Should parents spy on their kids?

Moderated by Zack Whittaker | October 14, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Should mothers, fathers and legal guardians be equipped with the same mobile device management technology that we seek for our enterprises?

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow




Charlie Osborne

Charlie Osborne


Audience Favored: Yes (82%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

It's a parent's right to spy

Jason Perlow: To protect their children in an increasingly dangerous world, parents need to be able to monitor their use of the Internet and social networks and to restrict the use of their children's devices electronically.

In short, I think they need to be able to spy on them.

Sounds extreme? Let me put it this way: I don't believe children and teens have rights per se, because they aren't yet adults. They are afforded privileges by their parents, who nurture them, provide them with a home, clothe and feed them, and pay the bills. They also have a right to be protected by law. Period.

Parents or legal guardians should be able to observe the full data feeds of what their children post and receive via Facebook, text, email, and any other application or service used on their devices. It is a parent's right to "violate" their child's notion of "privacy".

Just like enterprises can and should dictate with BYOD policies which apps and services can be installed on devices used on their networks, parents should be able to control which applications and services can be installed on their children's mobile devices, and when as well as how they can be used.

Educate your children, don't spy on them

No. Surveillance may be part-and-parcel of the modern world, but there are other ways to keep kids safe and make sure trust between a child and parent stays intact.

Trust matters. If you feel the need to spy on your children's activities when they use a smartphone or tablet, perhaps it would be more prudent to ask yourself why you don't trust them -- or whether you believe they are old enough or not to own a device.

If you're going to monitor their emails, social media messages and onine activity, why not read their diary too?

The core issues are safety and respect. Eyes over the shoulder aren't the way to keep your children safe, especially as they are often more tech-savvy than their parents and often able to conceal activity. In addition, by spying, you demonstrate a lack of trust as a parent -- which could make a child less likely to turn to you when they really need it.

It is more important to educate your children in responsible use than track their every move. Just as you'd explain why a child shouldn't speak to strangers, it is a parent's duty to explain the dangers of the Web. If a child respects you and follows the rules, they keep the device. They don't? Take a tip from the guy that blew his daughter's laptop to pieces


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Trust is not an entitlement

    it is earned. My teenagers need to EARN my trust. Until they do, they don't get it.

    Secondly, it is irresponsible to toss a teenager out into the world WITHOUT your parental backup. Perlow has this spot on. Teens do not have the mental or emotional maturity to face the world unprotected. Your job as a parent is to protect and nuture, not to blindly trust.

    Third, YOUR kids may be more tech savvy than you. Mine aren't.

    Fourth, when your teen successfully EARNS your trust, he or she will treat that trust with proper appreciation and guard it accordingly.

    Fifth, your teen will learn the valuable life lesson that trust in the real world must also be earned.

    Sixth, knowing that Mom and Dad may look into the teen's stuff at any time is a great deterrent.

    Seventh, my place, my stuff, my rules, is a good life lesson to learn when you get out into the real world and work with others using their places, their stuff and their rules.

    Eighth, the great irony is that as you do the above, the need to spy disappears.
    Reply 28 Votes I'm for Yes
    • It depends on the child

      To me, trust is the default position... but they must work to maintain that trust. If they do something that arouses my suspicions or alarms me, then it is my duty to address that issue, and to spy if I feel it is warranted. At some point, probably 8 or 9, have a talk about privacy. Let them know that YOU respect THEM and will respect their privacy .... as long as you feel comfortable their their behavior. But also let them know that you will not hesitate to read their emails, search their room, or whatever IF you feel there is a need to. And that this decision is entirely up to your discretion. If possible, avoid breaking their trust. If you've already said you have this right (duty, even), then they know in advance. But also make an effort to trust and respect them as individuals. Again, all dependent on their behavior and what you hear about them.
      Reply 14 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Never think you know your child

        Trust me, and thousands of other parents when I say that you don't really know you child.
        My teen daughter is highly respected in the community. Loved by all her family, who think she is absolutely wonderful and polite and well bought up. She is very popular in school, both amongst students and teachers. The teachers say she is one of the most sensible and well mannered pupils thay have in their classrooms.
        Her Facebook and cellphone activity says something completely different to that.
        Reply 11 Votes I'm Undecided
    • I've never agreed so much with a comment...

