Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

Summary: Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli believes that parents should hack, steal, or do whatever it takes to get their kids' Facebook passwords. It's all in the name of the safety and welfare of your child.


Some parents are friends with their children on Facebook so they can keep an eye on things. Those that aren't, however, should hack, steal, or do whatever it takes to get their kids' Facebook passwords, and they should not feel guilty about it, according to a New Jersey cop.

Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli recently declared that all parents should use keystroke-logging tools to keep tabs on every site their children visit, and every status update or photo they post to Facebook. Batelli, who has his own teenage daughter to worry about, seems particularly concerned about sexual predators and drugs that the social network could be encouraging.

"Trust sounds good. It's a good cliché," Batelli told NBC New York. "[But] to stick your head in the sand and think that, in 9th, 10th, 8th grade, your child is not going to be exposed to alcohol, is not going to be exposed to drugs is kind of a naïve way to go about it. If you sugar-coat it, parents just don't get it. Read the paper any day of the week and you'll see an abduction [or] a sexual assault that's the result of an Internet interaction or a Facebook comment. When it comes down to safety and welfare of your child, I don't think any parent would sacrifice anything to make sure nothing happens to their children. If it means buying an $80 package of software and putting it on and seeing some inappropriate words you don't want your child to say. Then that's part of society."

Batelli is not the only one on the force that offers his extreme Internet-monitoring advice to parents. The Mahwah Police department has free seminars where detectives show parents how to install keystroke-recording software on home computers.

While I'm sure that all parents would at least consider using software to block certain sites from their children, spying on your loved ones is never the solution. At one point or another, the child will find out, and at that point it will be evident that the parent chose to lie and be secretive to their offspring. The Facebook "problem" can be solved without encouraging such practices.

In fact, Facebook has its own tool for parents who are worried about what is going on with their kids: the Safety Center. The webpage has general safety resources, as well as tips specifically for parents, teens, educators, and law enforcement. Palo Alto considers anyone over 13 an "authorized account holder," so the company is forbidden to give access to others, including parents. Instead, Facebook encourages open communication in the family, and gives suggestions on good practices on the social network.

Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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  • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

    If only my parents had a password for me in the 60s so they could check on my friends, alcohol, drugs, porn and illegal activities.

    Oh that's right they couldn't and most of us muddled through.

    The single most important thing in parent child relationships is trust and that's what this cop is recommending you dump.

    When you do do something like this it's probably the last time you'll do it and you'll be lucky if your kids talk to you again. Teach them and trust them, the rest is up to them.
    • 9th, 10th, 8th graders are to make their own way

      tonymcs@ doesn't see a roll for parents in guiding their children through adolescence. Clearly he feels he has no knowledge to impart that could be of value.

      And trust is the "[b]single most important[/b] thing in parent child relationships"? Seriously?

      My taxes go to supporting such parents:-(
      Richard Flude
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        @Richard Flude <br><br>If you feel you have to stalk your adolescent children, then you don't have much confidence in your parenting. I said nothing about not guiding adolescents, I said teach them, not be a private detective.<br><br>And yes, trust is the most important thing in any relationship <img border="0" src="" alt="wink">
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        tonymcs --<br><br>Confidence in one's parenting has nothing to do with it. You can say all the right words, instill all the right ideals, but a parent's job doesn't end there. A good upbringing does not preclude bad decisions or exposure to potentially deadly influences outside your control. That's where reasonable monitoring comes in.<br><br>Certainly monitoring children's activities can be taken too far, but appropriate rules, expectations, and agreements with regards to kids' privacy can only benefit a family. You write as though any parent who monitors a child's online activity is some kind of jackbooted fascist (I'll preemptively Godwin you). I would suggest instead that intelligent, enlightened parents act as lifeguards rather than prison guards.<br><br>Consider the metaphor: you can train a kid to be a strong swimmer, maybe even the best in his or her class. You're confident the he or she could be safe in water even out of your sight. Still, do you want your child swimming with friends at a rock quarry where others have drowned in the past? What if they swam, unattended, at a beach with a strong undertow?<br><br>Switching metaphors ... does NASA launch rockets, only to forget them immediately upon liftoff, or do they monitor those rockets through the duration of their flight? Kids, like rockets, are to some degree out of your control after they leave the [figurative or literal] launchpad. That said, isn't it wise to guide and monitor whenever possible, offering course corrections when they stray?<br><br>I'm sure you'll find fault with these comparisons. I merely present them as counterarguments to your rather black-and-white "complete trust" vs. "prison guard" spectrum of parenting.
      • You are not talking about guiding..

