Your kid’s digital footprint is pretty easy to find; it’s just a matter of how badly you want to follow it. If you have access to their smartphone, tablet, or computer, then all you need is some tech-savvy and a parental control app. Want to know what websites your kids visit online, people they talk to, or places they go? It’s all a tap and swipe away.
Now, before you go full Snowden on your kids, here’s a quick consideration: have you thought about not doing that? A good deal of research indicates that overly intrusive parents can contribute to neurotic kids with a lot of self-doubt issues. And, just to be as frank as possible, tracking your kid’s online activities is a pretty unhealthy way to parent. Plus, if they somehow find out you’re spying on them, that breach of trust could take years to repair. So, maybe just talk to them about your concerns?
Consider that fair warning. Now, let’s talk about spying on your kids.
A Word On Electronic Surveillance
Be warned: some spying gadgets require a fair amount of technical know-how and access to the device or the device’s cloud to install. Also, most of them require you to jailbreak the device — that is removing the software restrictions set by your provider. Jailbreaking makes a phone vulnerable to hacking (and often ruins the warranty) but technically that’s what you’re trying to do, so draw your own conclusions.
For General Surveillance: mSpy
Mobile Spy (mSpy) is the world’s most popular cell phone and computer tracking app for a reason: it accesses a massive amount of information from a targeted smartphone or tablet. The system can monitor text messages, apps, emails, contacts, and pinpoint the phone’s location. You can also restrict access to certain websites and apps. The basic version is $30 a month; premium service is $70 and the no-jailbreak version, which includes fewer monitoring options, is also $70 per month. It’s available on iOS and Android devices, as well as a variety of service providers. mspy.com
For Lower-Cost Subterfuge: PhoneSheriff
PhoneSheriff shares many functions with mSpy but only cost $49 for a 6-month membership. With that lower cost comes sloppier spying: While it tracks location, messages, emails, contacts, and other such information, the app now reportedly tells people they’re being monitored. It also doesn’t let users restrict access or monitor apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. phonesheriff.com
For Monitoring Keystrokes: iKeymonitor
If you want a finer level of detail over how your kids are using their phones, tablets, and computers, consider this app. Once installed on a jailbroken phone, the app runs in the background and logs SMS, keystrokes, passwords, websites, and screenshots, and it sends the logs to you by email or FTP. iKeymonitor is $40 a month or $90 for 3 months. iKeymonitor.com
For Keeping On Your Kids’ Tail: Hum
Worried your kid might get curious and take the car for a joyride when you’re at work? Plug Verizon’s Hum into your car’s onboard diagnostics system and link its app to your phone. For $15 a month (plus a $20 equipment and a $30 activation fee) you can track the vehicle’s location as well as receive boundary and speed alerts. So if your kid goes full Little Hogwallop, you’ll know. hum.com