If monitoring your teen’s texts and social media accounts is turning into a full-time job, here’s what you need to know to keep him safe — without losing your sanity.
Admit it — you check your teen’s texts.
Have you ever “accidentally” seen your teen’s text messages? Do you constantly ask, “Whose number is this?” or “Do I know this friend you text all day long?” Don’t worry — you’re not the only parent monitoring your teen’s texts, and you’re definitely not alone. It’s stressful enough making the decision to buy your child a cell phone — and even more so ensuring he’s texting responsibly.
That said, it’s easier said than done. Constantly checking your teen’s texts can give you both a headache and set the stage for arguments. What’s a parent to do?
Dr. Fran Walfish, child, adolescent, and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, has the advice you need to keep your teen safe without losing your sanity.
The fine line between privacy and protection
Talk about texting safety — even the tough stuff
Sexting. Cyber-bullying. We may try to hide these tough topics from our teens — especially younger ones — but Walfish says that’s the wrong approach. “Have a straight-talk, sit-down conversation with your son or daughter,” she says. “Ask questions about the kinds of things he or she has heard regarding misuse of texting and internet access.”
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“Listen to their ideas and explore their inner world before you lecture and give advice. Teens hate to be ‘told’ what to do. You will be heard better if you listen first, then offer suggestions.”
“The psychological goal of adolescence is to resolve their separation from Mom and Dad. This means they must emerge with their own ideas, thoughts, opinions, and views on money, religion, relationships, morals, ethics and character. For this reason, a parent has a delicate tightrope to walk. How much do I intrude on my teen’s evolving autonomy and independence? Parents should check their kids’ text messages. But, there needs to have been an ‘open policy’ established before the parents gives their teen a cell phone.” Walfish explains.
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“Parents should say to their kids at the time of phone purchase, ‘I love you and want to give you the privilege of having a cell phone. In order for me to feel comfortable we both need to agree that Mom and Dad will periodically look at your text messages’ — this way there are no surprises.”
Don’t be afraid to say “no”
If you come across a text you deem inappropriate — whether your teen sent it or received it from a friend — nip it in the bud right away. Don’t hesitate to talk to your teen, and even restrict phone or texting privileges if needed. Walfish says, “Sometimes you have to say ‘no’ to your son or daughter whom you love. To be a good parent, moms and dads must each do two things — nurture/love your child and, at the same time, be comfortable setting/holding boundaries and taking action when child [sic] goes over the line.”