Monitoring Your Teen’s Online Activities
It is common for parents to struggle with how to stay involved in their teen’s online activity. Here are some ideas to help guide
parents in balancing their teen’s need for privacy and independence with their parental job of providing protection.
Typically, teens are highly skeptical of parental involvement and questions, and will swiftly leap to the classic phrase, “It’s none
of your business.” Rest assured that it is your business! While teens can feel ready to take on the world, their brains are still
developing and they are not yet at a place where they can properly deal with all situations on their own. Your involvement is very
Strategies for staying involved
Here are some strategies you can integrate into daily life to stay involved in your teen’s online activities and increase their
safety, while also giving them the independence they desire:
Set the expectation early on that you will monitor your teen’s use of their devices. Follow through on what
you have told them with regard to consequences for any inappropriate behaviour/actions. It’s also a good idea to set a time
every evening when WiFi is disabled and all devices are shut off in the house.
Regularly engage in conversation with your teen about the apps or sites they are using. Remain informed
about the online spaces where youth may be negatively impacted and have ongoing discussions. Sign up for
Cybertip.ca Alerts to remain informed of the emerging issues facing
tweens/teens. Review any parental controls, chat options, profile information options and privacy settings available for the
apps/sites they are using.
Reinforce the public nature of the Internet. Let your teen know that once a picture/video or information is
sent, they lose control over what is done with it. If your teen has been negatively impacted by a picture/video being shared by
peers, they can visit NeedHelpNow.ca for practical steps to take to regain control
over the situation.
Talk about the risks associated with live streaming. What happens over live stream can be easily
recorded – don’t be fooled by thinking it is live and therefore “no big deal.” The same risks exist for live streaming as
sending pictures or videos. Pre-recorded content can also be live streamed so unless the other person is known to be offline,
there is no way of verifying who is on the other end of the camera and you should proceed with caution.
Discuss the importance of seeking help. Identify situations when it would be important to tell you, or another
safe adult, about an uncomfortable or potentially unsafe situation. Acknowledge that while this may be a difficult step for your
child to take, their safety is your number one priority and you are there to help them. Discuss what might happen if they don’t
seek help from a safe adult and emphasize that it is never too late to come to you for help, even if they have made a mistake.
Monitor your teen’s behaviour to watch for changes that may trigger cause for concern. It’s important to pay
attention to changes in your teen’s typical behaviour patterns, as well as changes in the intensity of their behaviour. Some
signs that may indicate the need for increased involvement and communication with your teen include:
They seem more withdrawn, sad, anxious, defensive, angry or secretive.
They have significantly increased or decreased the amount of time they spend online.
They do not respond to limits placed on how often and how long they spend online.
They have lost interest in activities that they’ve normally enjoyed.
They are complaining of stomach aches or headaches.
They develop problems with sleeping patterns, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep at night, or
sleeping all the time and avoiding interaction.
What to do if you notice concerning behaviour
If you discover that your teen is pushing boundaries online, they may need some adult direction to re-establish the line. It is
typical for teens to break boundaries, especially if they think adults aren’t aware. Sometimes all it takes to get them back on the
right track is knowing an adult is monitoring them more closely.
Here are some steps to consider:
Increase your involvement to become more visible in your teen’s online activity. Calmly communicate your
concerns and be emotionally available for your teen. They will likely resist your involvement – do not back down. It is their
job to test limits and your job to set them.
Increase direct supervision and directly monitor your teen’s online activities, including their phone.
Check their social networking, chat and messaging sites/apps. Simply knowing that you are aware and monitoring may be enough to
change your teen’s behaviour.
Enforce limits on your teen’s use of their devices. Depending on the level of concern for your teen’s
behaviour, you may consider taking away access for a limited time.
Build your relationship with your teen. Create opportunities to do things together. Even if your teen is
resistant, the message you are sending by wanting to spend time with them is that you care which unto itself is a powerful
The tips and other information provided herein is intended as general information only,
not as advice. Readers should assess all information in light of their own circumstances, the
age and maturity level of the child they wish to protect and any other relevant factors.