How do I monitor my kids' cell phone use without seeming intrusive?

Parents: If you want to monitor your kid's cell phone without seeming intrusive, be honest about what you're doing and why. Explain that your rules are for their safety and protection. It's a parents' job to make sure kids are using their devices appropriately. Some parents say, "If I'm paying for it, I'm entitled to read my kids' texts, check their call logs, and know who their friends are." That's valid, but kids consider these devices to be as personal as diaries, so tread cautiously. Spot checks are a good idea. You know your kid best. If you sense something isn't right, spot-check more often.

Do you think it's important to monitor your kid's phone without seeming intrusive?

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Teen, 13 years old written by Kobeisinfact

Please somebody kill me. My parents will not stop and my life sucks pretty bad right now. I am having to learn to hack so that I can keep some of my things on my phone private from my mom. I am constantly having to change my passcode for everything. I have put a lock on my history and social medias. Kids need to evolve and learn their parents. I am the master of Duping my parents and I know what they will do in every scenario. My parents lack in consistency and do not enforce often. When they do search me it is usually because they're mad. I am working on a fingerprint or voice thing that I can put on my phone. This makes it so that if you leave your phone with your parents or home alone, you're invincible. What they do the other times is an attempt to force you to give them access threatening your sports, passions, hobbies, and even friends. You, kids, need to show that you have nothing to lose. The TV, your phone, and your video games is their best weapon. They hold it over you every time as they have complete control over it. Never argue or show emotion because it simply shows your parents how much you care about those things. Just shrug and accept it. It is up to you if you want to be good to have those things all the time or punish your parents by purposely being bad and difficult in situations of conflict. Im currently on the second option. So you choose what to do and dont be afraid to stand up to your parents or make a plan to lock your privacy. All you kids need to evolve and protect yourselves from the old people
Teen, 14 years old written by irlchamomile

my mother has been monitoring me ever since i was in 3rd grade- i'm in 9th grade now. she's scrolled through my texts, looked through my apps, checked all of my history, and she searches through each thing on my phone for something, ANYTHING to get mad at. at some points, she finds nothing to get mad at and decides to get upset because i save pictures of celebrities on my phone. in addition to this, she also invades my privacy offline, too. she digs through my trash. she reads my diary (even when i wrote on loose leaf paper and hid it in my room, she found it and read it all). she raids my backpack. and she gets angry at every single thing she deems wrong or not to her liking. she's done this since i was in 3rd grade. i grew up with this, and i grew up feeling like no place was safe, like i had no right to express my thoughts, even to myself. there was a time in 7th grade where i was so paranoid that i thought she could read my mind, and i did everything i could to only think of things that would prevent me from getting in trouble. it barely felt like my own body belonged to me because she's enforced this theme of her owning anything and everything for so long. when parents invade their child's privacy, it makes them think that they aren't safe. they lose trust in their parents, and in turn you'll loose trust in us. to this day, i have to take every backdoor just to do things like text my classmates about homework. my mom found out about some old things i used to do to get around her restrictions and she’s since tried her best to invade my privacy even more because she no longer trusts me (as if she trusted me in the first place). i know the dangers of the internet- yes, i do make internet friends but i don’t ever try to meet up with them, give them my full name, tell them where i live, or anything of the sort. i’m mature enough to recognize if i’m being bullied and i know to not bully others. i’m very particular about video calls. i learnt all this in school and from my dad and on my own. your child most likely is capable of handling their phone if you teach them how and trust them. if they turn out to be doing things like sending nudes and you happen to find out, then fine, start monitoring them. but if you don’t give your kid a chance, you’ll never receive the bond that i hope you crave from them. your child is neither you nor your subject nor an object. treat them as such. the law may not grant us rights to privacy but it’s your duty as a human to realize that we, as a general whole, deserve it.
Parent of a 15 year old written by Jeff S.

To be honest- i don't think people should monitor their teens phones. Would you want someone constantly checking your conversations and internet history? Let them grow up themselves.
Teen, 15 years old written by Archipelago

