In recent years, keeping track of your teenager’s behavior has become more complicated because of the ever changing world of technology. Although teens have always been experimental, snuck out, lied to their parents, and attended parties, the internet has opened a whole new world of teasing, lies, and deception among teenagers today. Spying on your teenager has now become a necessity among parents because the world has become more tempting and dangerous for our teens. Our children are also more susceptible to others’ bad choices which can put them in harms way. This article contains helpful tips for monitoring your teen’s behavior.

Open Communication with your Teenager

It is important to remember that just as small children need your attention and praise; teenagers are looking for the same type of communication. Parents must take time out of their day to check in with their teens, ask him or her questions, and provide positive reinforcement for good decision making. You will learn a lot about your teen’s interests just from talking to him or her daily.

Know your Teenager’s Friends

Knowing your teen’s friends and friends’ parents is also helpful for keeping open communication among your teen’s social network. Parents should keep an open line of communication between themselves and their friends’ parents in order to keep their teen accountable. For example, if your teen says that he or she is going to sleep over at a friend’s house, it is important to check in with the parent to be sure that your teen is safe and is actually staying at this friend’s home. Don’t be afraid to check in with other parents.

Know what your Teenager is Doing

It is important to always know where your teen is going and who they are going with. In addition to calling other parents, you should also ask your teen questions. For example, if your teen says that he or she is going to see a movie, ask detailed questions about the movie. Do not let your teen get away with short, generic answers to your questions. You may also want to consider getting a special cell phone tracker for your teen. Your teen will most likely complain that you are “overprotective” or “invading my privacy;” however, they will be likely to use the cell phone if that is their only option for a cell phone. The newest option for cell phone tracking is the Disney cell phone which allows parents to manage who your teen talks to, how long they talk to particular people, and where they are at. If you do not want/need to have a cell phone tracker, it is important to have access to your teen’s text messages. For example, you can make a rule that teen’s cannot lock their phones.

How to Monitor your Teen Attending Parties

Teens have always attended parties; however, some of these parties may not be what your teen expects them to be. It is important to set up a system with your teen regarding unsafe or uncomfortable situations. Parents and teens can set up a code word or other type of system where the parent will know to come and get their teen immediately if their teen calls and says the code word. Your teen should know that no matter what the circumstance, it is always better to call their parent rather than continue to stay in the unsafe situation. Another tip for parents is to consistently have a 5-10 minute conversation with their teen when they return home from a party to ensure that your teen has not been drinking or taking any type of drug. If your teen expects that they will have to face you when they return home, they will be much less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol. If you are unable to stay awake until your teen returns home at their curfew time, you can sleep in your teen’s bed until they return home so that they wake you up when they are home safe. In this case, parents are able to monitor whether or not their teen has returned home on time, as well as whether they have been drinking/using drugs. Finally, if the party is in your home, you have more access to monitoring your teen’s behavior. A trick for checking on your teen without appearing to be an overbearing parent is to put snacks in small bowls which will allow you to go into the room with your teen several times throughout the party to refill the snacks.

How to Monitor Computer Use

It is important to have the computer in a central location (e.g., living room) in order to easily monitor your teen’s computer use. Your teen will be less likely to look at questionable websites if they know that someone could walk by and see what they are doing. Furthermore, it is important to have access to your teen’s facebook, myspace, or twitter pages. Parents can handle social networking sites in several ways. First, parents can set up their own accounts and add their teen as a “friend” on these sites so that they can view their profile, pictures, and messages. Second, parents could make a rule that they will know the passwords for these accounts so that they can periodically check them. Finally, your teen may be very much against having you as a “friend” or having you check their account so you can designate an aunt, uncle, or cousin to add your teen as a “friend.” Your teen will be more likely to add an uncle or other relative than you and this way your designated person can monitor your teen’s activity and report back to you. Parents can also use a parental control program such as CyberPatrol, Spyagent, NetNanny, or WebWatcher which will allow you to monitor chat conversations, web browsing history, and take screen shots of your teen’s web activity. Parents can also use parental control programs to block certain sites to keep your teen safe.

Talk to your Teen’s Teachers

Teachers can be a valuable source of information about your teen. Your teen’s teacher may know information about your teen that you may not because they can see who your child talks to everyday, know how your teen learns, and what your teen talks about doing after school. You may be surprised to know that teens often share more information in front of teachers because they think that teachers are not listening. Just as it is important to know how your teen is doing academically, it is also important to know how they are doing socially when they are at school. Teachers can also help you better understand the lingo or special language that teens use. Teens often use language that has double meaning which is important to understand. Furthermore, teens often use hand gestures, wear clothing, or create symbols that may have inappropriate meanings. It is important to understand your teen’s lingo or slang to decode their conversations which teachers can help you with. You can also visit to look up particular words or phrases that your teen is using.

What Parents Should Know

Parenting is a very hard job and one that does not come with a manual! While you want to keep your teen safe, it is also important to give your teen some level of independence. Your teen needs to learn responsibility which will come from teaching your teen to make good decisions and rewarding/praising your teen for good decision making. It is important not to make decisions for your teen unless their decisions put them in danger to themselves or others. Remember that your teen WILL make poor choices at some point in their development and that this is a healthy part of growing up. Your teen will need to learn that there are consequences for making poor choices and it is your job to issue the consequences. Using the techniques listed in this article will make it easier to know what your teen is doing and will help you teach your teen to become a responsible adult.

Written by Amy Braun, M.A.