Letter from a customer: How to Protect Your Teen When They May Be Smarter Than You On their Apple or Android Mobile Device
*We did not write this but we thought we would post it here. It is an interesting and insightful email from one of our clients. Our client has four kids and is quite technical. When we asked how his service was going during our beta, and if he would share his experience, he sent us the email below! (It has been slightly edited for privacy.) His story is indicative of the constant tug and war that exists between our smart teens and the not-so-smart parents! He has graciously accepted to allow us to post his email publicly as long as we mask his and his kids’ identities, as he felt it can help others. Enjoy!
“Hey NetSanity – this is probably a bit more than you were asking for but I was going to blog this out to a school’s private site to other parents anyway. So I will also send it to you. It’s not the survey but may be useful. Use it if you want as long as you hide our names and use it for good! BTW, service is working great now so thumbs up to the guys.”
“I have decided to write this tonight and post on the [redacted] site since I think it may help others. I know everyone has a different situation, but we all have kids the same age with similar challenges. I’m posting it since I thought I was on top of stuff at home but clearly was not and after almost a year, it was time to get the story out there. If you have questions, call or email me – [redacted].
‘Dad, I’m going upstairs to finish my homework..’, my 14-year-old daughter states. ‘sure honey…,’ I mumble, buried in my own tech bondage. Here I was, a busy 40-something dad with four great kids and little time for learning and dealing with my kids iPhones, iPads, Kindles, and growing list of gaming consoles. My wife and I are a typical busy family with a never-ending list of parallel demands and the constant struggle of finding the perfect balance of parenting and allowing our kids more freedoms.
As far as technology goes, I grew up with computers and cell phones, starting of course, with the Michael Douglas – 1987’ish Nokia’s “brick”. On a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being Bill Gates, and a 1 representing the dinosaur, I will rate myself a solid 8! Having this technical confidence has given me the ability to know what my kids need and don’t need as it relates to time on the internet, gaming, and what content is age-appropriate. For years, it was fairly easy. We had a public PC that all the kids shared. Adding Norton filtering to the home computer, in addition to me managing the home Wi-Fi firewall, did the trick. Our kids were not exactly thrilled to spend time in the public kitchen, in front of Mom burning (I mean cooking) dinner. The PC was slow, and the firewall restrictions were always on without any thought of what was blocked or allowed.
Everything changed with the invention of the Apple iPhone and iPad mobile devices. Our adoption of them into our home started a few years ago and continues today. Kids were always running around – going here and there. Soccer game tomorrow and basketball practice today. Movies tonight and sleep-overs the following weekend. Of course, we wanted them to have access to a phone so we can call them and know where they are. That is when it all started.
First, I must admit that iPhones and iPads are great. With the family plan, we have with Verizon; we can call and text each other for free. Apple’s iMessage is also free between all our iPhones or iPads. GPS allows us to see where they are. We can share pictures, email cool articles and generally feel great about technology and have them grow up with the knowledge that they can take these experiences to school and later, college. How great is that!
Anyway, this is all nice but let me bring you back to the story beginning – my daughter running upstairs and doing her homework. What my daughter learned was how to circumvent everything I did and even being proud of it! My daughter is a very talented writer and artist. She had decided to join a like-minded online group of other teens to write an online collaborative story and to share drawings. At least that is what she told me. What I ended up finding out by accident, is that she was going to an online chat website, msparp.com and setting up an alias to write her part of the story. I was starting to become suspicious since she was frequently hiding in her room, spending too much time away from the public spaces, and generally acting withdrawn. These behaviors led me to snoop on her laptop history of which, 99% was innocent it the 1% that scared me! I found the website history of back and forth chats using her alias on this msparp.com.
The content was disgusting my innocent 14-year-old daughter was writing explicit sexual content and sharing it with the world! Worse, she hid it from us and did not realize that this will most likely be online forever, stored in hundreds or thousands of servers all over the world, just waiting for a future employer, boyfriend, or enemy to exploit.
