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Should parents snoop in their kids' phones?

Kimberly Gillan
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
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Parents should keep tabs on their children's mobile phone and internet use to protect them from cyber danger, according to the UK government's new childhood advisor.

Claire Perry, UK Prime Minister David Cameron's advisor on childhood, told the Daily Mail that parents have the right to go through kids' phones and Facebook accounts to ensure they're safe.

"We’ve given our children all these opportunities to communicate in private, but we’ve lost the confidence to actually get involved in that," she said.

"We have to feel more empowered to ask. Make sure your kids allow you to be friends with them on Facebook, ask them whether what they are doing is appropriate."

But clinical psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack told ninemsn that kids need to be empowered to monitor their own safety.

"I don't think that we should be checking children's texts, Facebook pages or even their personal hand-written diaries," she said.

"The only time we would really do that is if we have concerns. If there are changes in behaviour and we have a sense that something else is going on."

But even if that was the case, McCormack said parents should warn their kids they're about to snoop.

"Tell them, 'I'm going to go through your room, your phone or your Facebook because I want you to stay safe'," she said.

"But as a general rule, it's not teaching your children independence and responsibility. I don't think we raise independent adults if we are constantly over their shoulder, watching everything they do. We have to give them leeway here and only pull the reigns in if something goes a little bit askew."

McCormack said parents need to get in early and educate their children about the potential dangers online.

"I wouldn't let a child have a Facebook page or a phone until I have taught them responsible ways to manage them," she said.

"Before you give them the tools, you need to teach them the rules."

Perry also suggested that parents need to be willing to be the "bad guy" when disciplining their children.

Related: Kids spoilt by parents who pay for uni get worse grades

"So many people say, 'I have got children on their laptop at 2am – what do I do?' Well, turn the router off when you go to bed," she said.

McCormack, who is a mother of four, agrees, admitting she has slept with a router under her pillow on occasions.

"If they're not turning off the computer at 10 o'clock at night, or whatever the rules are, then absolutely turn it off," she said.

Child psychologist Jenny Chapman told ninemsn parents who are overbearing could risk damaging their relationship with their children.

"Parents need to talk to their children on a regular basis and they need to be engaged in an agreement of what is appropriate to be doing on these devices," she said.

"Some parents go too far and want too much involvement and that could be detrimental to the relationship."

Chapman also suggested parents get up to speed on the legalities of online behaviour so they can educate their children appropriately.

Do you have a story for us? Email us at healthwellbeing@ninemsn.com.au

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