monitoring child

Social Judo: The Smartest Parenting Tool for the 21st Century

Traditionally, parental monitoring has been defined as the acquisition of knowledge about the activities, whereabouts, and companions of one’s son or daughter. As a parent, you are engaging in parental monitoring when you ask your teen “where are you going, who are you going with, when will you be home” and you are monitoring when you check in with teachers at school, with coaches at practice and when you get to know your child’s friends.

Most would agree that this definition, as well as the actions and questions above, are standard practices for smart and engaged parents.

Yet when it comes to the internet, smartphones, and cyberspace in general, too many parents seem to abandon these traditional and basic parenting concepts. Parents report feeling overwhelmed, lacking internet knowledge, or not wanting to invade their child’s privacy as possible reasons.  

According to a study done at The Pew Research Center, parents are doing a great job talking with their kids about internet safety as 95% surveyed report having frequent conversations about it. Yet every day in the news we see smart and informed kids doing stupid things. Think back to the things your parents warned you about. Did you listen or did you take some risks? Talking itself just doesn’t seem to be enough to combat the dangers today’s kids are exposed to.

The good news is that nearly half (48%) of parents know the password to their teen’s email account, 43% know the password to their teen’s smartphone and 35% know the password to at least one of their teen’s social media accounts. While this is smart parenting and almost half of all parents surveyed are doing it, that number needs to be higher.

In a piece called “Monitoring Your Teen’s Activities: What Parents and Families Should Know” The Center For Disease Control said “monitoring should start in early childhood and continue throughout the teen years, evolving as children grow and mature. As children develop into teenagers, adults might view them as more independent and less in need of monitoring. But, consistent monitoring throughout the teen years is critical—teens’ desire for independence can bring opportunities for unhealthy or unsafe behaviors.”

They went on to say that “parents are a powerful influence in the lives of their teens. When parents make a habit of knowing about their teens—what they are doing, who they are with, and where they are and setting clear expectations for behavior with regular check-ins to be sure these expectations are being met—they can reduce their teens’ risks for injury, pregnancy, and drug, alcohol, and cigarette use. These parents are monitoring their teens’ activities and behavior.”

Many parents ask, “Am I invading my son/daughter’s privacy if I monitor what they are doing online?”

No, you are not invading anyone’s privacy, you are being a smart parent.

More from The Pew Research Center:

  • 60% have checked their teen’s social media profiles

  • 48% have looked through their teen’s phone call records or text messages

  • 39% of parents report using parental controls for blocking, filtering or monitoring their teen’s online activities

  • 16% use parental controls to restrict their teen’s use of his or her smartphone

  • 16% use monitoring tools on their teen’s smartphone to track their location

There are many research studies which suggest that parents who use effective monitoring practices, set clear expectations and communicate disapproval of negative behavior, have teens who are less likely to engage in risky behavior.

Today, effective parental monitoring requires parents to go beyond the traditional “who, where, and when” questions. Preteens and teens are living their social lives via the internet and you simply can’t effectively parent in a space you are completely shut off from, overwhelmed by, or uneducated about.

When it comes to online safety and risk management, parents need to set expectations of desired behavior and then monitor behavior. Just as in any previous developmental stage, you, as the parent, decided when it was appropriate to let the reigns out and when to pull them back in. Social Judo is the parenting tool that will help you do that in the 21st century. After all, parenting in today’s digital world shouldn’t feel like such an overwhelming mystery.