There are certain things all safety-conscious parents do. We teach our littles their names and phone numbers. We insist that children on wheels wear properly fitted helmets. We check the Halloween candy every year. And in 2016, we snoop through our kids’ social media accounts.
While safety moms have been snooping for ages, the social media snoop is a relatively new requirement, making the outdated email snoop seem positively quaint. The social media snoop is like one of those 360-degree job reviews — you attempt get the full feel of your child’s online presence by peering through as many apps as you can figure out.
At this point, I pretty much qualify as an expert social media snooper. Before my son goes to a friend’s house, I ever-so-casually ask, “Who’s going?” just so I can check whether anybody tweets TURNT UP SOOOO LIT. (FYI, “lit” within this context does not mean literary.)
But even for me, it’s not easy to get the full picture of what a kid is doing on the Interwebz these days. I perform my parental duty and audit accounts from time to time, but honestly, it’s tough out there for a mom. Here’s how it usually goes:
- Catch wind of a horrifying news story involving another child on social media.
- Immediately start shouting to your own kid, “Are you on Kik?!” “Do you chat live on Twitch?!” (Be sure to mispronounce the name of every site and app when you do this, to achieve maximum out-of-touchness.)
- Tell your child to leave his or her cell phone in the family charging station overnight. Pretend this is a thing you do every day. Casually mention scientific studies about the dangers of blue light and the importance of good sleep. Pro tip: You must act TOTALLY uninterested in what’s on the phone to avoid the risk of a pre-inspection data dump.
- Try to stay awake longer than your kid.
- Snore yourself awake at midnight and remember to check the phone.
- Attempt to crack the passcode until the phone locks you out for 15 minutes for entering the wrong passcode repeatedly.
- Simultaneously spend that 15 minutes riffling through the junk drawer to find the tiny slip of paper where you swear you wrote the passcode.
- You’re in! Now take a look at the apps. Try to remember which ones you gave your kid permission to download. Didn’t you read something about a calculator that’s really a sexy picture album? Remember when real albums were a thing and moms didn’t need a software engineering degree to snoop around in a kid’s stuff? Sigh.
- Open Snapchat. HOLD YOUR THUMB OVER THE FRONT FACING CAMERA BEFORE YOU LAUNCH PHOTO APPS.
- See who is sending your child Snaps. (Or is it Chats?)
- Realize all your kid’s friends are using fake names. These aliases are kind of funny, actually. Make a mental note to check whether the best ones are on Twitter tomorrow when you need an afternoon pick-me-up.
- Have a look at the Snapchat Stories. Look for drugs, alcohol, sexy stuff. Find pictures of food, TVs, funny face selfies, and other boring stuff with in-jokes scribbled on top.
- Get bored and close Snapchat.
- Open whatever messenger app your kid is using. Zero in on your child’s BFFs and unfamiliar friends of the opposite sex. Scan messages. Homework … teachers … meanest mom in the world … all good.
- Open the web browser and check out the history. Have no idea whatsoever what any of these web pages are. Click on one. Have no idea whatsoever what you’re looking at. Repeat as desired.
- Open Facebook with determination. After all, you heard on the news that it’s very important to know who your child’s online friends are. See that your child has 1,293 friends, five of whom are “family” but none of whom are related to you. That kid from swim team is his “Mom?” C’mon, that ain’t right!
- Open Instagram. Man, these kids go on some nice vacations. Where do their parents get all this money? Is this FOMO? I think I’m having FOMO right now.
- Give up. Be sure to close all the apps you opened, lest your surveillance be discovered.
- Decide that instead of feeling defeated, you’re going to feel reassured. Pat yourself on the back for being a good parent with a good kid.
- Go to bed and stay awake all night wondering who “notastalker676” is.