by Chris Taylor, MFT, Author “Back to Basics”
It seems so long ago that we had to call a landline to get a hold of someone we wanted to have a conversation with. Long gone are the days where parents acted as the gatekeeper for who their kids talked to. Now it is as easy to talk to anybody you like with the click of a button, and with people posing as others on the Internet it is near impossible to be certain who your kid is actually talking to. We all know the big 3 of social media, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but there are other more deceptive and obscure text apps that are helping kids keep their parents in the dark.
Snapchat, KIK, and vault apps are ways in which kids can secretly communicate with their friends without their parents knowing what is being discussed or what media is being exchange. Snap chat holds a text or image in view for only 10 seconds. Kik holds the thread indefinitely but avoids parents being able to track phone numbers and what is being exchanged, and vault apps appear on the screen as a calculator but require a password when selected and are hiding explicit pictures, videos, etc.
So what is a parent to do to manage this technology?
It is a fine line between fostering independence and knowing what your kids are really up to. I encourage parents to set rules with their kids that they have all login and password information to their kid’s accounts. This is not for snooping but more for accountability that parents remain aware of what their kids are up to. Kids will be upset and try to plead their way out of this expectation but the old adage “nothing to worry about, if nothing to hide,” rings true. As parents, we are not here to be friends, but teachers and educators of our children as they learn to navigate the pitfalls that they rarely seem to anticipate.
Don’t hesitate to have conversations with your kids about why this structure is in place, what the consequences could be if they are not following the rules and explain it is about safety not trust. It is important to communicate but this is not the place for negotiation. Stand firm in your approach and be consistent in how you implement the expectations. They may not like the system, but they will later appreciate the results. I wish you continued success in your journey as parents.