        @Richard Flude.... You are talking about controlling. If the child doesn't trust you, he certainly won't care about the knowledge that you have to impart.
        sissy sue
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        @Richard Flude

        It goes back to Ronald Reagan's axiom of "trust, but verify". I trust my teenage daughters to do the right thing, but I'm darn well going to verify that I'm not putting my head in the sand and ignoring what they're doing.
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        @Richard Flude - Scary isn't it! Bone head attitudes like this end up on school boards!
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        @Richard Flude, Churlish

        Monitoring IS important. Guidance is what we as parents are supposed to provide. But does it have to mean installing spy software and snooping in their diaries (written or electronic, as some seem to assume our kids use Facebook) to do it? In my house, and in the houses of many of my friends, Internet access is in the full view of those in the house. There are no internet connected cell phones, laptops, etc in the private areas of the house where the kids can access them. That provides all the monitoring one needs (the kids inevitably leave their accounts running while they are elsewhere, anyway, so you get a LOT of unintended information, as it turns out). I don't see that you have to broach the trust relationship in order to gain the peace of mind you seek about Internet access by your children, no matter how much you want to control their behaviors. If you train your children well about responsible behavior and choices, the mistakes they make will be small enough to be corrected, and you WILL have that opportunity. You don't have to drive them from the nest. You need to make them want to stay close to it instead.
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        All --

        OK, I'll concede one point: I believe that parent/child monitoring should be above-board and discussed beforehand.

        Kids need to understand that while they're under your roof, they're subject to your rules. That includes the right to "invade their privacy" when the situation warrants it. By communicating your rights as a parent, clearly and in no uncertain terms, there's no need for deceit, "spying," or "stealing" passwords.

        State clearly that the privilege of using electronics (computer, phone, gaming console, etc.) comes with the responsibility to obey your rules, and with certain restrictions. Don't [i]steal[/i] their password; make a shared password a prerequisite of opening a Facebook account. Let them know that you'll be monitoring web activity and text histories. Emphasize that all of these things are [i]privileges[/i], not [i]rights[/i]. Assure them that attempts to "game the system" -- e.g., creating a "shadow" Facebook account or deleting browsing/texting histories -- will be noticed, and won't be tolerated.

        Of course this can, but shouldn't be, taken to unreasonable extremes. I'm not a drill sergeant with my child: I don't ransack his room or obsessively scan his web history, Facebook activity, etc. I simply conduct routine checkups, as he knows I will.

        If you think that this is all too harsh and old-fashioned, I would respond by asking this: when did parenting [b]stop[/b] being about the establishment and enforcement of rules?
      • Parents have legal responsibilities

        @Richard Flude
        You hit the nail on the head. As an attorney, I see kids everyday that are the result of parents thinking like tonymcs. The world is a dangerous place and trial-and-error is not an acceptable way to let kids learn when death is one of the possible results of an error. Parents have a legal obligation to know what junior is up to.

        As for Facebook's refusal to provide information or access to parents, that is legal BS. Under the laws of every state in this country, parents have a nearly absolute right to access to every record and every communication their minor child is involved in. There are a few exceptions, but none of the services provided by Facebook meet those requirements (doctor, attorney, etc.). As such, any court in this country will grant an order forcing Facebook to provide information tothe parents of a minor child. And yes, Facebook is subject to the jurisdiction of the court where the child lives because Facebook has actively reached out across America and the world to market itself. I haven't looked at Facebook's Terms and Conditions agreement, but I will bet it has a choice of jurisdiction clause that says you can only take alegal action in a given court. Parents are not bound by that because the child is not bound by it. A child cannot enter a binding contract, so junior's agreement with the Terms and Conditions is legally meaningless.

        Parents need to assert their authority over both their children and those people their children interact with.
    • Yep, we muddled through as well

      @tonymcs@... and my high school was a veritable middle-eastern bazaar of high quality cannabis. You had to get there before noon, when supplies ran out. Yet most people I went to school with went on to college and rewarding careers.

