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To password protect or not?

“I don’t keep any password on my phone. I have nothing to hide.” said a friend of mine with an air of defiance. A group of us was chattering away noisily over some yummy homemade chaat when the topic of sharing personal data with spouses and kids came up. I had reservations about this approach but chose to keep mum. Even if we’re thick we can’t trespass certain boundaries with friends too.

My restless mind, however, couldn’t help wonder at the common mistake people make between trust and invasion of privacy. When we visit the washroom we trust our family not to walk in but we still lock the door to protect our dignity and privacy, don’t we? “What if someone doesn’t know I’m inside?” is our obvious and apt worry. Similarly, can we ALWAYS know who touches or browses through our phone? Instead of being completely strapped off security wouldn’t it be a good idea to have at least some basic guard?

As a blogger (who spends a good amount of time on phone) and a mother, in this post I’m trying to focus on giving phone/gadget access to our kids. Here are some reasons why I feel we willingly hand over our devices to kids:

I’m busy and can’t be disturbed

Attending to something urgent, need for some sleep or just plain me-time, the reasons can be many. All we want is to get them off our backs for some time and this is the easiest solution. Of course, we give in to their tantrums just to shut them up too.

Cartoons are fun and kids love them

Kids often get cranky while travelling, feeding, eating or with people they’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. Letting them watch their favourite videos or cartoons gives us some much-needed respite. Sadly, the kind of cartoons shown nowadays are sometimes misleading and aren’t always screened for suitability.

Everyone is using them!

Parenting becomes tougher when we have parents with exactly opposite rules and methods around us. When our kids mingle they’re bound to learn new things and demand them from us. We may reluctantly cave in sometimes.

My kids should master technology

Who doesn’t want their kids to be well-versed with the latest developments in technology? Even a one year old baby can figure out using smartphones after a few attempts. Harmful exposure to screens is a topic beyond this post, although the damaging habit formed at such a young age is definitely within reach and a matter of grave concern.

He/she doesn’t know much about social media

We undermine our children by assuming that they know less. Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and other such apps keep us logged in to them all day and give our kids unhindered access to them. I’ve seen mothers asking their 5yo to reply or comment on their behalf. Not sure if this is ignorance or laziness but it definitely doesn’t seem right.

I use my laptop for blogging while my social media use is almost extensively from my phone. There isn’t any inappropriate content on my handle or timeline but I cannot control the many ads and pop-ups that come up from nowhere. Not just that, I cannot risk losing data or getting an account accidentally deleted too. Setting some ground rules might make me seem harsh but our privacy is determined by us, isn’t it?

I’ve spoken to A Jr about it and he understands my need to lock my phone with a password at all times. I sit with him when he wants to watch videos or play games on it and disconnect the data when not needed. He used to be grouchy with this earlier but he knows the reason behind it and respects it now. Talking to our kids and making them understand the meaning of trust and privacy is our responsibility, isn’t it?

Which kind of parent are you? Do you agree with my thoughts here? Would love to know your take on this.

68 thoughts on “To password protect or not?

  1. I am completely with you on this.

    In my days as a kid, there were no gadgets. My dad inculcated, in my brother and myself, the habit of keeping a personal diary. We were free to write down our every thought, feeling, desire or dream…and we had complete guarantee that no one else in the house would touch our respective diaries in our absence.

    This was the rule of the house. If there was a mail by post, ONLY the person who it is addressed to could open it. My dad would not open an envelope/inland that was addressed to my mom and vice-versa, without permission.

    And, when my dad moved out of town, he used to write letters to us too. And, not even my mom was allowed to open the ones addressed to me. Likewise for my brother, likewise for my mother. To this very day, I would never open a postal/electronic mail that’s to addressed to me. The one time I unwittingly did so, I suffered such mental agony, I don;t even want to think of it.

    In short, we were brought up to respect personal space and privacy. And, knowing that our parents trusted us so much, made us be very open to them about nearly everything: including crushes and relationships and the teenage trials with smoking/drinking. There is nothing that we would not have the guts to talk to our parents about. And, I think that’s fabulous!

