Is it monitoring or spying?

Kids on devicesI’m considering subscribing to a service to assist with the monitoring of our son’s (and eventually our daughter’s) electronic communications.

I’m considering (rather than absolutely, positively doing) because, even though I plan on being completely transparent with the kids about any service we use, it feels like I could be crossing the line from cautious to crazy.

The headline “10 best apps for paranoid parents” didn’t help.

I’m not interested in tracking where my children go. His phone already has built in location tracking with Find My iPhone, which I have only used twice – once to find out how long it took the bus to get home, and once to find the phone in my mom’s car.

And I’m NOT interested in reading the day-to-day interactions between our son and his friends. I can see all the public exchanges, and have refrained from commenting when someone tells our son his mother helped him win his lacrosse trophy (apparently “Yo momma” jokes are all the rage).

Plus, with my opinion of his friends’ intelligence dropping exponentially every time I read any of their conversations, it’s in everyone’s best interest if I avoid it.

I also have all the user IDs and passwords, and our son understands that I can, and will, access his accounts when I determine it to be necessary.

So why am I considering a service? Access to the private conversations, and centralized information.

According to the website my lead candidate,, would allow me to see the text messages (sent, received, deleted), calls (not that he receives any of these), web browsing history, and social media activity (Instagram being his current channel of choice). It would also allow us to add Sophie when she comes online, which is not for a few years, but is still worth considering. At $14.95 a month it’s not expensive, but enough money that I want to make sure it’s worth doing.

And while it feels completely logical to have access to this information, I am not without reservation. I don’t want our son to think I don’t trust him, or don’t have faith that he (or his friends) are capable of making good decisions. I want to give him the opportunity to have conversations with his peers without feeling as if mom and dad are looking over his shoulder, judging his every word or phrase.

Ideally, I’d like him to look at it as a safety net, knowing that realistically, I am not going to be looking through his texts and communications on a regular basis (who has time for that???) but have access to the information if I need it.

Is that naive? Crazy?

What do you do (if anything) to monitor your children’s electronic activity?