Do Kids Have the Right to Privacy on their Devices?
Online Safety Tips

Do Kids Have the Right to Privacy on their Devices?

Written by

Cyber Legends Staff

How can a parent create a family atmosphere built on respect and trust AND monitor the online activities of kids for safety?

To Keep Kids Safe Online, We Need to Know What’s Going On 

According to Pew Research, the majority of parents are monitoring what their kids are doing online. Many are also keeping track of their kids’ passwords.

As big a job as it can feel sometimes, the task of making sure kids stay out of trouble online falls squarely on us parents. This goes for all ages, and adolescents and teens in particular (as they move toward greater autonomy), 

However, what about if you are also striving for a family atmosphere built on respect and trust? How can parents build trust with their kids while also monitoring their devices to ensure online safety?

Monitoring with Integrity and Respect

When possible, let kids know ahead of time (e.g., before they get their own device) that keeping an eye on them is part of the deal: you will be monitoring their online activity. 

You could say: “Having this technology is a privilege, and it’s part of my job as a parent to check your device regularly to make sure everything that’s happening with it is healthy and safe for you.” 

In Teens and Privacy: should I Spy on my Child?, expert James Lehman recommends being upfront about what you’re doing, in order to keep your integrity intact. He says:


“Make sure there are no secrets and it’s all upfront before you start checking your child’s room, backpack, and phone. It’s important that you keep your integrity as an honest person intact.”

Supporting Individuation – Online and Offline

As children slowly transition in the direction of adulthood, they start to explore who they are as individuals, separate from their parents. In developmental psychology, this is called individuation (and let’s face it, becoming our unique selves is a lifelong quest!).


Although it’s easy to forget sometimes amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we want our kids to learn how to make good life decisions, and lead healthy independent lives of their own. 


Find ways to actively support their individuation offline.  Do they want to dye their hair purple (and if so, is there really a good reason to say no)? Are they talking to you about big topics that you can take time to engage with them about deeply? Can you ask them more questions on a regular basis about all aspects of their lives, including their digital interests? 

Importantly, a study titled Types of Individuation in Relation to Parents showed that this process happens in relation to you. Kids need your support to eventually become their wonderful independent selves. 

Stepping back and starting to let your kids make more of their own decisions can be a big shift as a parent, but it will signal to your child that you trust their judgement and respect their individuality. 

Rewarding Responsible Behaviour with Trust

Trust is what makes us feel good when we’re others. Trust makes us want to share our difficulties with others. 

Building trust with our kids is an essential aspect of keeping kids safe: if they don’t tell us when they’re struggling, we can’t help them.


So, in addition to monitoring your kids’ devices, we need to find ways to build and express trust. When you see your kids are being honest, reliable, and following your rules consistently, let them know!

The easiest way to do this is to simply tell them. Be sure to recognize their efforts when they are acting safely and responsibly online.  Telling them you trust them creates a positive feedback loop. 


You could say: “I am proud of you for following our online rules. Want to go for a hot chocolate with me to celebrate?”   

Addressing Irresponsible and Unsafe Behaviour Online

What should a parent do if/when they come across examples of irresponsible and unsafe online behaviours (for example, flaming, sexting, cheating on math homework, secretly watching movies in their room at odd hours)?


If you have reason to think your child is engaged in risky or unhealthy activities (read this Canadian Red Cross article for warning signs to look out for),  of course you’ll want to take clear actions to protect them, including continued (more diligent) careful monitoring of their devices and online communication.


You could say: “Because of what’s happened in the last week, I am going to need to do what is necessary to make sure you are safe. That means checking your iPad every day to make sure that’s not happening any longer. It’s my job to keep you safe and I do this because I love you.”


For kids, using technology is a privilege, and it falls on trusted adults to keep them safe online.

However, as kids grow up, a normal, healthy part of growing up is the need for autonomy and privacy. At the end of the day, kids need us to both guide and monitor their online world, and to find ways to help them flourish as individuals. 

Learning how to navigate these priorities is brand new territory for parents! You deserve a lot of credit for all your efforts and care. 

With diligence and love, you can look forward to the day when your children have developed the maturity and “inner filters” required to behave responsibly online as good digital citizens.

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