Spying on your children

Hey, the government does it, why not you? Sitting at a dinner party this weekend, I was amused and felt a bit of empathy listening to other parents talk about their teenagers’ MySpace and Facebook pages. There’s a tattletale in every crowd, and apparently one child had described, in lurid detail, the content of these pages which are ostensibly closed off to parental eyes.

“X has a picture of herself drinking a beer.”

“Y says his sport is “”Partying”””

Etc. First, I love how my generation, quite possibly one of the most substance-abusing, hell-raising generations in modern memory, has so solidly turned to the right to decry anything resembling their own adolescent excesses. I guess it’s the takes-one-to-know-one theory of parenting. I grew up at the tail of the hippies, right at the dawn of the grim professionals, and when I was a teenager the drinking age was 18, drunk driving laws were still relatively lax, drugs were rife, and if you could get it, the notion of premarital sex was just enthralling.

Skip ahead 30 years and some of the more extreme people I have ever known are sitting around a dinner table waxing sanctimoniously about Facebook and how frustrated they are that they can’t peer in to see what their kids are doing.

Eventually the conversation turned to me, resident Internet geek, to ask me what I do when it comes to playing Net Nanny. This is what I told them:

1. Don’t install filters. Filters are bad and a pain in the neck to manage. Kids will always come running to you looking for a password so they can see a site that they will always argue is harmless.

2. Always set yourself as the admin account on their PCs. Hey, if they insist on gunking it up with spyware, and come to you to fix it, then you have to be the admin. Right?

3. Insist on knowing their Windows password. See above. Admin’s need access. Right?

4. Look at the browser history. Use it to back track into the closed sites. Look around. Use your judgment. A photo of junior with a crack pipe posting a recipe for how to cook crystal meth from Sudafed is worth talking about.

5. Look at the search history. Amazing what you can learn about someone from what they look for.

6. Google their names.

7. Figure out what communities they belong to.

8. Give them a blog and help them administer it.

9.  Don’t give them IM until they are at least 12. Any principal or teacher will tell you, instant messaging causes a huge amount of school discipline issues. Cliques, online bullies, all this stuff runs wild thanks to IM.

10. Expect them to check on what you’re looking at.

Now, the tough part is letting them know whether or not you’re looking. It’s like Churchill after his intelligence boffins cracked the Enigma code and figured out the German battle plans. Do you let Coventry get bombed and preserve your ability to eavesdrop or do you evacuate the city and burn your conduit?

The best thing you can do for your kid is tear out clips of recent articles exploring the phenomenon of employers and schools looking at what candidates and applicants say online before making hiring or admission decisions. Letting a kid know that their internet presence can follow them forever is the best favor you can do for them.

I have a huge amount of trust in my kids and the last thing I want to do is squelch their curiosity or their access. I am definitely a liberal when it comes to information access and tend to be a more permissive parent than my peers, but I do look, I do discuss and I engage with them all the time about computers. My only disappointment is none of them have displayed the slightest interest in what makes a PC tick, how the Internet works, or how to self-maintain their machines.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Spying on your children”

  1. yeah do all of that. u know why? that will force the kid to hate you. He will become miserable, getting his own computer, working, and getting a job. Best of all, as a parent, he will hate you over all things. You do not spy on your kid. You earn the kid’s trust. Sooner or later, he will be offered things like, crack, sex, beer, cigarretes. The point of doing this, is having your kid know how to say no. He might try it once or twice. Let him know its bad for your health, etc. Never spy on your kid, because it is proven, that they get smarter every generation. they will find ways of avoiding you, and sadly, you will end up LOSING!

  2. im 13. my mom once spied on my aim. its the worst feeling when a pop up comes with something u wouldnt want ur mom to see, then she looks at the history and u try to tell her it was a pop up. but she doesent believe u. i would be happier if my parents didnt spy on me. And guess what? if u delete ur freekin history they r helpless. we can get around spying. but im not like that

  3. Trust sounds real nice. But you need to wake up and smell the coffee. This is war. This is today. This is life and death. Talk to the parent of a kid who has gotten pregnant, or addicted, or died from an overdose, or committed suicide. Know what they’ll tell you? SPY YOUR ASS OFF!!!! There is no time to hold hands and sing “Kumbayah” (sp?). There is no time to sit cross legged in a circle and talk about trust and all that other happy horse shit. Teens lie. They lie a lot. They lie their asses off. We desperately want to believe them. So we do. That way we can ignore or avoid their life threatening problems until it’s too late. If we don’t spy, we can keep our heads in the sand and not be disturbed. Look, there are dangers around EVERY corner. It is highly likely that your kid will go through a phase of hating you whether you spy or not.

