NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah (News4Utah) – The average age for a child getting their first smartphone is about 10 years old. Nowadays, many parents worry about how to monitor their child’s use. There are applications out there that allow parents to see exactly what their child is doing on their phone, and when. This has sparked the question: is this an invasion of privacy, or responsible parenting? 

For Michael Paskett, the father of four girls, it’s about keeping them safe. His oldest daughter, Desirae May Barber, is 13 years old. They say they have a good relationship. They talk about the tough topics, and the easy ones. But Paskett says with the world at Desirae’s fingertips, he won’t take any chances. 

“There is enough evil out in this world that preys upon kids and takes advantage of kids, and I am going to stop that at the front door,” says Paskett. 

Paskett monitors his daughter’s phone use with an app called Qustodio.

“It tracks location, it lets me set up times, it lets me set up parental guides for searches…it also monitors text messages coming in and out…so if I need to, I can see what’s being said…it also let’s me set the rules for different apps,” explains Paskett. 

For a fee, the app is installed on multiple devices. This allows Paskett to see what his daughter is doing on her phone.

Paskett says, “Now that I’ve taken away the temptation, it’s not there. So if she can’t go and search these things, or can’t use her phone during class, she’ll get used to the idea of ‘I can’t use it,’ and then I can start giving that freedom back in a sense.” 

So does Desirae think this is an invasion of privacy?

“In certain parts yes, but in other parts no, because it keeps me safe,” says Barber, “It monitors my texting, so even though i’m not talking about anything inappropriate, it will show my conversation…The other things, that’s fine.” 

According to a survey by Influence Central, kids start using smartphones just after they turn 10. 
And parents are taking action to protect them – the use of apps like Qustodio are on the rise. There’s also Circle with Disney, PhoneSheriff, Net Nanny, and many more that function in a similar way.

“Parents are jumping in a little too quickly…we don’t let kids work things out very much anymore,” says Dr. Douglas Goldsmith, the Executive Director and Chief Psychologist at The Children’s Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

Goldsmith says these apps need to be used responsibly by parents, otherwise it could compromise their child’s independence.

“We need to use apps like this judiciously. It doesn’t mean we throw them out or we never use them, it just means use them judiciously,” explains Goldsmith, “I would argue that as parents we need to manage our anxiety. It is for safety, but it’s not going to be a perfect world.” 

Goldsmith says the most important thing is open communication between parents and children. He says another important part is to encourage kids to be independent. 

Paskett says he continues to support his children’s autonomy. 

“I don’t know what’s going on at school, I don’t know what’s being said in the hallways or with friends, so they still have that freedom and that type of agency,” says Paskett. 

Paskett explains that as Desirae gets older, and their trust continues to build, he will no longer monitor her phone use. For now, he says the app opens the door for conversation.

“I  can either choose to look at the stuff and freak out…or I can go and talk to her as a person and say, ‘Okay, what led you to get into this thing?’…it’s a way to open up a bridge between a parent and a child,” Paskett says. 

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