The West

It's a modern dilemma confronting parents everywhere - how to police mobile phone and internet use among "Generation Text".

With the proliferation of smartphones, childhood experts believe the issue needs greater attention.

This week, British Prime Minister David Cameron's adviser on childhood Claire Perry recommended parents take the drastic step of snooping on their child's messages to ensure cybersafety.

She said parents should feel empowered to challenge offspring about their use of mobile phones and social media sites and demand to see their messages, if necessary.

Paediatrician Trevor Parry, one of 15 ambassadors for WA children, agreed parents should monitor online behaviour and check who children socialised with.

"The boundaries you set, wanting to know which friends your younger children are going to visit, where they are having sleepovers, should also apply to mobile phones and social media," he said.

"It's more difficult, but the principles remain the same. It's caring for safety in a world which has become unsafe and exploitative, particularly for young women."

Dr Parry said Ms Perry's suggestions had merit but he did not recommend "snooping" but telling children "we've bought the phone and there are times when we'll see how it's going and that might mean some checking".

Nedlands mother-of-two Margie White became "friends" with her daughters on Facebook to keep track of their online behaviour.

She gave daughters Lizzie, 15, and Sophie, 13, mobile phones when they started high school to contact her when they needed to.

"I feel sorry for kids today," she said. "They never have downtime because they always have their phones on them and so they are available all the time."

She found a need to "keep on top of it" and sometimes had to tell the girls to put their phones away and to make certain rules.

University of WA Assistant Professor in Communications Tauel Harper said parents faced an increasingly difficult environment for monitoring their children's online behaviour.

He advised parents to keep mobile phones away from children "as long as possible" and to become savvy with social media sites.

The West Australian

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