Join Club Momme for exclusive access to giveaways, discounts and more!

Sign up

5 Smartphone Apps to Monitor Your Teen

Photograph by Rachel Matos

Monitoring your teen's online activities is a controversial topic. Does it send the message that you don't trust your child? Are you not giving them the space they need to be responsible for their own actions? Is it just a safety measure to ensure that your child will not be victimized? Do you want to limit your child's exposure to inappropriate material?

Honestly, in today's world of technology, I think there should be some form of cyber-monitoring. How much and how often? That really depends on the parent and family dynamic. In my case, after experiencing a mass shooting scare (which was foiled after detectives confiscated the teens computer) and becoming privy to a questionable image of a student circulating my son's middle school, I felt it was my responsibility to be in the know of my child's online activities.

His phone usage was pretty limited, as he had an older phone without internet access for the exception of a few apps, such as IMDB. As a person who works in social media, I wanted him to be part of the real world and learn life lessons the old fashioned way without being buried in a phone all day.

I purchased the phone under one condition: It must be secured with parental control apps. I don't think young minds are ready for all the access to "information" they have online. Heck, there are grown men who can't handle internet content (yes, I'm talking about porn).

At home, he uses his iPad for games, videos and school work. However, now that he's a freshman in high school and has not really given me much reason to suspect he would be irresponsible with an upgrade, I bit the bullet and got him a smartphone.

I purchased the phone under one condition: It must be secured with parental control apps. I don't think young minds are ready for all the access to "information" they have online. Heck, there are grown men who can't handle internet content (yes, I'm talking about porn).

Although it's very hard to pinpoint the age of online porn viewers, one study says as many as 42 percent of Internet users ages 10 to 17 said they viewed porn online in the past 12 months, and 66 percent of those who said they saw porn online said they weren't looking for it and saw it accidentally. It doesn't end there.

Apps such as Snapchat, Ask.FM, Whisper and Kik Messenger make it easy to send pictures and text messages that open a whole new world of temptation — which includes sexting, cyberbullying and so on.

My son and I communicate about this topic quite often, and I trust that he'll make the right decisions — but that doesn't mean I shouldn't remain vigilant about his online activities.

At 15, I'm sure my son has seen things that would make me cringe. However, smartphone overuse and continuous exposure to negative online content is an entirely different thing leading to desensitization, which can gravely impact relationships, attention spans, motivation and drive. We need to be cognizant of what our kids are doing online, the amount of time dedicated to it and what they're filling their minds with. My son and I communicate about this topic quite often, and I trust that he'll make the right decisions — but that doesn't mean I shouldn't remain vigilant about his online activities.

Photograph by Rachel Matos

I've found five apps designed to fit the different needs of every family to help in monitoring tweens and teens with smartphones:

Teen Safe

This app allows parents to view their child's location, calls and texts, as well as monitor activity on social media sites. You can also monitor activity in popular apps such as Whatsapp and Kik, and see your child's web search and browsing history, too. TeenSafe is the motherload when it comes to monitoring. I'm not sure I would want to go this far in monitoring his phone, as I would like to leave room for trust.

Life 360 for Android

Are you more concerned with your teens whereabouts than online activity? I don't have an Android but this sounds like a great service for busy families like ours. My son is not much of a texter, so being able to check up on his location if he forgets to call or text would be useful.

Mama Bear

Is your teen driving? This app lets you track their speed! It also tracks their social media activity as well as their arrival and departure time to and from their destination. This is a great safety app, and one I will definitely bookmark for those driving years up ahead.

My Mobile Watchdog

If you have your eye on Teen Safe, Watchdog is another comprehensive app you may want to consider. It can block websites, find a lost phone, turn off apps during homework time and more.

Net Nanny

Is your teen texting all day? With Net Nanny you can set a timer, block websites and mask profanity.

Explore More: safety, social networks, tech, mami's guide, Latina Mom
More from kids