What Tracking My Teen Taught Me About Trust

The Bark Team | May 05, 2017 | Internet Safety Tips

Happy mother and son teenager wearing a checkered shirt and sunglasses in city over orange background

As parents we walk a fine line between offering our children freedom to good choices and responsibly monitoring their activity. In the digital parenting space, we fear that our teens and tweens are going to get hurt. We fear they are going to mix with the wrong crowd or unknowingly get involved in reputation damaging or even illegal behavior.  

I learned a few things about trust when tracking my teen online I’d like to impart to you. I learned things about both about myself and my son, when I employed a phone tracker and social media monitor.

I’ve learned he’s a good kid

We all want to believe our kids are making good choices for themselves. Once I started monitoring his social activity, there were moments I felt disheartened when I'd get notified that he crossed a boundary or said something hurtful. Additionally, there’s also a moment of embarrassment that other parents are seeing the behavior and judging. But, some things you just have to let roll.

Overall, my favorite thing I learned along the way is that he’s actually hearing my advice, and leaning toward the better decisions . . . most of the time. I get reassured often that he’s developing into a kind, responsible young man.

I’ve learned he’s not an adult

Yep, he’s got a long way to go. Immature, snarky, silly, defensive, knows it all.  Just what should be expected as a teenager. I have to laugh when I hear parents say “act your age” to a 13 year-old behaving rambunctiously or being inappropriate. Newsflash: They actually are acting their 13-year-young age.  They aren’t adults and although he may be taller than me and look like a man, he’s not. I had to adjust my expectations after realizing that’s him all the time. 

I’ve learned text messaging makes us closer

And it isn’t that I’m discouraging face-to-face communication, it’s just that he feels comfortable in the blue or green text message bubbles. I find we communicate more about social things - share jokes, send emojis, discuss fun weekend plans. On the contrast, a lot of our verbal communication is about business - did you do your homework, wake-up, put the phone down, turn off the TV, brush your teeth, why do your armpits still stink after you showered . . . you know the drill.

I’ve learned my job is bigger than it seems

I really just want to make sure he’s safe. You know, that he doesn’t die or make decision that will negatively impact him for life. It seems like that’s my biggest job as a parent, but it’s different in the teenager phase than as a toddler. Being safe doesn’t just mean putting training wheels on his bicycle, or wearing a life vest, or applying sunscreen. If I wasn’t responsibly involved in his digital life now as a teen I’d feel like I wasn’t sure he was buckled in the back seat. It’s pretty much the same thing, but less physical and way more emotional.

I originally battled with should I or shouldn’t I monitor his digital social life or use a phone tracker. Now I know it was a good decision and that it isn’t at all about trust. It’s about being a responsible parent - advising where necessary and knowing when to let him learn his lessons. That’s really hard to do when you’re in the dark.

Using a service like Bark gives you just the information you need, instead of information overload, to empower you to use the knowledge for teachable moments and round out all aspects of their lives. Give it a try. I’m relieved I did.

About Bark

Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.