Getting your kids to accept parent controls and location-tracking apps

Getting your kids to accept parent controls and location-tracking apps

Disagreement Inevitable! Compromise possible?

Your kids want to spend more time using their mobile devices for fun and entertainment than you think is healthy.

Your kids think they should have more independence than you are comfortable allowing.

In this guide, we'll give you some thinking points to help you explain to your kids why you want to use these apps. If you involve them early on, they'll push back less and engage more.

Also see:

Buyers Guide to Parent Control Apps

Buyers Guide to Chore Apps

Why do you want to monitor your kids?

Before you start conversing with your kids about using apps to keep them safe, consider why you want to use them. Be honest with yourself because some of what you want might not be reasonable, even if it is understandable.

 It is understandable and reasonable to want to alleviate how much you worry when your kids aren't with you. A location-tracking app will reassure you and act as a safety net for kids.

You don't want young kids exposed to the dangerous side of the internet, and parental control apps will help with this, as will helping develop your kids' digital literacy.

The big challenge is whether you decide to be open about using these apps, and this is where being reasonable comes into play. You cannot secretly use some parent control and tracking apps. Their developers have made sure the apps indicate their presence. A few apps emphasise their secrecy.

Are you trying to catch kids out or keep them safe? You're probably right in suspecting that kids behave differently when they know you can monitor their location or app use. However, deterring unsafe behaviour is better than detecting it after it has happened. Catching kids out means it has already happened.

What would you hope to learn by keeping your monitoring secret? Understandably, you want to know about your kids' lives and friendship groups, but building a trusting relationship and having conversations is the best way to do this.

What would it do to your relationship with your child if they found out you had been spying on them? You might not consider it spying, but your child's perception might not mirror yours. Damaged trust and raised suspicions are not solid platforms for open and honest relationships that educate kids on keeping safe.

What are the benefits of compromise rather than taking a rigid stand?

Think about your goals. You want your kids to be safe and live a richer and more productive life than they'll find in an online video or game. You want them to develop their independence and be ready for adulthood. You want a good relationship with your child where they feel you'll listen to them before deciding.

A compromise position incentivises your child to stick to the agreed rules as they helped create them. If kids feel you make decisions without hearing them out, they might stop asking but not stop doing. You'll also have less friction in your relationship with your child as they'll feel less resentful whenever they bump against one of your rules.

How can you compromise over the independence your child wants and what you are comfortable about?

Family tracking apps don't have to be a one-way system. Many families use it for everyone.

They can help provide reassurance to elderly and vulnerable family members. They can help with family organisation by letting you know if somebody is near a shop or about to reach home.

A tracker app helps save you from worrying about your kids; if you can see where they are and whether they're moving, you can gain reassurance that all is okay. But what about your kids' peace of mind? If you're late home, they'll worry (although they may never admit it!).

There may be reasons why kids shouldn't know you can track their location, but we'd suggest it should be a last resort. It will not do much for parent-child trust if kids discover you've secretly spied on their movements. Remember, your goal is to keep your kids safe — not catch them out or satisfy your curiosity.

If you agree to share your location with them, you've completely removed the grounds for any objection based on unfairness. The app has become a family tool rather than a child control mechanism.

Tracking apps that support this open and shared approach impress us the most but you should still check out the other tracker apps, as the implementation of that philosophy is in your hands, whichever app you choose.

How can you compromise over screen time?

The problem with controlling your kids' screen time is that you must monitor it and find a way to limit it. In addition, not all screen time is equal. Watching endless gaming videos and working through an educational app have different outcomes.

One problem you need to overcome is distinguishing between quality screen time and other screen time.

Most screen time controlling apps let you decide which apps should be blocked and which allowed and the times. For example, you could block all entertainment apps when kids should be doing their homework while still allowing educational apps. You can limit all apps when kids should be asleep.

This approach is a little all-or-nothing. When kids have permission to use all apps, how likely are they to do something educational?

We've liked the approach of some recent apps that allow kids to earn screen time. This approach builds in a natural balance. Some apps need kids to gain screen time through built-in educational activities. Others borrow aspects of chore apps to encourage kids to help around the home and do something in the real world.

You don't need to use a dedicated app to follow this approach. You can manually activate screen time controls or set rules. However, following through on such intentions over time is challenging, so having an app deal with it all is ideal.

What are your desired outcomes?

These are the most common reasons people look into screen control and family tracking apps:

  • Help kids build digital safety skills so that when they access the internet without supervision, they have the knowledge and experience to act responsibly and safely.
  • Help kids ease into independence in the real world with appropriate reassurance for you all.
  • Help kids develop a balanced approach to using screens that leads to healthy physical and mental health.
  • Help kids balance education and entertainment on their devices.
  • Help family life run more smoothly and harmoniously.

Plan your family safety purchases around what you want to achieve. There is rarely the best app for all circumstances, but there will be the best app for your needs. Ensure you and your family know what you each want and how to achieve a solution to help you all.

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