Parents have worried about their kids since humanity lived in caves. With the pervasiveness of the Internet, and on-line predators who can lure children into unsafe activities, those worries are increased many fold.
The need to protect our children from the dangers lurking in cyberspace leads to the inevitable question: How can this be done? How, in fact, do we protect them from drugs, alcohol, or any of the other dangers out there? Many people believe that the way to do this is to spy on your kids; either the old fashioned way, or electronically.
This might seem at first glance to be an easy solution, especially when it comes to protection from on-line predators. There are any number of software programs that allow parents to monitor their kids’ on-line activity. There are, however, even more compelling reasons why spying on your child is not a good idea.
In the first place, it’s an invasion of space and privacy. If your goal is to raise a child with respect for other people and to play by the rules of civilized behavior, this is a good way to totally negate that message.
Spying implies a lack of trust. It can also undermine the trust your child has in you. Very young children should be supervised in certain activities (especially computer use), and if you’ve set a good example, and taught them properly, by the time they reach an age when they should be able to act without supervision, you should be able to trust them to act appropriately.
Secondly, spying won’t work. Physical spying, once it’s discovered, will drive your child to engage in prohibited activity out of your sight. Since keeping them under 24-hour surveillance is not practical, the unintended consequence of your spying will be to drive them into a more dangerous situation. Unless you’re a top notch computer programmer, don’t try to install spy programs on your teen’s computer. The average computer savvy teen will detect it immediately and, defeat it. The net result is that you’ve failed to achieve your goal, and if you’ve driven another wedge between you and your child. If you haven’t done a good job of raising your child, and he’s really devious, he will leave your bug in place and just go to another computer.
You’ve spent a lifetime building trust and confidence with your child. Don’t destroy it in a moment by spying on him. If you do your job right as a parent, and have open, candid communication with your child, it won’t be necessary in the first place.