      If only officer Batelli had been around to put some of them in prison and give them criminal records, I'm sure they'd have fared much better in life.
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        @HollywoodDog Agreed. Our cops worry way too much about the things that mean NOTHING.
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        @HollywoodDog - LOL buying that - NOT! I did as well and everyone one of the "Dude!" that I know about, 1% amounted to anything, rest - totaly F'ups barely getting by. And I came from a class with 10% national merit pretty good set. The stone heads, nothing - except for 2. Sorry but you either don't have kids or don't have a clue
      • Agree

        Officer Batelli and other police deal with people at their worst and usually do not deal with them when the people are being good. When your experience with people is mostly dealing with crime then you may tend to believe that everyone is commiting a crime and getting away with it. The advice given comes from the mindset that people are going to commit a crime and they need to be watched. This is along the idea "If the only tool you have is a hammer, then you will treat your problems as if they are nails" (A. Maslow)

        Trust is a 2 way street, if you do not trust your children and do something that breaks their trust in you then it becomes tough to repair trust. Trust, but verify is probably a better way to show interest in your child before there are problems.
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords


        [i]You had to get there before noon...[/i]

        Where, school? Who the hell didn't get to school before noon?
        none none
    • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

      tonymcs --

      But think how much better individual kids, and society in general, would be if they were prevented from "muddling through" such things as drugs, porn, underage drinking, and unsafe/irresponsible sex.

      Three major responsibilities of parents are to guide their children, steer them away from unsafe activities, and discipline them appropriately when kids cross boundaries. Your naive "chill out, man" approach only [i]attempts[/i] to address the first responsibility (guidance), yet based on your rather casual attitude toward dangerous influences, I even wonder how much sound guidance you're providing.

      Humans aren't born with respect for order, responsibility, authority, and law; those things have to be taught and enforced. To expect children to somehow discover those things on their own, with no real guidance or consequences for their actions, guarantees a generation plagued by addiction and underachievement.
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        @Churlish I'm sorry but I flat out do not agree with your position here.

        Children are people and need to deal with things the way every person does - through experience. The far-reaching answer is never the right one. Society in general would not be better off if every person was prevented from "muddling through such things as drugs, porn, underage drinking, and unsafe/irresponsible sex".

        These things should not be enforced, clearly, and regulation is a must. But people need bad experiences in their lives to learn from, and padding kids' lives with bubble wrap will only hurt them in the end.
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        @Churlish Sheltering kids is not the way to go... sorry, but 'preventing them from muddling through' robs them of important experiences and what happens when they've been prevented from making any mistakes of their own as an adult? Many of them get caught up in mistakes and stuff and end up worse off.

        You should always teach and protect your children and loved ones, but definitely not shelter them and prevent them from doing anything or anything like that.

        You teach your kids and bring them up right and they do fine. My parents did fine with me but didn't steal my passwords or spy on me or anything like that. And they definitely weren't naive with me either.

        You don't have to force kids to respect you or anything, kids will naturally not want to respect you because they want to experience things on their own. The best you can do is teach them from your mistakes and what you've learned and do the best you can and they will grow to respect you as an adult. I couldn't stand my parents growing up but I'm glad they brought me up the way they did now as an adult. It's all you can do (and the best you can do).
      • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords

        JaylorZD, nakedtaco --

        See my comments elsewhere; I'm not implying that parents should be drill sergeants, I'm simply saying that they should be the first line of defense in their children's lives and decisions.

        What is the position of law enforcement on those things you imply kids should be allowed to "muddle through" ... namely, how does the law treat minors who drink, use drugs, attempt to buy porn, or engage in illegal activities? Do you think that the police are content to let kids "muddle through" these activities without consequence?

        I'm not talking about wrapping kids in bubble wrap. I'm all for letting kids take their lumps in sports, school, and relationships. However, I'm [i]not[/i] for letting them break the law under my watch. In fact, it's my responsibility to do everything in my power to ensure that they [i]obey[/i] the law until they're adults.

        But put aside from legal considerations and answer this: if you had the power to prevent your child's death, injury, abduction, arrest, incarceration, addiction, or underage pregnancy, wouldn't you?

        Your answer will say it all.
    • RE: Cop: parents should steal their kids' Facebook passwords