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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Should parents have their kids’ passwords?

By Tracey Dowdy

Want to start an argument? Bring up the debate over Internet privacy and how closely you should monitor your kid’s activity. Helicopter Parents, Tiger Moms, Working Dads, Stay-at-Home-Moms – all have to wrestle with the question of how much privacy their children should have.

Every day our kids log onto websites like Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr, as well as a host of other Internet sites that we as parents struggle to keep current with. How much do you know about your child’s activity? How much should you know?

It’s a complicated question and there is no formula for determining what level of trust your child has earned. It’s more complex and involves factors such as age appropriateness and maturity. Mostly, it involves their safety and security and your responsibility as a parent.

Some parents see having their children’s passwords as the equivalent of reading their diaries. It’s an invasion of privacy. Others see it as a form of policing, with a “my child, my house, my rules” philosophy. They have the right to see what their children are up to. And with the possibility of a parent seeing their texts or Facebook updates, kids are more likely to think twice about what they post.

Last year, Mahwah, NJ Police Chief James Batelli encouraged parents to use keystroke-logging spyware to keep tabs on their kids’ Web activity. For some, this creates another dilemma: the issue of “spying.” In contrast, Batelli sees it as simply doing whatever it takes to protect kids. “Safety trumps trust,” he said.

According to market research firm Lab42, 72% of parents have their children’s Facebook password but 29% can only see a limited profile. Facebook itself has taken steps to increase its privacy settings and its Family Safety Center provides parents, kids and law enforcement with resources to protect individuals. Keep in mind, anyone 13 or older is considered a registered user by Facebook and all data associated with that profile is considered private. None of the information can be shared, not even with a parent.

Ultimately, the choice to have those passwords or not is up to each individual parent. Sit down with your child and discuss the very real dangers that exist. Teach them about password protection. And realize that each child needs and deserves a level of privacy in order to develop decision-making skills. Healthy boundaries between parent and child are a critical part of child development. Exhibiting trust builds confidence in a child and ultimately creates a stronger relationship.

The key is to make sure your child understands this is a matter of safety not an invasion of privacy. If you have any doubts, remember the words of Chief Batelli: “safety trumps trust.”

Do you believe you should have your child’s passwords? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

The above article is reproduced from Kiwi Commons, a news and information weblog.

Comment by michelle freeman, posted 9/29/2012, 9:52 AM:

This is such an intense debate that would go round and round. At the end of the day it is "whatever works" for you family. If you want to give them space to be "grown up" then fine, who are we to judge? Should you wish to rather monitor them and ensure their safety, who are we to judge? There are risks for both, weigh them up and decide! It seems so obvious right? Well it obviously isn't because kids are being targeted and you only need to open the paper to see your daily proof of that fact.
Comment by Suchismita, posted 9/29/2012, 9:46 AM:

Safety trumps trust for sure, but I think you can trust your children. No child will tell you all that happens but if they can trust you they will tell you what they think is important. They will also tell you anything out of the ordinary. You have to have have regular conversations about what can and does happen in the world, and reiterate it time and again. Keeping the conversation lines open at all times is the key .. I think. Talk to your kids! it is the best thing to do.
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