Parenting teens has gotten a lot more complicated in recent years. Yes, teens have always been experimental, gone to parties, snuck out, and been mischievous. And yes, the world has always been a dangerous place. There has always been drugs, liquor, and sexual predators. However, in the past 10 years, the Internet has given sex offenders easier access to your children. Gangs have taken up residence in the suburbs. Drugs have become stronger and marketed directly to your teen. At parties, games such as “stone face” and “rainbow” are played. (If you don’t know what this is, check out urbandictionary.com.) The world has become a more tempting, and dangerous place for our teens.
Spying on your teen has become a necessity for parents. It really does not matter if you have a straight A, god-fearing teenager or if you have a rambunctious teenager; parents need to spy on their teens. Any child can and will make bad decisions from time to time. Our job as parents is to keep them safe. Also, any child can become the victim of someone else’s bad choices. Here are a few tips outlined on how to know what your teen has been up to.
Know the lingo
Teens have their own language. Even what may seem like normal language sometimes has a double meaning. Teens may use hand gestures, wear what may seem like innocuous words on their clothing or put those words and symbols in their notebooks. When you hear your teen speak or watch them interact with others, pay attention to what they are saying. If you ever wonder what some of the slang that your child is using means, visit urbandictionary.com. It is a great resource for decoding your teen’s conversations. Know that gang activity has been blossoming and has infiltrated the suburbs. Some of the clothing that your child may be wearing may be indicative of this. This is not suggesting that your child is in a gang, although it could be possible as kids this age want acceptance and an adventurous lifestyle. However, the clothes they wear and the gestures that they use could cause attention to be drawn to them without intention.
Get a good parental control program for your computer
First of all, put the computer in common area of the home. Kids are less likely to be involved in questionable activities when there is a chance that someone could see what they are doing. Next, get a really good parental control program for your computer. There are many to choose from such as CyberPatrol, Spyagent, and NetNanny. The most comprehensive program available at this time is WebWatcher. WebWatcher allows a parent to remain stealth while monitoring chat conversations, keystrokes, every webpage that they visit, and take screenshots of their activity. These can all be very important in monitoring their activity to keep them safe. Monitoring your child’s online is a parent’s responsibility. Make sure that these features, as well as site blocking, are available in the software that you choose
Talk to your teen’s teachers
Your teen’s teachers know your child in a way that you may not. Do not take offense to this. The teacher know who your child converses with throughout the day, knows how your child learns, and knows what they are up to after school and on the weekends (stuff that they may be keeping from you). You will be shocked to hear some of the stuff that kids talk about in front of their teachers when they think that they are not listening. When you call your child’s teachers, don’t only ask how they are doing academically, but also socially. The teacher will be happy to share that information.
Know where they are and who they are with
This is just parent common sense. However, don’t be afraid of following up. Call the other parent if they are with another teen. Know who (and what) is at the party they are going to. Ask questions about the movie that they said that they are going to see. If you want to be super vigilant, consider getting a special tracker cell phone, such as the Disney phone. These cell phones give you the ability to track your child’s location to a few hundred yards. They are great to find out if your child is where they said they would be, and also fantastic in the extreme case of abduction. The Disney cell phone gives you the ability to track your child, manage who they talk to, and for how long. Your child may complain about the Disney name and “invasion of privacy,” but realize that they will use it if it is their only option for a cell phone.
Know what is on your child’s online profile
Chances are, your teen has a Myspace.com profile. Myspace.com is a place where individuals can blog, post pictures, post poetry, and communicate with people about their interests. If you have not done so already, you should check to see what is on your child’s myspace.com page. See what they have been posting. Check to make sure that the pictures that they have displayed are appropriate. If not, call them on it, or make them dispose of the profile.
Always keep an open line of communication
Don’t be too busy for your kids. Know their friends. Know their interests (no matter how fickle they might seem at this age). Talk to them often. Show up for the recital, game, play, garage band practice. Listen to the music they find interesting. You will learn a lot about your teen.
What you shouldn’t do
It is a parent’s responsibility to keep their child safe from harm and know what they are doing. However, know that you need to give your child a level of autonomy here as well. Responsibility needs to be learned. Therefore, the spy technique should be used as a tool to teach your teen to make responsible decisions, not to make those decisions for your teen (unless it puts them in danger). EVERY teen is going to make a bad choice (don’t be in denial about this) sooner or later. It is healthy and part of they learning process if they are able to make those choices for themselves (as long as danger does not come into play) and then face the consequences of those actions. Issuing the consequences is also part of your responsibility, and it makes it so much easier when you know what your child has been up to. If you follow some of these tips, your “spy” techniques will make you a better parent, and teach your child to become a responsible adult while keeping them safe from harm.