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Parent Versus Cell Phone: Keeping Your Teen Safe

Who doesn’t love a good mug? I have sipped coffee from a mug that says “super mom” for several months until one day I no longer felt like a legit super mom. You see, I have a newly minted teenager. I’m 32 years old, it’s not like it’s been an insanely long time since I was one. I always felt like a mom who was super involved in her child’s life. I casually would look through his cell phone, and try and have open conversations with him about uncomfortable topics that I knew needed to be discussed. I really thought I was rocking it until one Monday morning.

You see, I asked for that cell phone randomly to go through it, and instead of getting it placed in my hand my son ran into the bathroom and locked the door. I don’t even think I can recall how I felt emotionally. Once we got the phone he confessed to watching a video about gaming that had some pretty inappropriate language … something he knows he’s not permitted to watch. We grounded him from his phone, looked at the video, confirmed the story and was planning on tucking his phone in a safe space until his grounding was over. But, my husband just had an unsettling feeling and we felt compelled to dig a little deeper.

What did we find do you ask? A secret chat. Gasp. I know. In that secret chat some inappropriate and vulgar language. Not something I ever thought I would see or hear out of my 13-year-old. We were those parents. I know, you’re probably thinking they are naive to think they would never find something hidden in his phone. No, we were not naive, hence requiring him to give us his phone. We ultimately did not expect all of this to happen at this age. Kids are exposed to so much more, at such a younger age. It’s up to each parent how they choose to parent, is they choose to monitor their phones or not, or if they even want to get their child a phone. We were not naive, but it still didn’t feel good as a parent. I spent a good part of that week questioning my parenting skills but my husband reassured me that we are just at this age where this is actually normal teenage behavior. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

cell phones apps

Apps to look for on your teen’s phone

House party: This app is a video and messaging group chat for friends and friends of friends. There is no age requirement and no monitoring which gives a high probability of inappropriate content being displayed.

TicTok: This social media app allows you to watch, create and share videos. It is recommended for age is 13 years and older but can be difficult for parents to monitor the content displayed, and who is following their child on the app.

Snapchat: Another social media app used to send videos and photos. This app can be very difficult to monitor because the videos and photos disappear after a short period of time. Images have had screenshots taken of them so that individuals can save them and use them as revenge photos.

Calculator%: This app looks like a calculator on the teenager’s cell phone but is actually a way for them to hid inappropriate photos.

KiK Messenger: This is a messaging app where you can exchange sketches, videos, photos, and create gifs. Kik is becoming a common app for teenagers to use to find “sext buddies” (friends who text sexually inappropriate texts, photos, and videos). There is no way to monitor this and you have a significant chance of sexual predators using this app because there is no way to authenticate users.

cell phones teens

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor

These are only a few apps that I found to be the most difficult to monitor. You can download parental monitoring apps to add to your child’s phone so that you have more control over what you allow your child to have on their phone. If you have an iPhone I would also recommend setting it up so that their phone is linked to a parent’s iCloud account. We live in a world where technology is used constantly. Not only in your home but also at school. We give our children cell phones and access to technology so that they can be safer and be able to reach someone if they needed help. With that safety feature comes a whole new set of worries. Worrying about sexual predators, worrying that they will use the phone in an inappropriate manner, worrying about cyberbullying — the list is endless. The best piece of advice I can offer is to constantly monitor your child’s phone. Try your best to avoid social media, and if you choose to allow your child to have it, monitor, monitor, monitor. Never become too relaxed with your child having a phone. My son is a good kid, and although I was disappointed in what I found, I remind myself that these are learning experiences for him and I just need to continue to teach him the appropriateness and privilege of having a phone. This was definitely a learning experience for him, and a huge learning experience for me.

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