General Question

squirbel's avatar

If you are a parent, would you be against software that monitors your children's activities?

Asked by squirbel (4292points) March 1st, 2008 from iPhone

I am not a parent, but I do remember all the ways I circumvented my parents because of their lack of technical knowledge. I am not against writing a keylogger for my children’s computers, or a system process recorder, locking the bios, etc etc. My goal is to catch misbehavior and point out why it can be detrimental, not to prevent them from exploring. Overboard, or no?

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28 Answers

ishotthesheriff's avatar

i think your last sentence is what makes it all right. parents that just log all their kid’s activities just b/c they think they’re watching pr0n or whatnot and don’t do anything further than ground them or what have you, are not solving the problem at all. so no, i don’t think what you’re saying is going overboard. i would start out with just keeping an eye on what they’re doing, then if suspicion arises, use a keylogger.

squirbel's avatar

I would not have learned all the things I learned on my own if my environment had not posed something to overcome. My parents were strict. At the same time, I don’t want my kids seeing what I saw in my search for the right tools! (not really a hypocrite, it just didn’t do anything for me)

inquisitive1's avatar

Yes, overboard. Your kids has a right to privacy just as you do. Would you like GWB tapping your web-history?

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be actively involved in your child’s computing. Ask insightful questions about what they are exploring and offer your assistance. Be available and open for their questions. Engage discussion of the web and educate them to the potential dangers.

If we don’t allow our children to enjoy the rights of privacy they will no longer respect or understand it and sure enough, a GWB type will come in an take away what they don’t care about without putting up a fight.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

first: maybe i’m stupid, but what’s GWB?
okay, a GWB isn’t my parent. it’s a huge difference.
oh and PS: i think you’re getting way too into this with the whole “taking away of what they don’t care about”
we’re talking about making sure our kids don’t get too far into things on the web (not brainwashing them..). there’ no problem being curious, but when it becomes an addiction. .

inquisitive1's avatar

It’s a slippery slope…you start out with a web tracker and what are you doing when they are 16 and driving? Do you put a GPS tracker on their auto “so you can make sure your kids don’t get too far into things” in the world? It’s not that different. We need to be careful here.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

haha i would never do that. you are seriously blowing things out of proportion

phoenyx's avatar

I already monitor what my daughter does any time she is on a computer. The internet is full of a lot of great things (she loves starfall and moovl, for example) and I’m already teaching her how to explore.

When she gets older there will be rules for how the computer is allowed to be used, ways to check if those rules are being followed, and consequences for doing so. It’s pretty much the approach I’ve taken with everything so far.

squirbel's avatar

I’ve thought about closing all ports on my router, and if my kids need access to a special port, ie WoW or the newest bittorrent protocol, they could ask and present reasons for getting it opened. That would be democratic, imo.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

and teaching them that this country is supposed to be a democracy and what it is. all at the same time. GASP

inquisitive1's avatar

Are you kidding? I’m totally overboard. I love being a passionate parent and thinking about the long term of my/our decisions.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

good sarcasm. but you know what, you’re right.
i’ll be sure to tap my son on the back when he’s whacking off at the computer desk and changes his views on women because of his addiction to porn.
trust me, i’m thinking about the effects of my decisions.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

(i’ll add a note) i have no problem with my child exploring and learning. i’d love to walk up and see my kid reading about the Illuminati (or anything about government conspiracies). but being that porn is what.. 70% of internet usage, and the fact that i have really really negative views towards it, it’s something i want to keep my kids from.

inquisitive1's avatar

I totally agree, but lets talk to our children about it. We can’t hide our children from it because of its prevalence, so we should address it with them. Similar to drugs, booze, fire. That’s all I’m sayin.

ishotthesheriff's avatar

agreed. it’s a family thing. we’re all in it together.

hearkat's avatar

It depends on the child and their age and developmental phase. Up until he was 13, my son did not have a TV in his room. He had a computer, but it was not connected to the internet. If he wanted to surf the web, he could use my machine, where I was able to see what he was doing if I wanted to.

At 13, I allowed him the TV, but he had to buy it himself, and if he acted up or got in trouble at school, I disconnected the cable. About a year later I allowed him an internet hook-up in the room. I didn’t invest in monitoring software, but I did periodically check on what he was up to. I also have his AIM log his chats, which I password protect.

I use the information I obtain to discuss, calmly and rationally, what he’s up to, what my concerns are, and what I’d like him to do about it. I know that like any teenager, he will do what he’s gonna do (I know I did at that age), and that if I judge or become too restrictive, he is more likely to do the opposite of what I say.

Thankfully, my strategy of being open and honest, trusting and respectful have paid off, because he’s nearly 17 and hasn’t had to rebel. He talks with me about everything, and we are amazingly close. Not to say that we don’t have our disagreements, and he knows that while he can depend on me to be fair and open-minded, he won’t always get his way.