We had our first chat. I took away the laptop, grounded her, etc. This lasted a week or so. Have you ever slapped a wasp with a newspaper? If you whack it hard, you think you killed it kind of lays there in a shock. However, wait a few minutes and it starts moving and then if you wait longer, it starts to flutter and finally flies/crawls away like a zombie in an episode of the Walking Dead! Anyway, that is what comes to me when I remember those weeks of trying to control the addiction.
Round two was another awakening. Earlier, my daughter played Pokemon. If you don’t know what that is, don’t ask me, but it’s a virtual world of characters that have powers, and there are many of them and that all I know! She used to play with them on a Nintendo DS a portable game player. After the previous fiasco, I allowed her to play Pokemon figuring at least she can do something safe while I wean her off the other internet issues. Well, guess what the latest Nintendo DS Lite has wifi internet access! And it comes with a circa 90’s style web browser. The browser is a joke, but loads msparp.com perfectly, and that was that. She spent more weeks hidden in her room, writing explicit stories on here cute little pink Nintendo! I felt like a fool again!
Round three. After more yelling and grounding and talking, I decided to block the website on my home router. Done.
Round Four. She and her co-conspirators decided to open up an email account with Google Gmail and email back and forth pieces of the story. So while the chat site is blocked, the content and stories continued to live on.
Round Five. All electronics now gone except for her iPhone which she needed and we wanted to keep track of her whereabouts. I wanted to know where she was, and she needed some access to the internet. No access to email except for her personal one I set up.
Round Six. Her cabal used an Instagram app and account to continue! So now I had an unlimited number of Internet apps to contend with, and each step caused me countless hours of pain and exploration to solve. Remember the wasp?
Round Seven – final round and a knockout! The above story was not a few days but lasted almost a year. I have left out much in the interest of brevity. I was talking to a friend of mine in Texas who was an early beta user of Netsanity. My buddy and his wife have a son that they had issues with but on another topic driving. He got his license and was always tweeting and whatever else they do, and they were very scared. Anyway, the service disabled internet with a click of a button remotely, and they were using it for that. My friend hooked me up with them since I was trying different things at the time and could not find anything that did what I wanted. At that time, Netsanity was in beta but I talked to one of the engineers, and they sent me an internal key to check it out. Long story short already too long after I registered and enrolled my daughter’s iPhone, I crossed my fingers and gave her back her phone and waited. The admin interface was a little buggy initially, but it did what I wanted. All I did was used their app blocker to block a few apps she was using and set the filtering so it would disable the websites she was using. Also, I had the service turn off internet access on her mobile device at night and during homework hours. She was not a happy camper, but I was. Now, it does not solve the other issues of her school laptop, Nintendo, etc., but it works for me since I can control the other access – it was the phone that I needed her to have. Also, what is cool is that it works on 3G in addition to wifi, so I don’t have to worry about my home router or firewall and can control when and how much she is online when she is out and about.
She has learned to live with it. She is spending more time with her siblings and us, and I don’t need to worry about what she is doing in bed. I understand that it is all about balance and blocking everything is not the answer. I also know that teens are teens and not adults so they cannot easily process consequences of their actions like adults can. So we are doing what we can to
As far as the Netsanity service, if you have kids with iPads, or iPhones NetSanity may work for you as it did for me. I now have four licenses for the other three iPhones and iPads. Their dashboard is getting better, and it has been stable. If you have Android, it’s not yet available, but supposedly they are working on it. Nothing is perfect and solves everything, but at least I have some control now that I did not, and it works for us. Also, they sometimes run coupons so you can try to ask them if you need many licenses. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out.
In closing, your teens are smarter than we give them credit for! Be diligent and don’t give up. Everyone situation is different but we are all parents, and we should be involved in their lives! If your teen seems to hide out in their room or on the couch for hours, find out why. For me it was an awaking – we are still working on issues, but at least my head is not it the sand anymore.”