How to Monitor & Spy on Text Messages of Your Child Like a CIA Agent by Kidguard

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How to Monitor & Spy on Text Messages of Your Child Like a CIA Agent by Kidguard

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Category: Home and Family
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A concise but comprehensive summary of the issues surrounding children's use of technology and what interventions parents can make.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: Date: March 2017
Publisher: the Kidguard Website

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Good grief, but this is a worrying title, is it not? Monitoring and spying on your children as if it's a deep state operation? Have we really come to this? I'll be honest, as someone who wears a liberal parent label like a badge of pride, I find the whole idea terrifying. But times, they are a'changing and a'changing very, very quickly. Primary school children have smartphones and with them, unprecedented access to the adult world, with all the dangers and pitfalls that entails. So we, as parents, really do have to get to grips with what is going on.

This short book outlines those changes and how they affect our children in five main areas: access to inappropriate content; who can become part of their peer group; distraction from other vital aspects of their lives; sleep deprivation; trust relationships between parent and child.

What are your children looking at? With whom are they looking at it? Are they sacrificing real-world pleasures and homework for time spent online? Are they online after bedtime and is their health suffering from lack of sleep? Do they trust you enough to let you see what they are doing?

All these questions need answers, don't they?

KidGuard goes on to outline possible actions parents can take to ensure their children aren't coming to harm online and that they achieve a sensible virtual and real-life balance. It recommends that parents commit to monitoring the online activity of their children - not necessarily on a text message by text message basis but to at least ensure that children know any message they send may be seen in a periodic check. It recommends an online curfew in which a cut-off time is agreed and suggests considering whether or not to ban connected devices from bedrooms. It also suggests a possible written contract between parents and children about online activity so that clear boundaries are set. The book also gives practical advice about the methods less technology-friendly parents can use to achieve these aims.

So, having read it, how does an instinctively liberal parent like me feel about this level of intrusion and micro-management in and of children's lives? Surprisingly enough, I was impressed. The book is clear and concise, yet comprehensive. And not at all shrill or over-the-top: rather, it is very sensible. Children shouldn't be online in the middle of the night: they should be awake, refreshed and alert for school in the morning. I like the idea of an electronic curfew. I was greatly impressed by the point made that parents might also want to check not just that their child is being bullied online but also that they themselves have succumbed to peer pressure and are taking part in bullying someone else. And despite the title, the book makes it clear that covertly spying on your children is a bad idea - online safety and monitoring should be achieved with your child through negotiation and consent.

Some of the facts and figures are too US-centric to be of use to readers in the UK. And I do think that a written contract would be over-the-top and oppressive in most homes. And, while the book does discuss finding a balance between accommodating an increasing level of privacy for children as they grow and the imperative of keeping them safe, I do think it came down a little too heavily on parental control. Overall, however, this is a highly useful guide for worried parents. And there are many worried parents these days.

You can find details of KidGuard's own (paid-for) tools to help supervise the online activity of children at their website, linked in the infobox on your right.

You could also point your kids in the direction of an enjoyable story, The OMG Blog by Karen McCombie, which has a very useful section about staying safe online. Forewarned is forearmed!

You can read more about Kidguard here.

You can get the book from the Kidguard Website.


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