Catch Them if You Can: Detecting a Lie

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Learning to lie is a normal part of growing up. Young kids tell very clumsy lies, but teenagers can become quite adept at it. Learning to see when your children are lying to you is the key to keeping them safe both online and offline: after all, you may not even know they are at risk! Here we offer a few tips.

Listen to the talk

If you suspect that your children are spending time on dangerous websites, you may want to confront them about it. Unfortunately, studies show that parents are unwilling to believe their kids are lying to them – it is our natural bias to think that our kids are better and more truthful than those of other people. However, there are clues that allow to spot a lie . Watch out for these signs:

  • Unnecessarily detailed explanations – the kid will try to make the story more believable by adding details;
  • High pitch – people tend to talk in a higher voice when they are anxious or insecure, since their vocal chords stiffen;
  • Trying to change the topic;
  • Stuttering;
  • Inability to repeat the story – ask your kid to tell it again, and see if the details match;
  • A show of anger or “insulted innocence” if accused of lying (this is very often found in adults, too);
  • Repeating your questions (trying to gain time to invent a lie).

Watch the face

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Lying makes the person tense and even fearful, eliciting many involuntary physical responses . However, keep in mind that these signs may signify general anxiety or discomfort, not necessarily lying (you can read more here):

  • Nodding when saying “no” or shaking the head when saying “yes”;
  • Blushing because of the inflow of blood to the face caused by the fight-or-flight response of the body (the fear of getting caught);
  • Touching nose, ears, and lips (the feeling of stress and danger causes the blood to rush to the face, making one feel an itch);
  • Avoiding eye contact – keep in mind that simply looking down may also signify sadness, while looking aside may mean trying to avoid or ignore the problem;
  • Microfacial expressions – these are involunary and last for a split second, but you may be able to spot surprise or fear on your child’s face (more on reading expressions here😉
  • Expression of relief when the topic is changed – try to start talking about something else and see what happens.

Body language clues

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  • Fidgeting – this is a way to relieve the stress
  • Shifting the anchor points – if your kid is standing, he or she may start moving the feet; if they are sitting, watch out for the kid shifting in his or her seat;
  • Trying to create distance by crossing arms or legs (however, this may also signify emotional distancing);
  • Trying to cover oneself or to appear smaller; some people cover their mouth.
  • Trembling – this is often found in children who are not used to lying.

Put it all together

Just one of two of these signs are not a proof that your child is lying to you, but if you observe several at the same time, it is a cause for concern. Recent research shows that people’s brain becomes better at lying when they do it often. For this reason, it is important to spot your children’s lies while you still can. Of course, you should also be a good role model for your kids and show them the importance of telling the truth. And while it is essential to know how to keep your kids safe online, establishing an honest dialogue with them may make spy software unnecessary.