Zaku's avatar

If you were my parent, and were going to use something like a keylogger or GPS device, I’d want you to tell me about it. If you did that and didn’t tell me about it, I would feel untrusted, betrayed, and like I needed to hide my thoughts to myself. It would put a big obstacle to my trusting you. If you did tell me and discussed why, openly and effectively, it might be ok.

My experience was as a 5-year old, wanting to have a private diary to write thoughts in freely and privately. My mother liked the idea of me having a diary but when I asked her if it would really be private and my parents wouldn’t read it, they said no they might read it. So I did not use it, and didn’t have any place I felt safe to write thoughts to myself, which created an issue lingering deep into my adult life.

Of course, the differences between a diary and an Internet connection is that a kid can go porn surfing, buy things with your credit card, run a secret business, and communicate with strangers. Though if you apply a keylogger, you might prevent them from keeping a private encrypted electronic diary.

Still, I’ve had an exceptionally good relationship with my parents. But if they keylogged me or tapped my phone or GPS’ed me without telling me, I can easily see that getting me seriously mad, distrustful, revengeful, wanting to flee…

kawaii_ninja's avatar

Yes! I hate my parents checking what i view, i have no privacy! (i hope they read this too!)

If they were very young, i would be more protective that if they were older. I hate the whole ‘protecting their innocence’ kinda thing, because one day, whether parents like it or not, their child’s ‘innocence’ is going to be broken whether they like it or not. It’s part of growing up, even i know that….

spendy's avatar

I would not be opposed at all to keylogger software or a GPS. The problem isn’t having those things at your disposal though, it’s having your kid KNOW you have them. Telling them about the keylogger software you installed will only mean they head to a friends house to use their PC. And telling them about the GPS just means they ask a buddy to drive. That having been said, I also believe that these are great tools meant to safeguard your children, not give you the opportunity to come down on them for every little thing they do that you don’t agree with. If they’re late coming home, you can see where they are and not have to worry as much (or act if something is terribly wrong…car not moving on highway). I think these tools are meant for back-up, and not to be used as one more way of throwing their decisions in their face. Children need to be communicated with first, and given the opportunity to show trustworthiness. That’s a facet of the parent-child relationship that should take place with or without keyloggers and GPS. But if your kid ever got in over their head and into real trouble (as some kids do), it would be nice to have the chat log to prove who lured them…and the GPS to find out where (obviously other equally dangerous/life-threatening situations are possible that would make these tools useful). How many tragedies involving children do we see and hear the parents say, “We just never saw this coming…he/she was such an bright kid, involved in school activities and had such great friends.”? As a parent, the last thing I want (concerning my children’s safety) is one more reason to end up saying, “Wow, I wish I would have…”

Zaku's avatar

I want a country where electronic surveillance is not allowed to exist. It might be useful but we got along ok for thousands of years without it, and it seems horrible to me. The possibility of being tracked and watched and recorded from nearly invisible devices strikes me as evil and creepy. It creates the possibility of some horrible nightmares and realities, some of which already exist.

Consider, paranoid parents of the world, that children are often much better learners and more imaginative than adults, and are far more into games and mischief and exploring the forbidden. They will outsmart you and so you will think you are tracking them and watching their every move, but they will more often be tracking and watching your every move…

spendy's avatar

@zaku, truly great perspective…and I, also, am not thrilled with the idea of being tracked (especially by government, etc., as your undertones insinuate). And, I do believe that children today are completely capable of outsmarting their parents on many levels. My main concern, though, would be to do what I could when I could. That doesn’t mean it will always work or give you the results you expect. It just means that you don’t have it riding on your conscience, and you’re not kicking yourself for choosing not to do something so simple and available. Now, like I said, that doesn’t mean stalk your own kids and abuse the privilege of having such a great safeguard/back-up…it just means having another set of eyes out there if and when their use is demanded by the situation. You’re right in that electronic surveillance is pretty evil and creepy, but I think we should tag that statement with…when used the wrong way. The thing is, it does exist and won’t likely be 86ed anytime soon. The key? Use it for good. And what could be better than potentially protecting your children from harm?

Zaku's avatar

Well… seems to me what could be better than protecting your children from harm, is developing an open and trusting relationship with them so that such measures are not necessary.

Read my answer two up about my experience at 5 years old with a diary. Surveillance can undermine trust. Secret surveillance is even worse. At least, to my way of thinking. Though every child makes up the things they care about, and how… and then takes it into adulthood…

Also, is it more important kids are entirely safe, or that they get a chance to learn and grow? Seems to me I got into a lot of mischief and mostly turned out the better even for the worst of it. I think it would really stink to be a kid these days in the USA with all the paranoid parents around. The lame laws and fears parents have these days are worse than the dorkiest lamest parents I remember anyone having when I was a kid, short of the parents who wouldn’t let their kid go to see Star Wars

spendy's avatar

Like I said before…children need to be communicated with and given the chance to show trustworthiness. IMO, that’s all part in parcel to developing an open and trusting relationship. And no matter the relationship, how on earth would you ever truly know that your child was telling you the whole truth about everything, all the time? That just doesn’t seem realistic. That said, even by monitoring your kids, that doesn’t mean you will still know everything all the time. But, one thing I can tell you for sure…it only takes one terrible mistake to make you regret not having done something so simple while you could. And if that “something” is monitoring them and there’s a chance it could have helped/prevented a tragedy…then I’m all for it. As a parent, the person solely responsible for the safety of your children, how horrible would it be to have a “What if?” on your shoulders? I’m not talking about gagging, binding and throwing your kid in the basement…

