There is an article on the front page of the Patch about how to have a great school year. One point mentioned was making sure you are watching your kids' Facebook. I know some parents may object to violating their child's privacy, but I say if you're under 18, live in my house and are legally my child, you don't get online privacy.
It's not even that I don't trust them. It's that I don't trust the interwebs to not be full of bullies and pedos.
So! Here goes! This is how I spy on my kids, the poor things. My oldest is a preteen, so this is geared more toward the junior high set.
1) There is no Facebook. I am sure eventually there will be, but I will hold out as long as humanly possible. Now for those of you sitting there thinking "PFFT, that lady's kids have Facebook and she just doesn't know," hold that thought till you get to the bottom of the list.
2) Get your kid a phone if you can.
3) BLOCK PICTURE MESSAGING ON THE PHONE
4) Enable GPS and call your provider and ask them to enable Chaperone, if you have Verizon. I am not sure what similar service is called through other providers. This will allow you to pinpoint the child's location at all times. Eventually they will figure out they can turn off the phone to hide from the chaperone. You can delay this by not telling them about it, but they will eventually figure it out. Teenagers, they are smart.
5) Offer to charge your child's phone for them at night. Or steal it while they are in the shower. That phone belongs to you, one way or another. And you need to go in on a regular basis, read the texts and see what social media sites it is linked to.
Note that you don't NEED to link your Facebook to your device to get into it. So go to the URL through the browser, too. If there is an email auto-popped, or if they are already logged in, your kid's got Facebook. Sadly, this is like finding out your kid has a lifelong condition, because you can't stop them now.
Now, here is the hard part. If you see something you don't like, you have to bite your tongue unless it MUST be addressed, otherwise you are giving up the ghost that you are watching them. I mean, they will figure it out eventually, as I am sure there are 800 teenage tricks to avoid parental surveillance. I have no idea how to deal with that, when the time comes.
6) MMOs geared toward the preteen set. These are huge around my house right now. Wizard101, Roblox, Wolfquest. These things are like spyware on crack with the way they bog your system down, so avoid them if you can. If you can't or don't want to, most of them come with the option to only allow your child to send messages from a drop down list, rather than direct chat. Choosing this option will also prevent them from seeing messages that are typed in manually by other users. Neat, huh?
7) Your kid's computer! Make sure you are looking through here ALL the time. Check the browser history. Go to Facebook and see if it's logged in, or if there is an email auto-popped on the home page. Check out the recent downloads. Once your kid has Facebook, install a keytracer and a password sniffer. Don't play, and don't hesitate. You don't want your kid to be the one the creepoid manstranger found on the Facebook.
Lastly, protect your child's privacy from anyone else. I read an article on about my daughter's principal in Geneva allegedly making some little girl log into her Facebook so he could read it during the course of an investigation. I sat my daughter down and told her that her phone is MY property, not hers, and that if anyone at school asks her to unlock it she is to say no and have them call me.
If that call comes, I will go to the school myself and go through the phone. Any evidence pertinent to what they are looking for I will share. But they aren't going to read through my daughter's texts the way I do. My daughter texts me, my sisters, my mother, my husband, etc. and so on. Geneva schools don't need to be seeing that.
So bottom line, once they hit maybe 13 or 14, none of this is useful. But for now, I have my 12 year old covered.