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Teen on cell phone with various social media icons

Should You Monitor Your Teen's Cell Phone Use?

By Dr. Mark Downey, Pediatric Associates of Williamsburg

Should you monitor your teen’s cell phone use? Your teen may see it as an invasion of privacy while you see it as a way to keep them safe online. Wherever you stand on the issue, we must trust our instincts as parents and do what’s in the best interests of our children.

If you decide to monitor your child’s cell phone use, be honest about it and be honest about why. Explain it’s for their safety and protection, not because you don’t trust them. Check things like text messages, emails, and social media profiles for inappropriate content. Scan your child’s friends list and view their photos periodically, but do not enter without their permission. Teens value their phones and consider them to be like a personal diary or journal. If you enter without their permission, they may feel violated.

There’s a fine line between being a responsible parent and being invasive when it comes to our children and technology. Adolescence, especially, is a time when our children are becoming more independent and beginning to separate as individuals. We, as parents, need to step back and let them make mistakes, but we must also teach and guide them to be responsible internet users.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:

  • Get your children to talk about what they’re doing online and remind them that anything they share can be shared with the entire world. Consider showing them some of what you do online to start the conversation.
  • Remind your teen to make good choices and use their best judgment when sending messages and pictures. Discuss what good judgment means and that there are consequences to poor judgment. Consequences can range from minor punishment at home to possible legal action in the case of “sexting” or bullying.
  • Remind your child to set privacy settings on any social media sites they use, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Review privacy settings with your child. The more private they are, the less likely inappropriate material will be sent or received.
  • Remind your child that it’s never okay to gossip, spread rumors, bully, or damage someone’s reputation online via text message or social media.
  • Know what sites or apps your child uses and require that you and your child “friend” each other. This way you can keep an eye on what they’re doing online, and create a strategy to periodically check sites your child is using.
  • Set limits for internet and cell phone use.
  • Social media addiction is real. If your child is skipping activities, meals, and homework for social media, or if they’re gaining or losing weight, and their grades are dropping, or something seems off, they may have a problem with internet or social media addiction. Talk to your child’s pediatrician for advice if you notice any of these symptoms.

There is no right answer to whether you should be checking your child’s cell phone, but you know your child best. Trust your judgment and be a good role model. Teach kindness and good manners and limit your own internet use. Your child may surprise you and take your lead.

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About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.