“Children have the knowledge but not the power to use the computer,” says Abdulazeez Henry Musa, author of Cybersex: A Nightmare of the 21st Century – The Rebirth of Armageddon. “As parents, you have to monitor what they do on the computer, always and at all times.”
With new studies plotting the average age that children begin using the internet at a staggering three years old, times are naturally nervy for concerned parents. Especially given the realities of screen-addiction and growing mental health concerns that we’re slowly beginning to understand. If the internet is a problematic place for adults, what lies in lurk for your child? When any given youngster can quickly access websites containing distressing content, guiding your child through the pitfalls of internet use is a major responsibility.
As is the case in teaching your children to swim, or to ride a bike, there is an initial stage where you must watch their every move; guide them every step of the way. Then there are the stabilisers, armbands, and trust. Boundaries must be set, supervision must be mindful, and communication imperative. Just because the technologies have changed—and some kids may well know much more than their parents—doesn’t mean the principles of learning have.
But learning to cycle is child play compared to the murky waters of the world wide web. With smartphones and their myriad of apps opening up new worlds at incredible speeds, how to keep up your child’s internet usage? You could always spy on them.
It might seem incredulous to keep tabs on your child to an Orwellian magnitude, but the internet is genuinely rife with upsetting imagery; websites about self-harm or eating disorders; degrading pornography that skews real-life morals. We have come to accept that we need sunscreen to protect us and our children from the sun’s harmful rays, to manage our consumption of salts and sugars, but screen time? It’s often a free-for-all.
London-based tech company, mSpy, is a parental control application with exhaustive capabilities. Whilst many might feel uneasy about tracking each and every WhatsApp message, looking into photo folders, Facebook messages, and even monitoring every stroke of your kid’s smartphone keyboard, in times of cyberbullying and rising anxiety and depression often linked to internet exposure, many parents might see the need.
From its web-based control panel, mSpy allows parents to monitor their child’s activities on their phones—track Snapchat photos and videos designed to self destruct within 10 seconds; monitor direct messages sent with Instagram; see a list of all installed applications and restrict usage to those that flag concern; view browsing history, emails, photos and videos; and use GPS to plot their exact location at any time. It might seem heavy-handed, but many mSpy reviews hint at the importance of such parental control.
“She asked my daughter to send her photos of her daily outfit,” reveals one parent of a smartphone-obsessed teen whose online friend didn’t seem “very girly-like at all” having installed the application on her daughter’s iPad; “I discovered he was bullied by his classmates,” explains another. Nefariously sneaking into the private lives of your children is definitely not OK, but having an open conversation, explaining why you are monitoring their phone usage, what applications you’ll be watching and the reasons why, then you might just save their lives.
Of course we live in a world where many Silicon Valley giants are tracking our every move in order to sell us more, demand more of our attention, even manipulate our political views, but findings have shown—in a report recently unveiled at the Davos World Economic Forum by Accenture—that half of big companies use some form of technology to monitor the movements, activities, phone activities, and even state of mind, of their workforce. If we’re concerned about tracking the internet usage of our children, how does it feel to be constantly monitored ourselves?
mSpy’s marketing materials stick firmly to the story of monitoring children’s internet activities, but with page titles and image alt tags on their website like ‘Spy On Contact Lists On Your Kids or Employees Cell Phones’, it’s clear they’re hoping watchful employers will be looking for software with such capabilities too. And what about those who’ve started to doubt their spouse?
In times of major privacy concerns, such spying will rightly raise eyebrows among many. It’s a touchy subject, but nobody can doubt that the safety of children comes first. Trust and over-the-shoulder monitoring might be a wiser and more mindful option, but for those without the time, it may be good to know such software is available. Keeping tabs on employees? Well, a different matter for a different day, but that word trust should spring to mind again. Teach your kids how to handle the internet rightly, and they might not be so wary of it should they become an employer one day.