    It’s not about having something to hide. It’s just about respecting another person’s space and privacy…and being able to trust others do that to you or have the understanding to explain it to them.

    1. Wow, if I may say so I hope we can be like your parents someday. Whether it is spouses or kids, no one is or should be allowed to invade our personal zone.
      The point about no one reading your diary in your absence was admirable. See, this is trust and also shows that respecting someone’s personal space begins at an early age.
      So happy for this comment, dear. Made my day. Chuck all those fancy trending books and methods, parenting must be learnt the good old way from our folks!

  2. I have a password on my phone and also fingerprint. I feel it is important in today’s world to secure our devices as they carry so much on them. Also as you pointed out, you wish to safeguard your privacy.

    1. Thank you so much, Rachna. Getting validation from someone like you is truly a delight. I sometimes feel that I’m too strict with my kids but shouldn’t we all let them learn things at the right age and time?
      Privacy is something I can never compromise on.

  3. Varsh 100 marks to you to explain the difference between trust and invasion of privacy with the example of using the washroom!
    Could see the concerns of a dutiful, dedicated mother who wishes her children to know the right things the right way. And when advice comes from the first hand experience, its dependable.
    Good one Varsh.

    1. Thanks, Anagha. We can only control and restrict till our kids are at a certain age. Beyond it they’ll do as they please anyway. At such times we would be able to breathe easy if we have good teachings, manners and habits instilled in them.
      Hoping that parents realise that kids deserve to be told about privacy too.

  4. I have a bit of a beef with password protection. Once the kids decided to play ‘guess the password’ and locked up a phone then forgot the password. We had to get it restored to factory settings before we could use it again, so I’m not fond of passwords. Mercifully it was one of the spare phones at home.

    Jokes apart I do agree with you. My kids are 12 and they don’t have their own phones yet so they use mine when they need to look up something. Nope, I do not have a password but I think I should put one – to discourage them further.

    1. Ouch, that was unfortunate. Glad it was a spare phone, Tulika.
      My son is allowed to look up on my phone but not without supervision. Best thing, I ask him to use the laptop because the screen is bigger and its easier to read. He agrees with it. At 12 kids know certain responsibility on their own too. If it has worked for you till date, I’m quite happy. You’re doing your job admirably well. 🙂

  5. I use passaword. Its just not about my kids. But its to ensure no malified intentions spoil my personally identifiable information. You cant trust anyone these days

  6. You have picked up a very wise topic Varsha, we keep discussing this on all public forums but in the end give in to easy requests of end up being goofed about technology.
    I used to feel amazed by the fact that daughter learned using phone from quite young age, and probably know more about these gadgets than me. But slowly when the reality struck hard, it was tough to handle. However, stitch in time saves nine, We got everything under control in time. I advocate password protection, and yes this password MUST not be shared with kids any any given situation.

    1. D, my neighbour comes to me with her phone every other day because her 5yo daughter changes some settings and she can’t change them back. The girl watches videos on Youtube all day, if not on the phone then on Ipad and even downloads apps. She doesn’t eat unless she’s allowed to play games while her mother feeds her.
      I was absolutely shocked to see all this. Isn’t this moronic and entirely the mother’s mistake? We’ve suggested many times but she finds nothing odd in it. And yes, her phone has no password, obviously. I try to keep my girl away from her because she had started picking up these traits too. That’s not my parenting style.

  7. Honestly even I am not in favour of giving away smartphones to the kids for keeping them busy. However, I have seen parents being left helpless when kids throw tantrums. Just like you said, when they see other kids doing this around them, even they want the same for themselves. That really leaves little options to the parents!!

    1. I went through this with my son but most of the time I managed to distract him and didn’t give in. We can’t always win but the ratio can be kept healthy. We can listen to them and make them agree to our conditions.

  8. I would not like to have too much privacy and definitely allow my loved ones to browse through. But yes, I do respect their privacy if they wish to have it. Passwords are more for security from intruders for me.

