How can I monitor what my child sees online?

Michele Borba
Monitoring what your child sees and how often he or she sees it is a smart way to make sure your child is safe against online predators and cyberbullies. Announce up-front that you will check online activity. Tell your kids to inform their friends as well. Just don’t tell your child when and how you will monitor online activity. When kids know that they are being monitored they are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Monitoring means you are upfront from the start and are supervising with your child.

Set daily Internet time limits. Give Internet freedom based on the child’s past trustworthiness and age. Increase those limits slowly as you verify trust.

Keep computer in a public place. Block or minimize web accessibility on cell phones and iPads. One quarter of teens have Internet access in their bedroom. Remove it!

Take advantage of monitoring software. Internet service provider, your computer or special software can trail site visits, browser history monitor chats, IMs and emails, block visitations to inappropriate sites (such as hate sites, pornographic, questionable chat rooms) and email reports of online actions. Though tech-savvy teens can learn to get around controls and software is never 100 percent reliable, you can spot if online history is altered. If so, tell your teen your discovery and monitor closer. Be honest, tell your child that you have installed software. Just don’t divulge what kind!
Shawn Edgington

First, if you have a young child and you want to get them a phone, but don't want them to have access to the Internet, get them a "texting phone." These phones are perfect for texting and calls, but don't access the Internet or social networks.

I like software that provides monitoring details using technology that calls out thousands of key words, phrases and lingo like does. This particular software is used by the US Marshals Office and The Department of Justice.  

You can also set yourself up as the administrator on the computer they use, and block whichever sites you don't want them to access

If you decide to monitor your child's Internet or cell phone activity, be sure to sit down with them first to explain why you're doing it.

In the end, it's all about pro-active communication, and lots of it all the time. 

Diana K. Blythe, MD
While there are many programs to filter the content your children see online, the best way the monitor their activity is to place the computer in a public portion of the house. They will be less likely to attempt a visit to the less savory sites if they know you may walk around the corner at any minute.
Christina Hibbert

Monitoring techniques such as placing the computer in a public location and installing software to block unwanted sites are valuable and necessary tools, but unfortunately in today's world, they're no longer enough.

Research shows that today's kids often first encounter unwanted internet material when they are at a friend's house or at a location other than their own homes. With handheld devices like iPods, iPads, & Smartphones, online gaming systems, and Wi-Fi everywhere you go, kids today have more constant access to the internet than ever.

The most important thing we parents need to do, in addition to monitoring our children's internet activities, therefore, is to teach our children how to monitor their own activities, and to help them feel comfortable coming to us if/when they come across anything inappropriate. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Teach your children about the dangers of the internet, including teaching about pornography, so they understand what is "ok" and what is not. Use language that is appropriate for their age.
  • Teach them what to do when they come across something inappropriate. Make it clear that they need to come to you or another adult and tell you about it.
  • Make sure they know that if they come to you they will not get in trouble. This is crucial in order to ensure trust between your child and you.
  • If your child tells you he/she has encountered inappropriate material, it's important to go find and remove it from your computer or handheld device. It's also important to discuss the experience with your child. This will help you understand what they have been exposed to, how they felt about it, and give you the best chance for intervention.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.