      I'm speechless at how accurately you have conveyed pretty much every single thought I had on this topic. Respect, baggins, respect.

      If there's anything I could add, it's that having the ability to keep an eye on my kid does not mean I'll be monitoring them 24/7. I do have other things to do. But it does mean I can take a look every now and then, to make sure the tech is being used responsibly. imaginative said it well: "Let them know that YOU respect THEM and will respect their privacy .... as long as you feel comfortable their their behavior."
      Reply 8 Votes I'm Undecided
    • @bagginz_z

      You summed up my thoughts on this perfectly for the most part. My default position is one of trust until that trust is abused. By the time my daughter was a teen I had a good handle on what I could trust her with and what I could not... and I allow her restricted and monitored internet at first and gradually lessened the both the monitoring and restrictions until I did not feel the need to do either.
      Reply 10 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Ignorant Masses

      Seeing how 82% of the respondents are clearly WRONG here, it only demonstrates what the progressives have been saying for years - people aren't smart enough to make their own choices in life, whether it is something that only affects them or child rearing.

      Thank goodness that in the USA we have the rollout of Common Core to educate our children in an enlightened way. Kids can be exposed to everything without the shroud of secrecy from their ignorant parents. And we'll finally have a level playing field for learning, where the greedy rich won't be able to continue holding down the rest of the population for their own gain. Bill and Melinda Gates should be commended for supporting Common Core with their foundation.
      Reply 8 Votes I'm Undecided
      • What?

        What does this have to do with education, the rich oppressing the poor or anything else you mentioned? This is about parents spying on their kids to make sure they aren't doing stupid or illegal things.

        I have friends who use the GPS on their kid's phone to make sure their kid stays away from the dangerous part of town and away from the homes of kids they don't want their kids associating with.

        Kids aren't known for making wise decisions, that's why parents are supposed to make the decisions.
        Reply 3 Votes I'm Undecided
  • Well as I learned in the Navy, you get what you inspect, not what you

    Well as I learned in the Navy, you get what you inspect, not what you expect.

    Its only spying if they have some expectation of privacy. I'm the father of 3 teenagers, 2 boys and a girl. They do not own cell phones. We have a family track phone that is shared when needed. Internet connected electronics are not allowed in their bed rooms. Laptops and such are only used in the family living areas. All laptops are set up with me as the admin, children as users. I can and will access them anytime.

    Those are the rules. Their mother and I are unbending in this.
    Reply 22 Votes I'm for Yes
  • poor comparison

    diary vs email.
    Its pretty hard to break the law by writing in your diary.
    Its trivial to do with an email (attachment of copyrighted material)

    I do monitor, but I'd never respond in an intense manner unless the teen's life was being placed in jeopardy. Other forms of poor online behavior I respond to with after-the-fact, casual voiced advice, and let it go. Had a great teaching moment when she wrote, played (trumpet / piano), and mixed some music; and then asked her how she'd feel about someone else using all that work without asking her... nice little lightbulb! :-D
    Reply 16 Votes I'm for Yes
  • when do we know they understand what they do online is not private

    Reading their diary is a blatent violation of their privacy, them doing something potentially illegal or damaging on MY data plan (ISP or mobile) is my business. And when I say damage, I refer to their/my character or social standing. Do they understand that people act differntly online because of the feeling of the anonyminity? Do they understand that they may not actually have formed their idenity in the real world, and shouldn't let it be influenced by people they will never meet who don't care
    I want to prevent big problems instead of fixing them or even potentially be able to see it coming befor it happens.
    Reply 13 Votes I'm for Yes