To parents: Please think over why you might want to monitor your child's device. I understand that some parents believe that because they paid for the phone, they have the right to read their child's text messages, look through their phone call records, social media accounts, and even read their search history. This happened to me last summer. I am male and currently 14, soon to turn 15. They began to look through everything on my laptop computer, my phone, and my iPad. This took place over a bit under a week. After this finished, and I got my devices back, I noticed a feeling that I kept having. A sense of fear kept coming to me. I was always suspicious that my parents had placed some type of spyware or something to read incoming and out coming messages from my devices. When I was on my computer and an icon briefly popped up on my toolbar only to then disappear (I realize now that this is normal), I thought that is was some type of software they had installed to monitor my usage. It got to the point where I began to think that there were cameras put up in our house to spy on me. I thought that the wifi would send my internet searches to them, and that they would read them. I thought every electronic device I "owned" was being monitored by my parents. I did not trust them. I found out that what I had developed is paranoia, and while I have learned to suppress it to a large extent, it put me way behind in socializing than I was before they searched my devices. I was well liked and had many friends, but after my parents searched my electronics, I lack basic confidence and communication skills to mantain many relationships. Although it is getting better, I can only imagine what my social life would be if the electronic search simply didn't happen. So again, parents, please reconsider you decision and approach your child instead of surprising them.
Adult written by Amanda M.

DO NOT feel bad for monitoring your CHILDS internet, phone, media usage! I am the adult, I pay for the cel phone and I will check it to ensure that their conduct is appropriate, no perverts are grooming and their "friends" are self governing themselves as well. Don't feed into this "kids privacy" crap the world feeds you!! Through monitoring my kids phones I have observed the following: unsolicited pictures of sexual body part sent to my children, grooming from "older kids", two voice messages from a 45 year old man in California wanting to talk to my daughter because he was "scared" of thunder, unsolicited pictures of drugs other kids were selling and there were some inappropriate things both my kids have been caught sending or viewing cause they are not perfect.... COME ON. These are young impressionable children and there are many ways their innocence can be taken. I wish I had NEVER purchased a phone of either of my children. Phones also keep your child from face to face conversations, thinking before they react, diminishes their time to do other more important things, consumes their life, provides a false reality (since everything posted is usually shallow and superficial). Monitor your child 100% until they have proven themselves to be able to handle the responsibilities of having 24/7 access to their friends the entire world and worse their friends and the entire world have24/7 access to them!!! Once trust has been developed you can back off from checking all the time to monthly, spot checks. Both my children are out of high school now but 80% of the drama came from something on the phone or because of the phone. They are the worst thing you can purchase for your child.
Parent of a 15 year old written by Jeff S.

Perhaps this 'Drama' was because you monitored their phones so closely in the first place?
Kid, 11 years old

I'm 11 and don't have a phone yet, but I own an iPad and my parents have never looked through what I do. I don't plan to have any social media until I'm 13+. If you're a parent and insist on checking your child's phone daily/weekly, you likely haven't taught them the dos and don'ts of texting, social media, etc. I recommend only looking through their phone if they seem to be doing something suspicious. Would you like it if you were a kid and your parents gave you no privacy? Nope. Don't try to secretly monitor your kid, most teens and preteens are a tad more intelligent than they seem to be. Most kids/teens in their 10s need privacy, don't barge into their electronics if they're not doing anything bad.
Adult written by Alana C.

I am 41 years old adult and I am100% against monitoring or even looking into a childs phone once they are over age 12. I think if a parent is a good parent then they should have already shown their child how to behave responsibly, how to know dangers or not, and how to not bully people or stand up to one. If you do not trust your children then that is on YOU, not them. You clearly raised them incorrectly then. I would never snoop into my childrens/teens business because my own paents never did that to me. I did have some technology very early my parents were very big on new tech. I was raised by people two generations my senior, yet I had total privacy. No searching in my room no snooping in my business, no reading my notebooks with all my secrets in. And certainly I made a few errors as a teen. However, I survived, and got good grades and have an IQ of 158, and never had a teen pregnancy or any issues because my parents raised my correctly! I could defend myself as well as sense dangers. You parents MUST trust your children. Teens must have freedom, and I mean a lot of it. They HAVE to learn who they are, and who they are is not just some extension of you and a bunch of rules, they learn by making mistakes. They learn by being taught by you. Kids these days will never develop into proper adjusted people if parents do not start butting out again like mine did exactly enough. Also, if a teenager chooses to look at sexual content that is a natural thing. All humans are curious and want to see what sex is. No ne can tell me they did not also do so back then. Because I did, my friends did, my boyfriend did, and I know my parents have too in life because parents are HUMAN. Why is it that I seem to be the only adult on here with any sense of privacy and trust, who agrees completely with these teenagers? I was raised with tons of freedom, and I was just fine. I am 41 and I still feel like I am20 inside because I had the freedom to learn exactly who I am. Kids are not stupid, they know right from wrong!
Parent written by riley1319

Our son is getting his first phone at almost 13 and we will monitor its use. If he'd like a diary, fine, I'm happy to get him one and I won't touch it, because that diary isn't a tool to communicate with the outside world and vice versa. As an adult he might look back on a diary and laugh at his point of view or the things he thought/felt as a teen - that's a far cry from putting it out onto the internet and being forever responsible for it. It's also a far cry from creating a direct line into your home for people with less than good intentions for your child.
Adult written by Amanda M.

