There are many parents out there that want to help their kids be smart and safe on Facebook, just like they would in all other aspects of their child’s life. If a parent to some extent keeps track of their children’s Facebook activity, would you consider that spying? We have found that answers to this question can vary depending on who is asked. If you ask us, we would say it depends on how you go about it.
First, let’s clarify the difference between monitoring and spying (yes, one does exist!). Spying is when someone is being watched, but does not know who is watching them, or even that they are being watched. Monitoring is when the person being watched knows they are being watched, and by whom.
An example of spying would be a strategy a New Jersey police chief has for parents wanting their kids to be smart and safe on Facebook. His advice is to hack their account, or steal their password with the help of keystroke-recording software. This will allow the parent to peruse their child’s Facebook account, assumingly without the kid’s knowledge, so that the parent can have a “gotcha” moment with the child afterwards.
A monitoring strategy always includes the child being aware that the parent will have insight into their Facebook activity beforehand. For example, Parental Guidance sends the child an invitation from the parent that is accepted before the parent can receive any notifications about their kid’s Facebook activity. Since the child knows that the parent will be seeing certain aspects of their Facebook activity, the chances are slim that there will be a “gotcha” moment. If there is some risky Facebook activity going on, it will provide an opportunity for a conversation between the parent and their kid about making better choices online that can result in a learning experience for the teen.
So which strategy should you choose to better the chances that your kid is smart and safe on Facebook? Again, answers to this question will vary. If you ask us, we would say it’s your call. As a parent, you can choose whichever strategy you want. You are the parent, after all. Whether it is monitoring or spying, what really matters is that you, as a parent, are taking an active role in helping your teen be smart and safe online one way or another.