Is it okay to read your kid’s group chat text, messages, etc. or is that an invasion of privacy? Should privacy from parents even be a thing in the digital/social media age? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
My take on the topic. I always like to really contemplate what the end goal is before dishing out advice, redirections, awards, or punishments to the children, and yes, that does include teenagers, teenagers are children too (literally just had to clarify this to my youngest…explaining that frontal cortex of the brain, the part that makes adolescents act like, well, adolescents, isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. And at that time, if I’ve done a responsible job of playing the parental role hopefully I’ll see a shift in our relationship and it’ll take on more of a friendship quality…they’ll actually want to hang out with me because they enjoy my company and not out of a sense of duty or obligation). Thus, what is my end goal in checking the children’s group chats, text messages, and/or any form of digital communication? It is to instill fear? To show them that I’m in control and they aren’t? Is it for their own protection? Is it so they can one day be an adult who is able to practice healthy communication skills online?
End Goal: To raise self-sufficient adults who can practice responsible and healthy communication skills online.
Plan of Action: We must nourish their brains the same way we nourish their bodies. We don’t raise kids on all junk food and just let them decide if they want to eat healthy when they are 18. Likewise, we can’t exactly raise them strictly on all health foods without being concerned that they will binge on junk food the minute they fly the nest. We start when they are young, we first model healthy habits for them, then we teach them the benefits of healthy eating habits, or having special treats in moderations, kindly redirect them if they make an unhealthy choice, etc. so when they are adults they can have a healthy relationship with food. Well, the same can be said about social media and digital/social communications. If we raise children to have unlimited access to social media and digital communications without any supervision we can’t un-ring that bell, as adults they will have the communication skills of adolescents. Likewise we can’t say we aren’t going to allow any social media interaction at all in the house and just wish them the best once they leave the house, that’s just cruel, it’s like tossing them to the wolves. Thus, like food, in order for them to have a healthy social media/digital communication relationship we need to start when they are younger, we first need to model it for them, then teach them healthy communication online through practice, redirecting them when they slip up, or make an unhealthy choice, etc.
Action: Texting, messaging, and forming group chats via texts has really become the main means by which children communicate with one another these days, especially since the pandemic. Thus, now is the perfect time to take action and help guide your kiddos (age 8-12) and discuss texting and messaging etiquette. But first they need to have a device to use, right? Well, kinda, they’ll start by using your’s, that’s right, your phone, tablet, etc. this way you have access in real time to any issues that might arise. And they have to learn self control, they can only use the device when you’re home and you say it’s okay. (If your child is younger than 10 and requires a phone, I highly recommend a basic flip phone for strictly making phone calls to mom, dad, nana, papa, just family members, their little minds are not capable of handling much more, specifically not navigating social media on their own). This is also when we, as parents, model healthy habits and trust begins…as a parent we shouldn’t have any questionable apps, info, or text coming through on our phones that need to be hidden from anyone. We need to share this fact with our children, really reiterate the fact that there are no secrets…secrets harm relationships, secrets hurt people. We want to raise adults that have healthy relationships and habits with social media and social communications on their devices and that includes not having ANY secrets from their future spouse.
Very Important Points to address prior to gift-ing a child, a teenager (ages 12+) a phone…
Be kind, good rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t text/message it!
Don’t text/send messages when you’re angry, step away, take a few deep breaths, perhaps even sleep on it…send a polite message, “you’re important to me, I need a bit to collect my thoughts before I reply”.
What you post is permanent! Anything and everything you post in a text in a message, pic you share is permanent, even if it states that it will disappear in 24 hours, anyone can take a snapshot and send it to whomever they please.
Only text people you know and always ask a safe question to confirm they are indeed who they say they are…if you are in class together, ask something only a child that was in class could answer, like, “what special did we have in class” or “what is our teacher’s favorite candy”?
Live people come before text messages…likewise, don’t leave someone hanging, reply that “I have to go, ttyl”
Do not fuel drama…if a friend is picking on another friend shut it down asap, don’t fuel the conversation by adding to the drama
Mom and/or Dad are ALWAYS here and available…don’t be afraid to ask for help if you have a question, or if you need to share anything we will not be mad at you
What additional points, concerns, issues would you address before giving a child an iPhone and thus the opportunity to text, chat, send messages via Kids FB messenger, etc.? Please share, I hope to continue this conversation…