Monday, August 5, 2013

Mommy Monday: Online Spying – Good Parenting or Invasion of Their Privacy?

Online Spying – Good Parenting or Invasion of Their Privacy?

Mahwah, New Jersey Police Chief, James Batelli started a heated debate this week when he suggested that parents do whatever is necessary to monitor their kids’ online activity – even if that means installing “spy” software to hack their passwords for Facebook and other online accounts.  Chief Batelli sees a lot of scary things in his line of work and is clearly on the side of protecting kids.

I couldn’t agree more with Chief Batelli on two of his three points.  The internet is loaded with predators that prey on children.  I also agree that parents not only have the right to know what’s going on in their child’s online life, they should absolutely monitor emails, Facebook and all other forms of online communication, social media and website’s visited.

Where I disagree with the chief is HOW parents should monitor their child’s online life.
I’m sure you don’t hide in the bushes outside your daughter’s school and peer into the windows to see what she’s doing in the hallway between classes or tail your teen as he drives away from the house with his date.  If your tween saw you hiding in the bushes or your teen recognized you following him, it would place a serious strain on your relationship.  Installing spying software is akin to setting up surveillance outside the school or following him on a date.

We don’t want our kids to be sneaky with us and by installing “spy” software, parents would be setting the wrong example.  It’s best to have the conversation UP FRONT about the dangers of the online world and how you plan to monitor her online activity.

That conversation begins with acknowledging that a child’s access to a computer and the Internet and having a social media presence is a privilege – not a right.   Your kids may disagree with that premise and even suggest that they MUST have a computer and Internet access at home for homework.  Indeed, kids often have homework that requires a computer, however, be sure to remind them that the public library has rows and rows of computers with Internet access that they can use.

Access to a computer and the Internet at home is a privilege and a convenience – not a RIGHT.
With that said, be very clear about the responsibilities that accompany those privileges.  In addition to when and how often they can use the computer and Internet, reveal in advance that full disclosure of all accounts and passwords is a requirement.  Let them know that you’ll be checking all of the accounts periodically.

And of course – presentation is everything.  Assure your kids that you’re not monitoring their activity because you don’t trust them.  Rather, it’s your job as their parent to help keep them safe and be on the lookout for online dangers that they may not even recognize.

Problems arise when parents don’t reveal in advance that they will be monitoring their kids’ online activity and then it feels like an invasion of privacy to the child.

If your kids are resistant to providing passwords – then you have the right to restrict access to the computer and Internet in your home.  It’s just like when they sign a school release form that says they’ll adhere to the rules regarding Internet use at school – if they violate those rules – they lose their Internet privileges.  It’s the same principle at home.

Parenting in today’s high-tech world can be challenging and scary but even the best “spy” software in the world doesn’t replace open communication and clearly defined limits and consequences.

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