How to Spy on Your Child Online
Why you should monitor kids' computer and cell phone use, and when you shouldn't
Cell Phone 101
Decided it's time to equip your child with a cell phone? Some variables to consider:
Parental controls: Many providers let you limit the numbers the phone can call and receive from, as well as restrict texting. Some programs, like AT&T's Smart Limits ($4.99/month per user), restrict web content and limit the amount that can be spent on downloads -- kids can rack up big charges on ringtones, for instance!
Photo/video: Because most standard phones take photos (and often video) and can show those sent by others, this creates all kinds of risks: Someone could shoot a photo of a friend undressing, for example, and send it out to everyone in her phone book or post it online. So it's vital to talk frankly with your child about what not to shoot or send. Also, tell her that you'll look at the phone's file of saved photos and videos every few days and that you're the only one who's allowed to delete them.
Monitoring: If you're unfamiliar with the phone, ask the salesperson to show you how to check for recent calls and texts. These histories can be cleared, so if there's a need, you can cross-reference with the phone bill. Bills usually itemize each text sent and received -- you won't see the body of the text, but you'll know when it was sent and to what number. (This is how one Parenting editor found out her 13-year-old was texting friends past midnight!) If you're concerned, external monitoring services, such as Mymobilewatchdog.com ($9.95/month per child), give parents full access to all messages and alert them if any come from unapproved sources.
Instant language, decoded
Abbreviations and code words speed up instant messaging and texting, but they also mask what people are saying! Brace yourself. Here are some commonly used terms:
ADIH: Another day in hell
A/S/L: Age, sex, location
BTDT: Been there done that
CULTR: See you later
GTFO: Get the f-ck out (expression of surprise)
ILY or 143 or <3: I love you
JK or J/K: Just kidding
KWIM: Know what I mean?
LLS: Laughing like sh-t
LMIRL: Let's meet in real life
LYLAS (B): Love you like a sister (brother)
NIFOC: Naked in front of computer
PAW or PIR or P911: Parents are watching or Parent in room (drop the subject)
POS: Parent over shoulder (can also mean "piece of sh-t," used as insult)
Pr0n: Intentional misspelling of "porn"
STFU: Shut the f-ck up (expression of surprise rather than reprimand)
TMI: Too much information
TTFN: Ta ta, for now (goodbye)
WTF: What the f-ck?
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Melissa Rayworth, the mom of two small boys, lives in suburban Philadelphia.