Keeping Kids Safe, Or Keeping Them From Functioning Independently?

from the a-sense-of-balance dept

We’ve had plenty of stories over the years about technology that lets parents spy on their kids every move — from web tracking software, to black boxes for cars to mobile phone apps that report back to parents. In almost every case these technologies are presented as helping parents in a busy digital age — with very few noting that there’s a downside as well. With kids being constantly monitored not only do they not build up a relationship of trust with their parents, but they never learn to grow up independently. They don’t learn how to cut the apron strings, mature on their own, gain responsibility and make decisions independently. So it’s a nice surprise to see that the latest article on the subject, from SF Gate, actually seems fairly balanced in discussing both the pros and cons of the various methods of tracking your kids. Yes, it’s a dangerous world, and there are times when it would be nice to know where your kids are, or whether or not they told you the truth — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t downsides to constantly monitoring kids as well.

Meanwhile, lots of folks are talking about a new AP article that includes a tidbit about Montclair State University requiring all freshman to use a University-granted mobile phone that includes GPS tracking info. The details, however, aren’t so bad. The GPS tracking is entirely voluntary, and the students decide when to turn it on or off. Thus, if they feel threatened or worried about walking across campus, they can turn it on and feel at least a little safer. This seems a lot more reasonable, and lets the students decide when it makes sense to use such technology. Of course, the students still need to understand that just because you can send a little beacon to the local police, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be careful. With any of these technologies, the problem comes out when people think that they’re somehow a substitute for teaching kids how to be safe and act responsibly. None of these technologies is a substitute for acting safely — and anyone who assumes so is only asking for trouble.

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Comments on “Keeping Kids Safe, Or Keeping Them From Functioning Independently?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Every generation thinks the world is a more dangerous place than it used to be. We all long for how it was. The only thing changing is our perspective, in most cases. Yes, crimes may be different, and modes different, etc. But in general people haven’t changed much in the last few centuries. Let kids be kids, and stop worrying so much. Kids need to explore and learn and have their own personal time. They should be given the trust that they earn over time.

discojohnson says:

Re: Re:

i wish i could remember the statistic, but IIRC murders are down by something like 40% in the past 20 years but coverage (read: media spam) is up some 400%. even if the numbers are off (which i imagine they are) crime is still down (look at the bureau of justice for some proof) and media coverage, well just turn on the t.v.

Comboman says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

murders are down by something like 40% in the past 20 years but coverage (read: media spam) is up some 400%.

I’m sure that’s very comforting to the families of murder victims.

No, I don’t think having their personal tragedy turned into sensationalistic entertainment or political fodder is very comforting.

concerned says:

Re: Re:

i agree kids should be trusted over a period of time. but crime has changed a littlle for the younger ones and it is up to the perants to make sure the kids have the core values to chose right from wrong. the kids still need there space to grow and learn we should not eye ball them but just be available for support or guidance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, most people are too busy working to worry abotu something like their children, oh my!!

Try spending some time with your kids and raising them yourself, instead of letting some clown at day care, who makes as much at the guy at Burger King’s drive-thru and can’t get you hamburger right, raise your kids.

Funny, people complain about how bad the drive-thru is, but yet they let people who make the same kinda cash raise their children.

What do they expect? You know, you get what you pay for.

“Oh, but we can’t do that, we gotta pay for our new Lexus!!!”

ok, whatever your priorities are…

Nick Burns (profile) says:


The first article failed to mention that the CarChip is first and foremost a diagnostic device. We don’t have kids, but we bought one for the fact that it records ODBCII codes. We were having a problem with the “Check Engine” light coming on and having to pay $80+ each time to have it diagnosed was really cutting into the pocket book. The CarChip E/X was the one we bought and it cost $80. It had already saved us about $400 in diagnostic charges. If those parents just wanted to record their daughters driving habits, I’m sure there are much cheaper alternatives.

DreadedOne509 says:

I agree with the previous poster that stated it’s all about perspective. We’ve had gangs, killings, rapes, drug use, and bad driving habits as long as we’ve had kids, cars, knives, guns, and drugs. It’s just now we have globally available and almost instant news coverage for it. We’ve had Columbines in the past, but now when the nes media reports it, it is in-your-face reporting with all the heartache and suffering of the survivors and families thrown in.

wolff000 says:

Fear is the best seller

This has nothing to do with making kids safe or helping parents its about selling a product. All these new gadgets are just that. The comapnies could care less wether they help or not as long as they sell. You see more and more of this crap on store shelves and in our ad driven society we buy it. I bet over half the parents that get theses things use them for a week or so see how pointless it is and simply stop using it. Now the gps thing for college students is good because its optional and a usable feature. Tracking your kids car is pointless a smart kid will just park and ride with a friend. Phone is the same deal just leave the phone and claim you had no service or just forward it to a freinds who’s parents aren’t so anal. Bottom line is these gadgets aren’t really meant to help just drain our wallets.



Maybe the real issue that should be asked is why parents have to go this far. The girl in the article was upset, but SHE LIED. Quote “With kids being constantly monitored not only do they not build up a relationship of trust with their parents, but they never learn to grow up independently. They don’t learn how to cut the apron strings, mature on their own, gain responsibility and make decisions independently. If she’s raped or killed the thinking independently is no longer an issue.