    At first, I didn’t spy. I wanted to believe my child was good and clean. I trusted her. I believed her lies. I wanted to. Then I found a couple of pages in the garbage from my 14 year old daughter’s journal. I nearly passed out to find she had been sexually active since 13, had been smoking pot regularly, had been drinking, and had been taking “pills.” (The highly addictive kind) So the next chance I got I searched her room and found the whole journal, and again, I almost fainted. Had I not spied, I would still be in the dark. For each day that I stayed in the happy land of denial, she would be one day closer to addiction, pregnancy, an STD, or maybe death. Do you want to stand around at your kid’s funeral and brag about how she loved you right up until she died because you didn’t spy on her? Or do you want to save her? Yeah, my daughter hates me right now. But I can live with that. Maybe this way she will live long enough to understand why I spied. Quite frankly, I believe that all this liberal, permissive PC crap, coupled with negligent parents, and parents who want to justify their own bad habits by letting their kids do it too, and parents who want to be buddies with their kids instead of parents, are EXACTLY why kids disrespect adults, disrespect teachers, disrespect police, and can’t take responsibility for their own actions. Grow a spine parents! Set an example by your own ACTIONS, and give your kids high expectations to live up to. Then follow them up with enforcement, even if it means spying. They might just surprise you and grow up to be president!! Maybe you can even save their life.

  4. the reason parents spy on their kids is becauase they either 1. dont have anything else entertaining enough to do. 2. are freakin nosy! my dad decided one day this summer that it was some sort of brilliant idea to hook up a web cam in the kitchen. SO BAD! not only do i feel like i dont have any privacy, but what the hell!? i drink. im in a relationship with a girl. i like to have fun. and i KNOW my parents did too when they were teens. why cant they let me have my time. i spent all freshmen – junior year feeling like a prisoner in my own bedroom; having no sort of social life because my parents would ground me. that led to a secret depression that i sometimes still deal with today.
    listen, parents: i understand you may want to protect your kids, ya know, keep them away from all the bad crap in the world. But with society today this “bad crap”, its the norm. drinking, drugs, sex, stealing it happens. yeah sure bad things happen to all people, yall are just gonna have to learn to deal with it. let them have their own ideas and opinions and learn for themselves. no one likes and overbearing parent. we just want one who will love us. we lie to make ourselves feel like we’re protecting you so you wont love us less or think badly. i wish my parents could read this and understand how i feel.

    i got caught stealing once. it sucked…sooo badd! but it really did help me learn that i was getting out of control. i had been lying to my parents and sister. they were so disappointed in me. and now im scared what my dad will come up with next. i dont want them to find out about my partying ways or my secret love life because i KNOW they wouldnt approve (they’re pretty old school: anti gay/bisexual type) so i feel all the secrecy is protecting them. well at least thats how my subconcious feels.

  5. hello all, i just submitted an article to ezine titled spying on your kids. so i did a little search on the topic, and i’m not at all surprised at the responses, but i am surprised at all the children who are finding this. i just want to tell you youngsters who say your parents just dont understand you. we do!! we were there, and believe it or not we reflect on those days more ofte

  6. Hey I was always for given kids their on space. But I still a mother first. I’m my kids parent if I don’t look out for them who the hell will. Maybe ur kids don’t get in to things and maybe they have u fooled. I’m just saying think back to ur teen years. What was going on with u at that time?? I made mistakes cause my parents didn’t want to step on my toes and get involved. So I did things I’m not all together proud of and I will not fail any of my children. If u had ur head in the sand then don’t be surprised at anything u find out the hard way. I check everything at home and school. I love my children to much not to spy