I just know that kids will be kids…and I’d rather have mine monitored if it means that there’s even a remote chance that it will contribute to their safety. I don’t see it as any different than “way back in the day” when kids didn’t really do much beside lie about who’s house they would be at after school and parents would make phone calls or drive thru the neighborhood (anything to find out the truth) if they had a bad feeling or reason to be suspicious. It just so happens that times have changed, kids are more savvy and technology plays a huge part in the big picture, on both sides of the fence. Parents have to step up their game.

Zaku's avatar

You and I just have different stories from our own childhoods, and so our views and values are different. You value safety more. I value privacy and freedom more.

My view on what you asked: You wouldn’t know your child was telling you the whole truth about everything all the time. No one ever has and I hope none ever will. You won’t no matter how much spy technology you employ. Except in the sense they might stop talking to you.

spendy's avatar

@Zaku, no judgement involved in this question, it just occurred to me that I hadn’t asked. I’m not taking a stab or even thinking to myself, “Boy, he’ll feel differently about this later if the answer is no.” I’m just curious…

Do you have kids?

Zaku's avatar

No. I imagine I probably will. I’ll be very protective, but part of that protection will be protecting their space to develop their own thoughts and make their own choices, as they become ready for it.

spendy's avatar

I truly understand and appreciate your stance on this. More importantly, as a result of your last response, I feel you believe that I may not value “protecting their space to develop their own thoughts and make their own choices, as they become ready for it.” I believe you couldn’t have put that better and I think that any parent who doesn’t do so would be slighting their child(ren). As I expressed earlier, I believe the monitoring tools we’ve been discussing would make a great back-up in life or death situations (and only then). I think there are too many parents who take it way too far by listening to phone calls, reading chat logs, or tracking their kid via GPS every time they leave the house. That’s just nuts. Also, I did mention (2 statements ago) that I don’t believe any parent will ever truly know what their kid is doing all the time, spyware or not.

The last point I’ll make to support my POV…

Say you DID employ a few devices and adhered strictly to the guideline of using them only in life or death situations (which I advocate). Yeah, your kid would probably still be upset if they found out…initially. But I believe that any reasonable kid would immediately remember the things they did that were never even discussed, all those things you might not have liked to find out about but that were far from life or death. They’d have to know at that point that they were being given their own space to learn and make mistakes…and that they weren’t truly being “tracked”. Even a kid can understand parents wanting to keep them alive and would surely see this type of technology as good back-up in a worst-case scenario. I would have…

Zaku's avatar

Thanks for communicating this way. So, we agree that the same things are important, but not on what we’d choose to do about it, or where we’d draw which lines.

I have a few concerns about your plan.

One is how would you decide when there was a life or death situation? It seems to me like you’d need to spy in many false alarm situations in order to make a keylogger or GPS a very effective safety improvement. Once you were worried enough, in a real crisis, it could be too late.

Another is my own experience. I have had very good relationships with my parents, but not having anyplace truly private to record my inner thoughts to work on ideas (at four or five years old) had a negative effect on who I became and what my relationships were like from childhood up to this day. To me, secret keylogging would be worse than being told one’s diary isn’t really private, and only a step away from wanting to read my thoughts. Preventing conversations with strangers, I totally get (and I appreciated that warning as a child too, and it was effective as a mere warning), but not secret keylogging.

Also, the many freedoms I did have as a kid of caring/trusting parents, and the abuses I indulged in, were great learning experiences and helped me develop a free, fun, imaginative, powerful relationship with life.

Finally, it seems to me that if you really want safety and not information warfare dominance, then technology could be used in an open and cooperative way. Give them a mommy hotline cell phone and/or pager, with a cool secret keyword system to let you know what’s really going on if someone is overhearing the conversation on the kid’s end. You could be your kids’ secret ally backup if they need you, instead of their Orwellian overlord.

RandomMrdan's avatar

I’m not going to read all the above, I only got a few responses in..but I’ll put my opinion in the mix.

Monitoring their every activity with a keylogger I find very invasive, and personally would not do it. I wouldn’t want it done to me, and wouldn’t do it for that reason.

One thing I would do however if a young child is on the computer browsing is put in place restrictions on particular websites that contain porn, games (if he is wasting too much time and his grades are dropping), extreme violence, and maybe a few others depending on what I’ve seen going on in the world.

So to some degree, I may sensor the browsing capabilities, but would not go as far to invade all their privacy and log each and every keystroke, and record screen shots every 2 minutes or anything like that.

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