How to track your kid’s texting


I have three teenage kids right now. If you have even one preteen or teenager in your house you know that they normally text non-stop. What are they talking about? Who are they talking to? If you are a concerned parent and you want to track their text messages without ever touching their phones, then you should setup SMS Backup+ by Jan Berkel on their phones.

All 3 of my boys have Android phones and unlimited texting. Since they also have Gmail accounts attached to their phones I have setup SMS Backup+ to back up their text messages to their Gmail accounts. I have taught child safety classes educating parents on how to keep tabs on their kids’ online habits. The one area that has always been a problem area in terms of tracking what your kids are doing is texting. There have been several well known cases of sexting that led teens to kill themselves over the embarrassment that they suffered from sending inappropriate pictures. Cyber bullying also tends to happen via text messages as well. As an involved parent, the one thing everyone agrees on is that you should know your kid’s passwords. If you have their Gmail password and their text messages are being automatically backed up to their Gmail accounts with SMS Backup+ you can login from anywhere and check messages. I know this sounds like an invasion of privacy to some of you. But I am responsible for these boys and I pay for their phones. I have the right to keep an eye on what they are doing as their parent. Agree or disagree, that is the way my wife and I have always been about online activity. I just want to be sure that my kids are behaving the way we expect them to and this is an easier way to check it.

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The way this works is that you install SMS Backup+ on their phones which backs up your SMS message to their Gmail account at intervals you specify. You point it to a folder and the backups begin. The advantage of this is that you can always get access to their text messages even from your PC or phone. My oldest son lives away from home at college but if I decide I want to check on him I can do so. Though we don’t spy on his activities, using Backup SMS+ also allows him to never lose any messages. Even if the child loses the phone or deletes the messages, they are still stored in Gmail. It is also a good way of seeing if they are hiding messages from you.

However, I have found if you have a large number of messages that the restore process is difficult. I would recommend only restoring the latest 500-1000 messages and reference the rest from Gmail. For whatever reason, when restoring over the 1000 messages it seems to cause the app to lock up or just run extremely slowly. This has been a bug for a while and I hope that the developer will get this fixed eventually.

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Trust me, I know to those of you without children or that have very young children will think this sounds paranoid or crazy! But as kids spend more and more time online or connected you will feel less in control. I found it ironic that the parents who told me that they always kept an eye on their kids at the classes I did, were the ones that didn’t know how to check their kid’s activities. It was obvious from their child’s Facebook posts to the tweets and pictures posted, that the parents had no clue what was going on. Yet, these parents would boast that they go on their kids Facebook page and check it all of the time. When I asked one parent if they knew how bad their child cussed on Facebook they gave me a terrified look. I pulled up the page on my phone and showed them a few choice posts and then asked them if they wanted some help tracking. They learned the hard way that you really should know what your kids are doing online. Whether it is from a mobile device or a computer, it is an important responsibility to know what your kids are doing.

When I taught these classes a few years ago there was very little software that helped you track text messages. The carriers have some tools but most of their software will only tell you the times and numbers of the people they are texting; getting the actual content is difficult. That is why I found SMS Backup+ to be so useful. If you are little tech savvy you could even setup a rule to forward those messages to your email account and never have to login to the child’s account again. Even if the child deletes the SMS Backup+ version in their Gmail you would have it in your email. Don’t underestimate how tech savvy your kids are! Set the rules and expectations up front and normally kids will be ok with being tracked. If they refuse then you really need to be concerned. Seek help from a child care professional on how to deal with that type of behavior.

I finally gave up trying to educate parents. I found that for the most part they don’t want to know what their kids are doing. The few that do care will find a way to track their kid’s activities. If you are in that camp I hope that this helps. If you want to get more information there are tons of resources on the Internet. One site that I would recommend is The Online Mom (http://www.theonlinemom.com). Don’t let the name throw you off, even as a dad I find this site very helpful. You can download SMS Backup+ from the Google Play Store below.

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