We’ve posed the question before, “What is on your kid’s phone?” and written a number of times that it’s a good idea for parents to pick up their kid’s phone every once in a while and see what apps they’re using. Go ahead, ask for that screen lock password.
My 15 year old came into the office with me yesterday, so I thought I’d practice what I preach and take a look at his iPhone. He knows that I check periodically, so it might be a little more sanitized than it would be otherwise. That’s OK, because we get the desired result – he tends not to do things on his phone that are inappropriate.
Let’s take a look at the home screen first. Most of the items are in folders on his iPhone, which is pretty common. Two items that are not in folders, and as a matter of fact are in the app lock space (the bottom row) indicate that he uses these a lot. These remain on the home screen no matter which page of apps he is on, if he has more than one page.
YouTube – In my experience, almost every teenager uses YouTube – a lot. While there are inappropriate videos, and the comments section can be a wasteland of bullying, racism and foul language, I can’t really justify keeping a 15 year old off YouTube.
Reddit – This is a more problematic site for a parent. Reddit is largely uncensored. User names are mostly aliases, and
Reddit collects no personal data, so privacy protections afforded by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) do not exist. As a parent, you need to be pretty comfortable that your teen understands appropriate boundaries to condone Reddit browsing and commenting. If you aren’t sure, do a quick check and see which sub Reddits he is subscribed to.
A list of the most popular sub Reddits that are only recommended for users over 18 can be found here).
Taking a look at the games folder (named Such Thrill in the case of my kid), there are no issues. All of the games are rated 4+, which means suitable for any user over the age of 4. Only Mega Man II is rated 9+, which means suitable for users 9 and older. Frankly, I thought he would have more games aimed at older users. No problem here.
The only other folder that bears looking into is “Be Social”. Most of messaging apps, Twitter and Twitter Music are of no concern at all, but a couple of the others caught my eye, and I hadn’t seen him using them previously.
FML – Short for F***MyLife, is not appropriate for a 15 year old. According to the iTunes store, FML “publishes the finest slices of day-to-day embarrassments and misfortunes” and “you must be at least 17 years old to download this app.” We will be having a chat about this one shortly.
Steam – Steam is a PC based gaming platform, and users can download the app to chat with players who they know from gaming, or manage their gaming accounts. No problem here, but parents should note that kids gaming with strangers they’ve met online can carry on the conversation outside of the game, which could be problematic if the other player is not who he claims to be.
The entire process of checking my kid’s phone took less than 10 minutes. For apps where I didn’t know (a) what they did, or (b) their age ratings, a simple search in the iTunes app store (Google Play if your kid has an Android phone) got me the info I needed.
We encourage parents to do the same.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.