Should you look at your kid’s smartphone? Digital parenting tips #2
(This is the second in a series of practical tips about parenting in the digital age.)
My last column described conversations that parents should have before giving a kid that first smartphone. I held back talking about one important topic because it needs its own discussion: should you look at your kid’s phone?
The short answer is of course you should.
The longer answer starts with why and then moves to how.
Why: You should look at your kid’s phone because adolescents are not, in the general scheme of things, blessed with abundant executive function. Their brains don’t finish developing until they’re 25, so good judgment isn’t something you should expect.
Smartphones offer infinite temptations to do and say and photograph and look at and listen to things that can spiral out of control more quickly than you can imagine.
Here are some examples of common but bad smartphone behavior:
- If you have a teenaged daughter, then she’s probably receiving “dick pics” on a daily basis.
- She is also probably receiving requests for nude pictures of herself.
- If you have a teenaged son, then he might be sending dick picks.
- Or asking girls for nude pictures.
- Other teens may be cyberbullying your kid.
- Your little angel might be cyberbullying another kid or kids.
- Outside of dick picks and cyberbullying, your kid may be posting things that she or he will regret either immediately or later in life.
This is the short list, but I don’t want to provoke “darling, where’s the whiskey?” levels of parental anxiety.
Please notice, however, that the examples I list above deal with teen behavior to other teens. Yes, there are pedophiles and cults and drug dealers and pornographers out there trying to take advantage of your kids, but those things are unlikely compared to the virtual certainty of the thoughtless things teens do to their peers.
You still need to explain to your kid that the stranger on the other end of the phone who seems like a delightful new teen friend might be a creepy adult predator, which is why your kid should only ever meet somebody new in a public place and preferably with an adult handy.