Me: “Hey, dude. Let me check your phone.”
My son is 12 and recently got an iPhone. Among the many stressful thoughts I’ve had to entertain because of this new and very significant development was this doozy: “Great, one more thing for me to police.”
Me: “Here. While I’m checking your phone, I want you to check my phone.”
Parents checking phones seems like a great recipe for family conflict. The experts debate children’s expectations of privacy, perceptions of mistrust, and voice concerns about how parents searching through phones affect the overall health of the parent-child relationship.
Me: “We’ll check each other’s phones for twenty minutes and then ask each other whatever questions we have. Text messages, social media, browsing history – anything. Okay?”
A few years ago, I conducted an anonymous survey with my high school students about their experiences with their phones and social media. The survey was a tool to help me better understand and serve my students, but I definitely had ulterior parenting motives. So I asked them, “What helps you make good choices online?” The number one answer was immediately surprising to me, but really shouldn’t have been: “Knowing that my parents will check my phone.”
Me: “Listen, we both need to make good choices with our phones. Let’s help each other and keep each other accountable. You can check my phone whenever you want and ask me anything. Deal?”
There are ways to check a child’s phone that move us from confrontation to conversation.
Him: “Sounds good, Dad.”