If you told your child that you’d be checking in and taking a peek at their phone from time to time or on a set schedule, it’s helpful to think about how you’ll handle certain situations in advance to avoid overreacting or a yelling match.
If you see something that you don’t like, maybe it’s some curse words that your kid knows they’re not supposed to use outside of the home, think about why they may have used that language before you run to talk to them about it. Sometimes kids might think of texting or emailing as a separate form of communication and might not have given it much thought.
If you see something questionable, start an open conversation with a curious mindset. Ask your child why they did what they did and listen to their answer. If you need to set up some new boundaries or phone contract rules, talk about this as well.
If you see something that you don’t like from your child’s friends, have a conversation with your kid about this. Ask them if they noticed anything wrong with what was said and how it made them feel.
If you’re checking your child’s phone on a regular basis and don’t see anything that prompts a discussion you might want to scale back on your checking schedule or just let your child know that you might check their phone from time to time.
When I was in the seventh grade, walking home with a friend, she said, “I hate my parents.” I had never thought something like that, let alone say it aloud. I thought about it for a while, and as I got to know her better, I realized she had good reason to be deeply angry with her parents. But communicating her truth to me was private and profound. Now, consider the same message, but this time, conveyed over text message, “I hate my parents,” could easily be taken as light-hearted or a joke—or it could be serious.
In person communication and text messaging are quite different. Teaching kids how to manage these distinctions is tricky. Don’t stress about teaching these distinctions. For now, all we can do is keep the conversation going. But first, we have to get the conversation started.