Giving your child a phone means introducing a whole new world of communication. And while you hope that your child uses communication responsibly, you can't guard against inappropriate messages, dangerous information and even bullying if you don't see your child's messages every now and again. By talking to your child about what you expect and what is and isn't OK when it comes to phone use, you can make regular checks routine rather than cause for a fight.
Talk to your child about using a phone responsibly and negotiate regular message checks as one of the terms for allowing your child to have her own phone. Explain that you don't want to check to spy on your child, but to look for possible danger or inappropriate messages. If your child balks at the terms, you may want to withhold the phone until she can agree.
Install a cellphone monitoring app on your child's phone. Dr. Phil.com suggests programs like TextGuard and My Mobile Watchdog, both of which are applications that are installed on the cellphone but viewed remotely on your computer. That means you won't have to physically take your child's phone to check her messages -- you can simply open up the program on your computer and view things like texts and outgoing phone calls.
Ask to see your child's phone regularly and watch for her reaction. If the idea of you listening to or reading messages makes her nervous or angry, it could be a sign of contraband messaging, suggests Common Sense Media.
Look through your child's messages, only checking for dangerous or inappropriate content. If you scroll through some messages and see your child is talking about school crushes, close out the message, Steve Schlozman, a Harvard Medical School assistant professor of psychiatry, tells Family Circle magazine. You're not snooping to see what boy she likes -- you're looking for dangerous messages that could compromise her safety. Don't misuse your child's trust, and make sure you give her a little privacy.
Offer trust-based privileges if your child seems to be using her phone safely and according to your rules. While you might start with checking messages a couple times per week, if your child shows that she can use a phone responsibly, you can reduce those checks to once per week instead.
Avoid spying on snooping on your child's messages by looking when she doesn't know. This could cause her to feel as though you're violating her privacy and could damage your relationship. Instead, let her know you expect to check her messages and use it as a stipulation before she's allowed to have a phone.