Keeping tabs on your child’s digital hangouts (part 2) – Monitoring with finesse

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Cyber Safety for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on The Family Morning Show 103.9FM The Fish

Last week Jodie Stevens, Beth Duncan and I talked about the fact that kids today are using different social media and texting apps and there is always something new on the cyber horizon, so it is challenging to monitor and keep up. Today on The Fish Family Morning Show we are going to discuss how to keep tabs on them without smothering them.

Photo: DLSimaging via Flickr

Photo: DLSimaging via Flickr

Children venture into the world to create their own adolescent peer communities on and off line. And so it should be no surprise that over the years, as Facebook has become an adult cyber place children are forming on line communities elsewhere.

Teenagers are gravitating to a plethora of newer social media and texting apps creating smaller communities and what they perceive to be private exchanges; there is less emphasis on posting to a public space. Some of the popular apps teens use include are photo-centric and instant messenger exchanges, such as Instagram (which was purchased by Facebook), SnapChat, kik, and what’s app. Twitter remains one of the channels teenagers use in conjunction with other apps, including Facebook.  Some teenagers have explained they create a Facebook account so they can stay connected to their parents, but rely on other social media channels for most of their cyber communications.

The main channel of communication is texting which is not visible to the parent unless the parent conducts random checks.

Wireless connectivity makes it a very simple matter to create an account for texting or social media on any device. So parental control in this regard is an illusion.

While parents can never be 100% certain of their child’s activies, we can engage our children in an ongoing dialogue about how this technology is working for them –and not the other way around. Below are some tips for monitoring your teen’s cyber communications without smothering them, or driving them to hide the channels they are using.

  • Become their chief cyber safety adviser. Kids today are conditioned for authority differently. It is more of a relational experience, and so imparting your wisdom and providing protective cover of authority requires open communication – they share with you their interests on and off line, and you provide guidance and oversight.
  •  Be open to exploring and learning. Plan on your child wanting to explore new digital hangouts with their peer groups. Encourage this exploration in a cyber safe way with a “family approved app list”. (I recommend  social network for children 15 and under). Have your teen show you the new social network, and review the pros and cons of setting up an account and some safety rules about privacy and courtesy (keep it kind).
  •  Respect but do not grant privacy. Parents should have the passwords and conduct random checks on the cyber communications. Respect your child’s privacy by not sharing information without their permission, and do not lecture them about everything you witness. Keep conversations about your concerns related to matters of personal safety, character and integrity.

Good tools can help

Parents may want to consider internet access apps that enable you to set up one user profile for every family member with age-appropriate permissions for websites and apps, and  then gives you the ability to track on-line activity. One app I recommend is SkyDog, which is very affordable  and gives parents a very effective way to establish a cyber-home base to set and monitor age-appropriate boundaries  with family members using multiple wireless devices.  All of the apps bleow are examples of tools that may help parents  to engage your tweens and teens in good conversations about and oversight of their use of technology.


Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.


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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.