Helicopter parenting and spying are both bad ideas…
Helicopter parents are those that don’t allow their child to make a move without being right there to protect them at every turn. They are overprotective and step in whenever their child faces a difficult situation, often inappropriately. This is the parent who tries to get a grade changed when their son or daughter gets a poor grade on a test or paper. They may talk to the coach when their child doesn’t get selected for a sports team. The parent believes they are helping their child when in reality their child never learns to handle life on their own and make their own mistakes. Learning from mistakes is one of the hallmarks of becoming self reliant.
When you are checking in on your child’s online behavior and activity, many parents are afraid they are being helicopter parents. This is how online parenting is often portrayed in the news media with headlines like, “Is it ever OK to spy on your child?”
There is a big difference between checking-in on your child’s activity and behavior online with your child’s knowledge and stalking your child online by secretly monitoring their actions. One is covert spying and one is open, intentional parenting.
Kids are bombarded with online risks today!
Today, kids are bombarded with online risks. Some are a big concern for kids today and can result in serious consequences, like cyberbullying, sexting, and engaging with online predators. Other risks parents may not even think about like sleep deprivation, internet addiction or multitasking while doing homework.
The online world isn’t the same as kids sitting in front of a TV or movie screen. It’s an interactive world where they can engage with anyone across the globe and be exposed to all kinds of content, good and bad. Many kids are naïve about the online risks they face and don’t understand the consequences of their actions. Even older teens often live in the moment not thinking beyond the next tweet or sext and that it may come back to haunt them in the future.
Parents shouldn’t shirk their responsibility to parent online, but skulking around secretly to see what your child is doing online is a different story all together. It defeats the purpose of parenting which includes teaching appropriate, responsible behavior and instilling personal family values. The goal of parenting isn’t to have a gotcha moment; it’s to help our kids be internet-smart in the same way that we want our kids to be street smart in the offline world. Remember, kids may be savvier with technology but parents are savvier at life because of the years of life experiences they have encountered as well as maturity (we hope).
Kids should know parents are checking-in on online activity & behavior.
Kids should know that parents are checking-in on their online activity and behavior just as they pay attention to their offline activity and behavior. I firmly believe that some of the online nonsense that is occurring today, like cyberbullying would be stopped if parents were aware of how their kids were behaving online.
When kids know that parents are checking, they think about what they’re doing in the same way that they think about their behavior to avoid trouble offline. Parenting online becomes an immediate deterrent to inappropriate online behavior. Parents have many expectations of behavior offline. Getting homework done, using table manners, being respectful, being home on time… Parents need to have similar expectations of behavior online too.
When a parent spies, which means the child is unaware that they are checking-in, using some of the spying tools available today, how can a parent have a conversation about troubling behavior without letting the child know that they are spying? It kind of defeats the purpose of parenting which is largely guiding our kids until they become independent adults and breaks trust between parent and child. Opening up conversations about behavior online, is another goal of intentional online parenting, not shutting conversation down by spying.
Checking-in on a child’s behavior and activity doesn’t require the hovering, helicopter parent. In reality this would be impossible to achieve anyway… wouldn’t it? I can’t imagine a parent keeping watch on a child’s computer activity 24/7. In the same way when kids are playing outside and a parent looks out the kitchen window to make sure all is OK, parents don’t stand at the window the entire time a child is playing outside. Occasional checking-in to make sure a child is following rules and expectations is all that’s required.
Every child is different. Some kid’s may require a bit more supervision online than other’s until they learn how to behave appropriately. Parent’s know their child best and will know which of their children may need a bit more supervision.
The bottom line is that it’s really important to parent online but it’s not OK to spy or to be a helicopter parent!