations. Children also don’t realise that when they upload a picture of themselves, how easily it is for sick minded adults to misuse that picture.”
Emily David, Business owner, innovator and entrepreneur with 20 years in business leadership
While parents or guardians don’t need to resort to spying, they should have an open, honest talk and a monitoring system should be set in the family household rules. The safety of our children always comes first and in the dangerous digital world, we need to do what we can to protect our charges.
Dennis has been a professional security consultant space based out of Chapel Hill for over 15 years. His experience runs the gamut between government and private organizations (specifically in the finance and insurance sector) with a specialty in consulting for executive and high-value protection surrounding Kidnap and Ransom mitigation.