Do You Know Your Kids’ Passwords?

By on Mar 10, 2016

As parents, we are faced with so many dilemmas. Are our children ‘available’ for play dates with kids we’re not crazy about? Do we graciously welcome ‘non-RSVP’d’ children (and their siblings!) to a birthday party? And when do we ignore the messy room in the spirit of mental health preservation?

More importantly, what about the password dilemma? Is it appropriate to insist you know your child’s passwords, or is it an invasion of their privacy?

This is such a difficult question – definitely up there with the social engineering/playdate situation. If you try and outsource the dilemma to experts, you’ll find that nearly all technology and parenting experts have conflicting views and opinions. Many believe safety should be the most important consideration, so knowing your child’s passwords should be non-negotiable, while others believe it is our role as parents to focus on teaching independence to help our children self-manage.

So, what are Aussie parents doing? Research recently released from McAfee shows that 59% of us know our child’s password to access devices and apps. But, not surprisingly, this statistic increases to 74% when you look at parents of kids aged 8-12 years and then decreases to 42% when you focus on parents of 13-16 year olds. So it seems some of us Aussie parents are insisting on being involved.

Now, before I share my thoughts, I think it’s important to take a moment for a ‘parenting affirmation’. As parents, we know our children better than any expert, so knowing when to draw the line and set the boundaries is best guided by our own intuition. Parental instinct is a powerful tool – so don’t ignore your gut feeling on this issue.

In my family, I have chosen to adopt a mentor style/empowering approach to passwords. My boys are older – almost 13 through to 19 so we are in the transition phase. I am ‘familiar’ with my younger boys’ passwords however my older boys (17 and 19) are totally self-managed and I have absolutely no clue.

So, in case you are after another perspective, here is a summary of how I would recommend managing this dilemma:

  1. Up until about 10 years of age, I strongly recommend knowing your kids’ passwords
  2. From about 10-14, I would suggest either insisting on knowing the passwords or asking your kids to place them in a sealed envelope in a nominated spot. If there is an online issue or problem, you can then access it
  3. From about 14 onwards, I would ‘see how it goes’. If your child is a ‘pushing the boundary’ type, then you may choose to go with the envelope approach however I like to use this time to transition teens to a self-managed approach
  4. From 16-17 onwards, I would like to think they would be able to manage the password issue for themselves

However, for this empowering approach to work, it is critical that your kids possess a solid and broad collection of cyber skills. And most importantly, that they feel completely comfortable coming to you with any issues they may experience online.

So keep the cyber conversations flowing and arm your kids with enough cyber know-how so that they are able to make good digital decisions. And don’t worry too much about the messy room – that’s one dilemma not worth worrying about!

Till Next Time,

Alex xx

About the Author

Cyber Safety Ambassador

McAfee’s Cyber Safety Ambassador for Australia and New Zealand, Alex, is a mother of four boys who juggles family, work, home life, hobbies and her children’s ever growing social lives (on and offline). Like many parents, Alex has concerns about the safety of her children, who are growing up online world. Alex’s blogs are about ...

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