Checking Children’s Phones: To Do Or Not To Do?

Teacher and parent – sometimes the teacher in me’s opinions clash with the parental ones. But, I admit that I have definite strong opinions about checking children’s phones. My own children, of course.

Life for our kids is so much different to the childhood I grew up with. The main dangers seemed to be linked to crossing the road, acid rain, white dog poo and the paedophile who lived round the corner.

Current Situation

These days, a high proportion of children have access to the internet at their fingertips via a tablet, laptop, PC or mobile phone device.

2020 saw nearly all children aged 5 to 15 with access to the internet (Ofcom study 2020/21). To be honest, that statistic doesn’t surprise me at all. The pandemic meant that many technological changes had to be made, even if we, as parents, didn’t necessarily feel comfortable with them. Many online resources were necessary to ensure their education was as protected as possible.

The same Ofcom study found that parents and carers admitted to finding it more challenging to keep children’s access to the internet to a minimum or even acceptable level during the pandemic. I totally agree with this as felt that, in order to both home school and carry out my work commitments, I let my usual rules slip somewhat, allowing the children far more time online than I was comfortable doing. Unfortunately, it felt like needs must. Do I look back and wish I’d done things differently? Absolutely. Do I think that if it were to happen again, I’d actually be able to do things differently? Erm… probably not.

14% of children aged 5 to 7 have their own smartphone, compared with 49% of 8 to 11-year-olds and 91% of those aged between 12 and 15. My youngest, aged 6 (almost 7), does not have her own phone. However, she is able to use mine to message her dad and is competent using it. My nine-year-old does have her own smartphone – it’s her dad’s old one – but it doesn’t have a sim card. She is able to use it connected to the WiFi and only has a handful of contacts stored in there. She does not have any social media accounts. Even with these measures in place, do I still think it’s necessary to consider checking children’s phones?

My Opinion

My opinion is that our children are still children. As a parent, it is my responsibility to nurture them, care for them, educate them and protect them. So, yes, I will check my children’s phones whenever I want to. I would never do so covertly as feel that respect is a two-way street. Before my daughter got her dad’s old phone, a discussion was had about how I would check it to ensure she was safe and also to make sure that she was kind and polite. She was in agreement with this. If she hadn’t been, she wouldn’t have had the phone given to her. Simple.

Of course, as she gets older, she will want more privacy. There are so many dangers on the internet, and I will still want to protect her as much as possible in this respect. Alongside open and honest discussions about staying safe online, I will request she hands over her phone whenever I’d like to check it. Some will see this as akin to reading a child’s diary. I disagree as a diary is not a two-way conversation. Doing that is breaking a child’s trust.

Other People’s Opinions

You’ve read my opinions about checking my children’s phones, but what do other bloggers who are parents think about the matter?

Alina from We Made This Life says:

I check my both my daughters’ phones periodically. When they got given their phones, I explained that having a phone is a privilege and we talked through internet safety etc. They agreed to me randomly looking at their phones once in a while, they know it is so that I can check that they are safe so they are ok with it. 

Catherine from Wales With Kids says:

We bought our son a phone for his birthday but it doesn’t have a SIM as he’s only 8. It was bought to allow him to play music (he loves Spotify) and to teach him some responsibility before we put a SIM in. My husband connected the phone to Google Family Link and we can see what he’s playing, and we can control what games/apps he installs and set time limits for it. There’s even a GPS section to show where he’s been. This way we can keep an eye on him without needing his phone but we’ll check it once he starts texting/talking to friends once he’s older and has a SIM.

Sarah from Whimsical Mama says:

When my oldest reaches the age where she will have a phone, I will let her have her privacy, but I will also check through it on a regular basis, check who she is talking to, know passcodes etc. Unfortunately, the world, including the Internet, is very different and much more ‘unsafe’ than it used to be when I was a child. It’s not her I would be worried about. I will also have GPS on it too. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s better to be an annoying mum than something to happen. 

Jennifer from Mighty Mama Bear’s Book Blog says:

My eldest is 13 and I look through his phone periodically. He also has a tracker on it so we know where he is when he’s out with friends. He knows about it though and we had a very open discussion about it. He knows it’s not a lack of trust; it’s just a case of wanting him to be safe. He’s fine with it and hands his phone over without any reluctance if we ask for it. 

Having a phone is a necessity in the modern world for secondary-aged students, in my opinion, but it certainly is something that needs to go hand in hand with a level of trust and knowledge that it does not allow complete freedom. How do you feel about checking your children’s phones?

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