  9. I have so far managed to keep my baby off my phone. But I know eventually it would be inevitable. I get your point about making the kid understand the concept of respecting privacy. But I don’t know if I’d make my phone password protected. Have never in my life done so. But then I’ve never been a parent before 🙂

    1. We learn about these things on the job, Purva. 🙂 I never had a password before but it works when you’re trying to set boundaries and discipline your kid.

  10. I don’t have a password on my phone and your post made me realize that I should have one. This post was quite an eye opener for me.

  11. Though my son also uses the smartphone for Youtube kids I prefer to keep it password protected simply because he otherwise can watch those videos for eternity. Interesting topic though.

  12. I absolutely think it is necessary to password protect our phones/laptops as it is not only to hide any data but also to protect the data from getting deleted or modified. Children may sometimes also send random messages to anyone. Keeping it password protected is a must.

  13. I agree with all your points, Varsha. A password on the phone shouldn’t be taken personally by anyone. We may not have objectionable matter on our phones but we do have important things on it.

  14. I hear the similar thing from people, when I tell them about phone hacking. “I have nothing to lose?” ….”I’m just an ordinary guy not a spy”… Nothing much I can do with such attitude!

  15. Completely in sync with you Varsh. And not just as a parent but also as a spouse I would say I would rather not invade my privacy. This is a topic of contention between my hubby at me at all times. He says if there is nothing to hide why do you object me browsing and I tell him , well there is an element of privacy each individual needs like my conversation with my close friends is not something I want to discuss or disclose , we have to trust and each and give each other that space. #MyFriendAlexa

    1. Exactly, Akshata. When I anyways share everything with him, why is there a need to see what’s talked about between me and my family or friends? And it isn’t one-way only. I give him his privacy too and don’t touch his phone in any given condition. Personal space is a concept that varies with individuals. For some (like you and me) it is holy and must be respected.
      Thanks for reading.

  16. My mobile is completely off-limits, period. I do my personal and business banking from my mobile and because of that, I have this weird paranoia about keeping my mobile out of the hands of others. Even when I was using two mobiles for business and personal, I made it clear to my son that my mobiles are completely off-limits. Even when he has to play games like Flag Quiz or something, he uses my wife’s phone. Giving access to only one device has its advantages in controlling the time the kids have access to the mobile phones.

    1. I’m so glad I have atleast one parent who is as strict and disciplined about letting kids use phones like me. Same here, Varad. My phone has banking, blogging, social media and other apps that I use on a daily basis. I understand your paranoia as I’m quite bitten with it too. My husband is ok with our kids fidgeting with his phone but I can’t dream of someone snooping around my personal space!
      Thanks for reading, Varad. I respect good parenting. 🙂

  17. I completely agree with all your points. Password on phone isn’t yo hide stuff but for safety. I know kids don’t like it as they feel we don’t want them to get access to our phones but as you said explaining them the reason will make them understand why passwords are important.

    1. We may never know whether our phone is getting misused in our absence if we don’t put a basic lock on it. Hiding isn’t an issue every time.
      Thanks for stopping by, Samarpita.

  18. I agree with what you tried to tell through this post. though most of it applies to kids, i would say it applies to adults as well in a very diff sense. I can say it because, one of my friend accessed my phone couple of times to check my chat with others. I don’t know if it was insecurity or what was it in general but though i do not have anything to hide, I very much like to have my privacy! After that incident I activated a password protect on my phone because it might be a casual thing for them but for me it is invading my privacy and trust!

  19. I do protect my phone. We travel the world for work and now a days phone has each and every information about you. Bank details and banking apps and other important stuffs. You need to have basic security to feel safe.

  20. I agree! Having a password doesn’t mean you are hiding something. Privacy is important. Phones, laptops, etc must be password protected. I don’t like anyone messing with it and deleting apps accidentally or even losing data.
    #MyFriendAlexa #literarylehareads

  21. I don’t have any passwords on any of my devices only for the reason that I tend to forgot a lot of passwords and writing them down doesn’t obviously serve the purpose. Also, I am no screen parenting with my child. Although he is two years old, I feel habits set in young and this wil go a long way.

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