Good parenting!! Don't ever let society push you into raising your child against your better judgement! I have posted some information on what took place with my two children and what I did.
Parent of a 14 and 15 year old written by LonBoy

He Kids, as long as your parents are paying for your food, clothing, schooling AND phone...You Don't Have Any Privacy. There are seriously sick predators out there. There are kids brutally bullying other kids. Even kids encouraging kids to commit suicide! Our job is to Keep You Safe. Try showing a little gratitude for what you have and a little respect for your parents. Your reputation is their reputation. In a few years, as you prepare your college applications, and after that your employment applications, you'll wonder why you ever posted such stupid stuff anyway! What goes around, comes around. Have a great day!
Adult written by Amanda M.

Amen!! Thank you for spreading the truth and caring more about your child's mind and safety than their "privacy"! CHILDREN have no privacy!! THANK YOU!!
Teen, 14 years old written by Adom21

Ok first of all, you parents are absolutely stupid. My parents check EVERYTHING, and are on my phone 24/7. Because of this, I have many other apps to keep stuff secret etc. I hate that my parents do this and it absolutely pisses me off. Anyways, if you parents check your kids/ teens phones, don't think they don't know and don't think they don't have other ways to hide their stuff from you. Checking our phones/ social media is like if your (as in you adults) parents checked your journal, total invasion of privacy. It just is very sad how parents are so damn overprotective these days.
Parent written by Tate M.

Mobile Parenting has become a real thing. Part of parenting today is knowing Location of our kids, What they are doing, and Who they are talking/texting with. I use to help!
Teen, 17 years old written by neonn

As a teen, I know that even the most technologically-disadvantaged teen can hide photos from parents idiotic enough to hire a professional hacker *cough*. CommonSenseMedia despite what they say, is behind and always will be. Their "texting slang" is stuff people said in like 2013. Nobody uses any of that anymore. Snapchat, while the ninja spy thing that kids would use to hide from their parents at one point, is now as commonplace as twitter and new apps are being used. The last thing I want is to be a tool to parents who think spying on their kids/teens is okay, so I won't name any names. Let's just say that some of our newer apps are better than ghosting a vault app on the 88th page of our phone and putting a 20 digit password on it. Good luck, nosy parents :D P.S. for idiots who think not letting their kid have a phone will prevent sexting and whatever, it makes it more dangerous. We will just use a stolen/borrowed phone that you don't even know we have.
Teen, 13 years old written by Ptrfamily

My parents have been monitoring all my devices without my consent for a long time and have been doing it in secrecy. To this day, they still think I don't know that they're monitoring me. But, I see why they would do this. Most of the time, teens are afraid of being monitored because they have some texts of being rude or spreading gossip, or they have some arguments with some random person on the internet or in rare cases, they're watching explicit videos, have inappropriate pictures or sexting. So to answer your question, yes, even as a teen, I think it is important to monitor your kid's phone/devices. But, there must be limits. First, tell your kid what your doing. Not telling your kid what you're doing can lead to them not trusting you even more and end up them hiding everything from you. Second, do weekly or monthly checks. Checking everyday can make your child think that you don't trust them at all. And finally, be casual about it. Don't yell at your kid, "HEY! I want to see your phone right now!" or "Tell me all your passwords for your social media!" Instead, ease your way into convincing your kid to voluntarily hand over their phone. Don't be like my parents and check their phone during the night when they're asleep, they could easily find out and they'd trust you even less. Also, remember to be "light" on the judgement. If your child does do something wrong, talk with them first. Be patient, even if they brush off your talking. Punishments such as taking away the phone, grounding, or ban on social media should only be handed out if the misbehavior continues or if they do something in the "extreme" area. Hope this helped!
Educator and Parent written by Kim C.

Avoiding getting the kids a cell phone as long as possible. They complain that some 3rd graders already have their own. However, most of the 3rd grade parents I've spoken with have come to the same decision re: the cell phone. At some point they'll need cell phones, especially with a million and one practices, games, and meetings going on and I can't be everywhere. No place seems to have pay phones anymore. also young people can be very cruel. There are a few ways that you can monitor your child's facebook account, if you are not friend visit
Teen, 13 years old written by SGHaggarty

As a 13-year-old, I know what it's like to have intrusive-seeming parents and I also know how they could find out what I'm doing without seeming that way. 1. Talk to your teen about what they should be doing on their social media, phone, etc. before they get it. 2. Casually ask, what are you up to periodically. 3. Ask to see their social media accounts. 4. Get a social media account yourself and follow your child's account. Hope this helped! :)
Educator and Parent written by John H.

