Jason Nolan is an associate professor of early childhood studies and
director of the Experiential Design and Gaming Environments Lab at
Ryerson University ( edgelab.ryerson.ca).
JULY/AUGUST 2015 The Costco Connection 15
GENERALLY SPEAKing, it is not OK to read
your children’s social
media posts. A child is a
person who should be
afforded the dignity we all
expect for ourselves. All
children have rights, as defined in the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,
that adults need to understand and respect.
We want our children to have the best possible opportunities to learn to interact with others in the most mature manner possible. Child
psychologist Jean Piaget told us that personal
autonomy—an individual’s ability to choose
between right and wrong, without any threat of
reward or punishment—is an important aspect
of self-regulation and self-governance.
Children need privacy and opportunities to
develop autonomy in order to grow into moral
and self-governing adults. If you spy on children, monitor their activities or invade their
privacy, you are modelling secrecy and deception, which they will learn and emulate, instead
of developing as autonomous individuals.
Think about it: If you spy on them, you are
missing out on opportunities to directly engage
with, talk to and learn from your child, and you
are replacing positive interaction with opposi-
tional conflict. And, in the end, you are replac-
ing a family environment based on trust with
one based on suspicion and distrust.
There are ways to monitor youngsters’
online behaviour without directly invading their
privacy. You could require your children to disclose who their online friends are and appropriate contact information, while not requiring
them to disclose the content of their communication. This would allow you to keep track of the
network, while providing opportunities for children to engage without direct oversight. As well,
you could require them to connect their account
to your account, which will allow you to see
whatever information they make public, without giving you access to any of their closed private communication.
You are responsible for the health and safety
of your children, and with few restrictions it is
up to you how this is accomplished. Most parents, educators, social service professionals and
lawmakers agree that one of the greatest gifts
you can give your children is an opportunity for
clear, honest and sustained dialogue on issues
that are important to them. Encourage your
kids to discuss their online experiences with
you. The openness that helps children grow and
thrive into adulthood cannot happen in an environment based on suspicion and distrust. C
Stephen Balkam is the founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety
Institute, an international nonprofit organization ( fosi.org).
answer to the question of
whether parents should
monitor social media use
is “Yes, when the situation
requires it.” But there are
steps parents should take
before allowing kids
access to social media.
First, have an open conversation about
appropriate use of technology, and set ground
rules and parental controls. Next, be open and
tell your children that you will be checking in
on their social media interactions. Parents need
to understand and respect their kids’ online
space as much as they do their personal space.
The main job of parents is to keep their children safe, and in an instance where there
appears to be true risk of harm, a parent should
feel entitled to read and monitor a child’s social
media activity in the name of ensuring the
There is a vast difference of opinion about
what some consider monitoring. Parents should
“friend” or follow their children from a respectful distance, and intervene only when necessary.
Most important, parents should encourage their
children to maintain a positive online reputa-
tion, reminding them that digital is forever and
not to post anything they wouldn’t want a par-
ent, grandparent or teacher to see.
This is especially true when one considers
the needs of different age groups. While it may
be perfectly acceptable to read a 13-year-old’s
social media posts, shouldn’t the rules change by
the time the child is applying for college? Parents
know their children best, and are therefore the
best equipped to decide when reading social
media posts is not an invasion of privacy but a
necessary teaching moment.
A better solution than attempting to monitor children’s every interaction on their social
media accounts would be to monitor their overall relationship with technology.
When giving them access to personal
devices, setting the appropriate rules and
boundaries, having regular conversations about
what is acceptable to share online and utilizing
the available parental controls may decrease the
chances that kids will begin to engage in behaviour that requires restrictive monitoring.
This is why the Family Online Safety
Institute has developed Good Digital Parenting,
a resource to help parents start conversations
and learn more about the technology their kids
are using. C
Opinions expressed are those of
the individuals or organizations
represented and are presented
The Costco Connection take no
the recreational use
Percentage reflects votes
received by May 14, 2015.
being picked up by blogs.