Most parents want to know what's going on in their family, especially in their children's lives. But so often, the children push back with accusations like, "You're spying on me!" or, "You're invading my privacy."
Here are five ways to stay involved and alert without working for the FBI:
Ask them specific questions about their lives
"How was your day?" is a good question to ask, but, "How did you feel about your math test you took today?" is even better. When you know what your children are worried about or what they do at school, you'll be able to open a conversation and be a more approachable parent.
Try asking about your daughter's favorite band, or why your son likes to listen to rock music. Ask your children about the kids at their school, the things they see online or what activities they want to do with the family. Next time you want to have a normal conversation with your child, ask more creative questions. It might surprise them.
Check with - don't interrogate - them about where they'll be
Instead of acting like a parole officer and monitoring their time every second, try to casually check with your children about their plans. You are totally right to check with your child and ask questions, but when you become suspicious or start acting like an investigator, your child will feel betrayed.
Some families make a rule to do the "Who, What, Where, When" plan. First, ask your child who will be at the house, party or event. Ask what they'll be planning on doing and where they'll be. Finally, ask them when they plan to be home, or, set a time together to know.
You don't need to call them every hour or snoop around to see if they're really watching a movie. Trust your child, and double-check with others who went if you're nervous.
Keep your home safe
Home is where the heart is, and home should be a safe, comfortable place to talk about your feelings and problems. When there are closed doors and secrets at home, the tension rises. Instead of prying through your child's drawers, make your home a safe place to talk about the hard issues like bullies, pornography, drugs or stress.
Keep your Internet safe
Along with keeping your home safe, keeping your Internet safe is one of the best ways you can protect your children. Many children, especially teenagers, may feel like their privacy is invaded when they see those parental blocks online, but if you and your spouse set clear guidelines and tell your children why you're doing that, they'll be more likely to understand.
Don't be afraid to ask your children what they find on the Internet and who they're talking to. Just ask in a positive, sincere way instead of asking with harsh, judgmental tones.
For parents who want to be involved in what their children are doing, apps are the way to go. Certain apps let you monitor activity on a mobile device or tablet with real-time notifications. Parents can receive alerts when signs of depression, bullying, violence, or other online behaviors appear.
Set time limits, but explain why
Many apps use parental blocks that allow a parent to cut off Internet or game time completely. This isn't an invasion of privacy, but it's definitely something children don't want. Instead of cutting off time behind-the-scenes, try having a discussion about Internet usage and time limits. Some families put their electronics on a table every night at a certain time. Some apps even allow you to shut off your child's access to the internet at night.
Talk to your kids about how you are monitoring what they are doing on the internet not because you want to control them, but rather you want to protect them.