I don't really trust anyone who drops blanket statements like, "Well, this is what *I* did with my kids and it worked out, so anyone who does things differently is obviously doing it wrong." Parenting is an art as much as a science, what works for you and your family may not work for me and mine. Being so judgemental and self righteous towards other parents must be exhausting. Many parents don't spend the time and the result is kids that lack attention, discipline, and common sense. Like I said, I see lots of parents doing their thing, and totally leaving their kids to fend for themselves. These guys helped me once to see my Daughter's fb page .
Teen, 16 years old written by Nikkkk

As a teen who has experienced both sides of the issue; having a parent concerned for myself and being concern for a sibling, I have to say that the lengths you all are willing to go to for such an issue is quite ridiculous. You adults must realize that we, your children ar of a time where technology is as normal to us as riding a bike. I would like to point out that many of you are so naïve to think that you are able to control every aspect of your child's internet usage. I speak from personal experience when I say that we are especially good at getting around the rules. Another point I would like to make to those adults who have taken the time to read these comments, if you think your child is too young and innocent to recognize the dangers of social media, don't you think perhaps they are too young to have social media. Being internet safe is as much a part of good parenting as being street safe. If your child is unable to recognize what is and is not safe on the internet, it is your fault for not properly educating them as such. I would also like to discuss simply the invasion of privacy. I'm sure you can all think back to being a young to mid teen, writing all the thoughts you once thought were important into a diary or a notebook. For kids of this time, we dont use journals, rather we share such things with our social media. I can imagine all you parents gasping in horror right about now. But understand that sharing these thoughts provides us with a channel to receive support from peers who we may not have connected with otherwise. The internet is not a scary place, but to be safe children must be educated just like everything else.
Kid, 11 years old

i'm 11 and my parents won't let me have snapchat or or instagram or any social media because they do not trust me sometimes i download those apps and make private accounts hey don't know about them delete them when i'm around them i always have a feeling they will find out some way i just think it's stupid that they don't trust me. also they always look through my text and if my friend is joking and calls me dumb they get all worked up about it. again it's stupid. last but not leaste they have to approve the apps and games i download like why can't i just download what i want? it's stupid and i think parents should just let us download apps we want and not have to check our phones
Kid, 11 years old

The social media apps you mentioned are 13+ though...but I agree that parents shouldn't get angry over a harmless joke.
Teen, 13 years old written by qwertymcqwerts

Just use parental controls and be done with it. If your child is old enough to have a phone then they are growing up. Monitoring a little is ok, but not tracking (there is a difference!).
Teen, 15 years old written by Untitled_Teenager

This morning, I woke up late but stayed home anyways because I was feeling too sick to go to school. 40 minutes after I told my mom I can't go, she comes in my room asking if I'm sure I can't go and I said yes. Then she says, "You do know everything you search goes on my phone?" And that's obviously a bad thing to wake up to, but I reply 'yes' because my father told me that when I got my phone returned to me early in the school year, but my heart's still beating extremely fast because I know it's leading to something bad. I thought it was because I had snapchat downloaded on my phone for a day, which is only because my friend needed to use it since it wouldn't work on her phone. So I tell my mom, "If it's about snapchat-" She then cuts me off and says that isn't it. She told me her phone sent her a message about me going on youtube watching some sort of sexual videos, that's when my heart beats harder and faster and I'm terrified because I searched no such thing! She continues saying she's only worried for me and for about 5 minutes, the entire conversation was her asking if it was me or if anyone else had my phone, to me telling her I didn't do it, I'm scared what are you talking about, I swear to GOD it wasn't me! I had to keep my voice down because I was scared my dad would hear, this is all at 7:50 mind you so being tired didn't help with my nerves. She tells me this is my last chance as if I did something in the first place, and I'm terrified. What videos were they? Why did she get that message when the only time I ever used youtube was to listen to music or watch some games or cooking videos? But at the same time I had felt relief that she didn't tell my dad, for I knew my dad wouldn't believe me. I try my best to go back to sleep, and wake up and get downstairs at around 2 pm. She asks me one last time if I did it, with my answers being the same. I didn't do it. She then says my dad and I will talk about it tonight and I felt like I was going to pass out. I rose my voice at her, not because I was mad but scared, asking her why she told? And he won't believe me. So I've been spending my time figuring out how to prove it wasn't me that searched up such videos. Then I find this post and it honestly angers me. If your child gives you a reason to check it, ok. But to have an app to spy on them? Hell no. That is such an invasion of privacy and makes you a hypocrite if you tell your children that you trust them. My parents know my password so there's no point spying on them. That's just stupid.
Kid, 11 years old