Anonymous Coward says:


Perhaps the girl did lie. But that is not the issue.

The issue is good parenting. When I was growing up I lied to my parents non-stop. Why? Because I didn’t feel comfortable telling them anything. I knew that if I told them the slightest thing that they might disapprove of they would flip out.

On the other hand, several of my friends could talk to their mothers about anything. Their moms always knew where they were and what they were doing because of this. We were both doing the same things, but my parents thought I was at Disneyland, not Ozzfest.

Fact of the matter is this, kids are resourceful. They are stubborn and clever. If they want to do something, they’re going to do it. Once they get to a certain age, you can’t control them, you can only guide them. If they’re going to do it anyhow, you might as well have them be comfortable enough to tell you the truth instead of having to resort to sneaky CIA tactics.

sr1234 says:

Installing tracking programs on computers is almost completely pointless if you have a smart kid. Most of the time, if your kid is on the computer for such a long time that you are getting worried, he’s probably gained much wisdom about computer technology and how to use computers well. So, wouldn’t it make sense he could just simply remove the program on his own? Or, if he becomes aware of the program that has been installed, he could simply look up on the internet how to remove it.

And the tracking programs in cell phones seems easily removable as well. How hard could it be to get into your cell phone’s system?

Plus, any smart kid would examine his car every once in a while. Surely he would spot the suspicious black box and then be aware of it. Then, when a time comes that he doesn’t want his parents to know where he is, he could simply unplug it/disable it/turn it off/etc.

So you see, all these tracking devices and programs could probably be easily removable by the person you are targesting. Generally, parents track their kids when they are using something they especially like (their computer, car, etc.). And if the kid likes that thing so much, he probably examines it a lot and knows a lot about it, probably even more than his parents. So he can just use his smarts about it to remove whatever has been installed in it.

Scott says:

Re: Re:

You’re joking about the car right? Unless it is connected to the stereo, 95% of kids aren’t going to notice anything added to their car. I worked in a high school and only 20% could change a tire during some stupid study they did. Almost none knew their gas mileage, when the needle went down, or worse the light came on, they got gas. They wouldn’t have noticed anything smaller than a ski or luggage rack, and some even then I would wonder about.

What the hell says:

Relationship of Trust?

Hey, thanks for the hug. Are you people retarded? The only trust children should establish with their parents is trusting that their parents will be consistent and trusting that their parents will protect them when they need it and provide a safe environment.

Kids learn more from consistency than anything else, when you hold to your guns and they see that, they learn you are right and have knowledge about what you speak of.

Being a neglegent parent and giving in to the arguement that “they’re gonna do it anyway” is just lazy parenting, or someone who wants to be their child’s friend (which is another post altogether).

You set the rules, kids break the rules. When kids turn 30 and have their own kids they learn that their parents knew that all along, then they parent their own kids.

Having children is tough work, and an investment. Nothing has changed except that parents are getting lazier and giving birth to their best friend.

Oh, yeah and that you guys are shmoos…

breakfastblend says:

My dd is 9yrs old. She has her own blog, plays Wow (makes a mothers heart smile when she owns in PvP….down with the horde scum :-D) and does countless other things over the net. She knows that I will sometimes scroll through the chat to see what is going on in game. I set up her blog so that family and friends can only post. She knows I check that too. My husband and I talk with her all of the time about what not to do or say online. We also let her know that she can tell us anything without fear. I just wish more parents would actually strive to build a close relationship with a child. Then maybe the child would feel close enough to talk with parents instead of the parents resorting to spying. imo.

comatose says:

big brother in So Cal

Orange County Social Services has allowed a 13 y.o. back home on condition that she does not use myspace. She was in a foster home because she is white and can not get along with the browns who beat the bejesus out of the blonde in the eigth grade. Then the girl, who speaks her mind, said a nasty to the black social worker, and boom she was removed from her parent’s adopotive home. After thousands of lawyer dollars she’s back home on condition that she stays off of myspace. This is our uneducated low class society at work. So unless you live in a city where 20% or so have gone beyone their bachelor’s degrees expect trouble and expect your child to be in trouble. So if you don’t have the bucks to live in Dana Point or Aliso Viejo or Marin County then your probably scum just like me.

I believe in free will. I believe I must. I.B. Singer

Warren Taylor says:

Computer security

“None of these technologies is a substitute for acting safely — and anyone who assumes so is only asking for trouble.” – Mike

Thinking about Joe’s article on computer security and Mike’s on monitoring children’s behavior, I reflected on Vista’s paternalistic UAC, which is supposed to guard your computer against unauthorized usage when the computer is unattended. I found it at best intrusive and at worst annoying. Having to give yourself permission to delete an item from the desktop is ridiculous in the extreme. I have been using computers since 1980, when Wordstar was loaded from a 5.25″ floppy (which really did flop!). I have discovered that the best defense in the world against malware is one’s brain! No technology on earth can substitute for safe computing practices. To think otherwise is to court disaster.

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