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Should we spy on our children?

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Technology makes it easier than ever to spy on citizens, as we saw with the NSA’s Prism and other (…domestic) surveillance programs. By extension, technology also makes it easier to spy on just about anyone we have some control over, including employees and our loved ones, especially our children.

Last week, we received an ad for VW Car-Net, a platform available in 2014 Volkswagens that allows an owner to connect to their car and do a host of cool things like track service schedule and point out maintenance needs. But in their advertising, they slipped this in:

You can also configure Speed and Boundary Alerts on the VW Car-Net website that will notify you or people you define if, for example, a teen driver has strayed too far or driven faster than you’d like.

This is more than GPS location…it is event-enabled child spying, and VW isn’t shy about it.

Great justification

spying on childrenWhen it comes to our children, we can justify just about anything under the mantra of keeping them safe. For several years, parents have been able to use passive tools like key stroke logging and screen capture as well as more active tools like URL filtering through Net Nanny or CyberPatrol. Anything to prevent what GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram refers to as:

…fear that media puts out there about young girls meeting men on line and pretty soon they’re asking to go to the store and they drive to Cleveland and meet some guy in a shopping mall.

These aren’t irrational fears, but the actual number of times this happens may not justify the millions of parents who are spying. Take for example the recent story of the women held captive in a Cleveland house (coincidence? Is there something about Cleveland?). Each of those women got into someone’s car…a basic no-no that had nothing to do with the Internet.

Is it justified?

Ingram wrote a series on what he learned about his daughters and himself from his cyber snooping. He concludedthat he made himself feel bad, didn’t achieve anything, and interfered with their, “…development as fully functioning social human beings.” But maybe that’s just because Ingram’s children didn’t go astray. How much can be justified on the remote but awful possibility that something could happen and Ingram only felt guilty because, in effect, it didn’t and he didn’t feel it was justified (a weird juxtaposition, to be sure)

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Back to school

Our kids are going back to school in the next couple of weeks, putting them less in our line of sight and potentially more in harms way. They’re having in-person experiences that will transfer to Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, snapchat (maybe we should worry about that one) and whatever comes next. We can’t physically be there, but we can be ‘there’ with technology. What’s appropriate? What are the limits? What are the triggers to spy on our children, if there are any?

What are your thoughts? Is it your responsibility? Should you be teaching good behavior instead? Can you justify it as protecting your child from cyber bullying?

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Published at DZone with permission of Christopher Taylor, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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