I find that excessive monitoring is a tad wrong and invasive. Like having something like DyKnow (where you can see the child's screen -- my mother is a teacher) is just plain wrong. It seems a little creepy. I understand that our parents care about us, but seriously? Why monitor our every internet movement? But sometimes it is necessary. Like if your child seems secretive and maybe a bit untrustworthy, then maybe that is a good idea. I think you should only monitor if you think something is up or if your child is acting suspicious. But hey, what do I know? I'm just a kid.
Teen, 13 years old written by Sodex234

My parents monitor my phone, which I find annoying. I understand the fact that they love me, but sometimes as a growing up person, I need my own space. They follow me on Instagram, and can see that I don't do anything badly, its just the fact that they check *Every* text. When you were children (to you adults) did you have secrets that you didn't want your parents to know? Technology has enabled us to communicate better, and to know each other in better ways, and it introduces new threats to the table - and I clearly acknowledge that. But backing up my point, I don't do anything bad, and I don't want my parents to know everything that I know. Sometimes us as teenagers and developing humans have to work things out for ourselves, do things that if go wrong, we will learn from. Most of us don't do anything that is inappropriate, but we would like to have some personal space. Did your parents follow you everywhere?
Adult written by Greta B.

Tracking is immoral, of course. Unless you have a kid or a teenager prone to keeping secrecy of his personal life – you simply preinstall the tracking app onto the target device and give the device to him or her as a present. For several times actually helped to make some situations clear. It’s all about my teenage sister. We never keep constant track of her life – that’s not an appropriate thing to do. I only check her contacts for suspicious entries couple of times a month. When she’s depressed, she’s always ready to share with me first, even not with our mom. I’m aware of her troubles and my monitoring never seems intrusive. Besides, GPS tracking option is extremely useful. I can always check where my sis is without annoying her with constant phone conversations if she’s out.
Parent written by Rosehart97

I use a paid monitoring service to I can check exactly what apps and web sites my child visits. This can be non-intrusive or intrusive depending on how a parent chooses to use it. As for myself, I feel it's well worth it. I can block an app I find questionable right from my computer or my phone. I can set time limits. This paves the way for open discussion. Overall, my child is great but children need to learn that in life, with everything, there are boundries. Better to learn that as a child. I feel it's my job to guide my child to making the right choices. If they slip up, it's also my job to provide correction. I personally feel that parents should monitor what's going on all the time. Not to be nosy or intrusive, but to protect naive children from falling prey to adults who know they get at kids who are unprotected. It's the same in the teen years as it is in the infant years. You would stop your toddler from running into the street because you want to protect them. So we stop our teens from using apps and visiting web sites that are geared for mature adults but lure innocent and naive children. A parents ultimate job is to guide and protect so our kids make it successfully into the adult world.
Teen, 13 years old written by Natalie_Grace_1112

OMG. what a huge waste of money! I'm sorry. this is just my oppinion. and you won't think very much of it because I'm 13 and your an adult and adults think we will just think that is bad so we can get away with things but if I knew that my parents had that app at first I would be furious and then heart broken. I can't believe my own parents don't trust me. Don't they think I'm a good kid? Don't they think I am mature enough to make the right decision? I can't believe my own parents are actually paying money that could be used for better things because of their lack of trust for me. That's just how I would feel about that. I would feel so heart broken and betrayed. At some point I hope you trust your kid enough to stop paying this service. I am not saying you are a bad parent at all I am sure your motives are good but i'm not really sure about this service. It's just so... wrong. ----from a fellow kid..
Adult written by Constance D.

Natalie, the only reason your parents would do such is because they love you very much. In a world where information is so accessible to our teens and our kids, we as parents have to be responsible and make sure the activities that you are participating in is the best for you. As parents our jobs are to guide you and to help you become a responsible adult. So don't be heartbroken or upset be very happy that your parents care enough to want the very best for you. Remember to use technology responsibly....all the best.
Adult written by Anne K.

It's not you your parents don't trust it's the creep posing as a 16 year old when he's really 46. Your parents know a lot more about the evils of the world than you do and they are trying to protect you. Be glad someone cares enough to want to keep you safe.
Parent written by VivianA 1

I too would like to know the name of this app. I am totally overwhelmed looking for software that is easy to use and helpful to parents.