Online activities & social media

How Do I Monitor My Kids’ Online Activities Without Spying On Them?

By Caroline Knorr

My child resists all of my attempts to keep an eye on her online behavior. How can I protect her when I don’t really know what she’s doing?

Caroline Knorr

Editor, Common Sense Media

It’s tough. Kids consider their online accounts and digital devices to be their own personal property. They can password-protect their phones. They download apps you can’t access and refuse to friend you on Facebook.

Most kids use this stuff responsibly. Having grown up in a world with unprecedented access to media and technology, many kids are incredibly sophisticated users. Still, their technical savvy often far exceeds their judgment. As parents, it’s our responsibility to set rules and establish consequences for misuse.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for how to supervise kids’ online exploits. Every child is different. You want to establish a relationship where your child comes to you if something awkward, inappropriate or uncomfortable happens online. Talking to her nonjudgmentally and getting her to demonstrate the apps and sites she loves shows her that your interest goes beyond policing her activities.

Mandatory measures—like demanding kids’ passwords or insisting they friend you on Facebook—tend to backfire. Kids can get around any crackdowns you impose. If you’re really having problems, then look in Tech Finder to look into monitoring programs for their online accounts. And never forget that you’re your kids’ digital role model. So model the kind of behavior you want them to emulate.

About the Author

Portrait of Caroline Knorr

Caroline Knorr

Caroline Knorr is parenting editor at Common Sense Media.

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