Keeping Up With Your Kids’ Digital Life: A Coeur D’Alene Mom’s Story
by Kelsey Watts, KHQ Local News Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho – It's a struggle every parent can relate to: how do you monitor your kids' digital life to make sure they're safe, without watching their every move or scrolling through every text or Facebook message?
It's not easy – but one Coeur D'Alene mother has made it easier.
It all began at a conference three years ago, when Hannah Masters realized that kids today have more technology – and spend more time using it – than their parents often know.
"When I saw that I needed to be engaged in my child's digital world, some light bulbs went off," she told KHQ.
So she helped develop aBeanstalk.com, an online system that ‘connects' parents with their kids text messages as well as online accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MySpace.
Masters made an agreement with her 14-year-old son, Sean. He was allowed to have a phone and an online presence, but she needed to know when potential problems arise. They set the controls to monitor for certain red-flagged key words that could indicated messages about cyber bullying, drugs and alcohol, sexting, profanity or suicidal thoughts.
Any time Sean sends or received a message that is ‘red flagged' by the system, Hannah gets a real-time notification in the form of a text or email.
"I saw the cyber bullying, I saw the requests for the naked pictures," she said, explaining that once she's notified, she then has a conversation about it with her son. "He knows when certain things hit his phone, mom's going to be talking to him about that."
Surprisingly, the 7th grader told KHQ he doesn't mind being monitored. In fact, he said his parents have given him more freedoms because they don't have to watch his every move or scroll through every message – only the serious stuff.
"I'm going to have peace of mind, I'm going to know I've got it covered," Hannah said. "I'm not going to miss anything, and only in the case that something is out of bounds or you're in harms way or something I need to know about comes up, then the system is going to give that to me."
While Sean admits the system takes some getting used to, he also said he's safer because of it.
"Kids make a lot of bad decisions without even knowing it – especially middle schoolers," he said. "There was a kid not too long ago that killed himself from bullying that I knew. It was really sad, and it was all over Facebook."
"If they were falling into harms way, would you want to be notified or not? Simple question," Hannah added.
She says it's not about spying, it's about being connected and having those important conversations with your kids when they're in trouble, nipping potential problems in the bud.
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