Children and teens are technologically telepathic. They know how to navigate new gadgets and platforms within seconds.
Yet deep down, in the uneasy parts of our stomachs, we know they have the ability to use their tech wizardry for darker pursuits. (More than 70 percent of teens say they hide their online behavior from their parents*.)
Let’s take a look at three crafty ways that kids hide internet activity and what we can do to stay three steps ahead.
Private browsing mode (affectionately referred to as “porn mode”) lets you surf the internet without saving any information from the sites that you’ve visited.
All search engines (e.g., Google, Firefox, Safari, Yahoo) offer this stealth level of browsing, and it’s very easy to set up.
How you can detect if you’re child is using the private browsing mode You have two options. You can hope your child accidentally leaves the browser open when she leaves the computer; you’ll be able to see a private browsing indicator (like the word “private” in one of the corners of the screen).
Or, you can go with the safer bet of using parental controls. Each browser has built-in parental controls that you can set up to filter the web and block sites, no matter which browser mode is in use.
Get double the protection by adding PC-monitoring software to your online safety approach. The tool examines each site’s content, only allowing users to visit URLs that have been deemed “safe.”
Some moms and dads follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy because they don’t want to know what their kids are up to online. Kids who hide or delete content are practicing the “don’t see, don’t yell” equivalent. Both approaches share the same questionable goal: avoiding a nasty parent-child throw down.
How can you find the messages and videos your child deleted? There are many tools out there that will help you retrieve cleared browsing histories and deleted files. They come in free and paid versions and offer varying degrees of retrieval.
Before you try out new software, begin with the computer in question. Here are links to information that will help you get started in the file-recovery process:
Windows – click here.
Mac – click here.
Savvy young ones carry an arsenal of sophisticated strategies that surpass regular old lying and clearing browser histories. So how do we keep up with what they’re doing online, especially when they’re on their mobile devices?
How to monitor your child’s internet activity on a mobile device Parental control apps are your friends. Again, they come in free and paid versions, and some offer additional antivirus protection.
Most of these apps let you monitor everything your child does on his mobile device from a remote administrative console. You can see who your child is texting and calling and everything he’s searching in his browser.
You can also create a whitelist – a list of parent-approved sites – a hat your child can visit. And several of these apps allow you to customize web filtering based on your child’s age and behavior.
You don’t have an all-access pass to snoop
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how heavy duty you want your surveillance to be. But be up front with your children about what you’re doing.
If your kids find out that you’ve been spying on them, they’ll feel betrayed and all lines of communication will be compromised. It’s about building trust, which will always be a slow-and-steady process peppered with missteps – by both child and parent.
While you can always fight technology with technology, it turns out that conversation, guidance and modeling are the best lines of defense against your children making poor choices online. Filters are great and all, but they never take the place of parent engagement.
*McAffee Report – The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents