Respecting Your Child’s Privacy While Protecting Them from Online Dangers

Trust is one of the most universal components of modern society. Trust can permit someone a driver’s license, trust can build a relationship, and trust can end a war. Where trust matters most to the everyday person however, is in their personal lives. The expectation in society is that as a kid grows from a child to an adolescent that the amount of trust within the relationship will grow with it. This begs the question though, how far should this trust stretch? In the age of technology, it is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to accept that they cannot control everything that their children do online. In an effort to take back that control, many say that monitoring kid’s phones is the best way to protect them. The underdeveloped state of a child’s brain, the potential for internet addiction, and the constant dangers of online and texting mistakes are reasons why some monitoring of a minor’s use of their phone is necessary.

On the most fundamental level, the brain of a child or teenage is still maturing. Their ability to think critically about a situation and make a good decision quickly is lacking and it can lead to devastating results. During these critical years of a young person’s life, their brain is creating more and more grey matter which is used to process information. Through experiences and learning, the grey matter will thicken and the child will learn to make logical decisions faster.

An example of this inadequate thinking ability could be seen in 2014 when a young girl was kidnapped on her way to school because of unsupervised usage of a messaging application on her phone. When twelve-year-old, “Jane Doe”, never made it to school one morning, her mother was quick to call for a search party. During the investigation, the detectives found that the child and her suspected abductor had been chatting for a while on the “Kik” application, a social media platform. Which, in a conversation with another person, Jane Doe says she couldn’t tell her mother about her scary conversations with her future abductor because “[She was] not supposed to have [Kik] so [she] would get in big trouble”. While in captivity, this girl reflected on how she had learned her lesson of using apps like that without her parents’ consent. Being so young, Ms. Doe did not think about the possible consequences in time to avoid this tragic event. Had her mother been active in monitoring her phone, Jane could have reduced the probability of harm from occurring.

Coinciding with the developing brain of a child is the higher risk for addiction. Not only has this been seen with drugs and dangerous substances, but also with technology and the internet. Children, teens especially, are at the greatest risk for addiction and research shows that the earlier a person begins to use an addictive substance, the more likely he or she is to develop serious problems. As much as a brain or apathy can be blamed for this problem, much of the problem can be attributed to the intent of app creators. From the design of the logo to the function of the app itself; creators of such apps intend it to be addictive. According to Tristan Harris, an Ex-Google Employee, smartphone applications are made to be similar to slot machines. “When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got. When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got. When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next”.

Allowing children to spend more than two hours every day in constant connection with the internet can lead to unfavorable psychological effects. Many studies have reported associations between Internet addiction and psychiatric symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-efficacy, etc. among adolescents. It is less likely that you will see children playing kickball in the front yard and more likely that they will be killing enemies in Call of Duty, a popular first person shooter game. Along with monitoring what they do on their cell phones or online and controlling the amount of time they are on them can increase their chances at a happier and healthier life.

The purpose of keeping an eye on a child’s online and personal interactions is to protect them and should be done with their complete knowledge. To make all rules and provisions clear, many families have turned to the idea of a technology contract. These lay out specific guidelines that often provide reasonable expectations for both the child and the parent. By placing limits and rules for both parties, it will make the younger party feel more responsible and in control, which often leads to better decision making. The monitoring of a child’s phone and online activity should be implemented but with reasonable limitations and respect for their privacy.