Effective Internet Monitoring of Teens Requires Trust

A quote from an unlikely source jumped off the page at me today:

“Developing trust with a child is a key step in helping to prevent online sexual exploitation, said Michael Ferjak, a senior criminal investigator with the Iowa attorney general’s office.”

The story in which it appears was written by the Des Moines Register, and details the case in which at least 9 Iowa men are accused of using social media to coerce a 13 year old girl to send nude photos via social media and apps.

parent-teen-laptopThe story is playing out all too often these days. Predators use social media to find potential targets, and the initial contact escalates to include sending inappropriate photos and in some cases in-person contact.

Clearly (to us, at least), in this case the parents of the 13-year-old girl didn’t know what was happening at the time. In an ideal word, the young girl would have alerted her parents the moment that the situation got uncomfortable, and well before she sent any pictures or acquiesced to any requests.

Trust is how you get to that point. We don’t mean you trusting your kids; we mean your kids trusting you.

We have written before that all too often when kids hide their internet activity from their parents, even in cases where they are being cyberbullied or otherwise feel unsafe, it is because they are fearful of what their parents’ reaction will be.

Does your child trust you, and what will your reaction be? If your child fears that you will rush to the police or school in the event that something bad may be happening online, you are unlikely to hear about anything until it is too late. If your kid thinks you may take away her phone (her lifeline to her social life) or force her to shut down her messaging and social media accounts, there is no way she is going to tell you in the early stages.

We often say that communication is the first step to effectively monitoring safe and responsible internet activity. From a high level, this is true because good communication engenders trust. If your child trusts that your response to unsafe internet situations will be measured and reasonable, you are much more likely to hear about issues as they occur, and be part of a safe solution.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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