Over the past few years, the "but think of the children!" crowd constantly talks up the importance of having parents monitor their kids' online activities, and often puts out studies like the following one, bemoaning the fact that not enough parents are monitoring their kids enough
. Of course, the simple fact is that parents are never going to be able to fully monitor what their kids do online (at least without seriously pissing off their kids). If kids want to chat online, they're going to find a way to be able to do so. Perhaps rather than focusing so much on spying on everything that kids do, the focus should be more on educating
them to the dangers that are out there, the laws that they should be aware of and the risks of not obeying them. We have this tendency in our society to overprotect kids, which often has the opposite effect: not preparing them properly to face the real world. Kids who understand the risks tend to make better choices
online. As for those who are constantly spied on and overly protective? We'll again quote Richard Posner in one of his legal rulings:
"Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low ... It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it."
Parents should be aware
of what their kids are doing online by talking to them about it, and helping to educate their kids on the risks they face, but that doesn't mean spying on their every move. That will only backfire.