Is It OK To Snoop On Your Kids?

Is It OK To Snoop On Your Kids?

Thanks to modern technology, parents can track their kids’ every keystroke and action online. But is it a good idea?

Photos by studiobeerhorst and Africa Studio (Shutterstock).

On one hand, it’s your job as a parent to make sure your kids are safe and aren’t getting into trouble. On the other, spying on or stalking your kids could be seen as an invasion of their privacy — one that could erode the trust between you.

Matthew Ingram confesses on GigaOM that he’s used surveillance tools to monitor his teen daughters’ online behaviour. He likens his snooping rationale to NSA’s surveillance program and in the end concludes:

Obviously, my daughters’ emotional turmoil and fondness for certain bands isn’t even remotely comparable to the dangers of terrorism, but the parallels with what the NSA does (and what American citizens allow it to do in their name) still seem pretty strong to me. I believed that what I was doing was justified because I wanted to protect my daughters from themselves — but in the end, I decided that the loss of trust was actually much worse than anything I was theoretically saving them from.

What do you think? Is it OK to snoop on your kids?

Snooping on your kids: If the NSA’s tools were available, I probably would’ve used them [GigaOM]


  • Why not simply tell your kids that you’ll monitor their internet use, to make sure that they’re safe? There’s no breach of trust if you’re up-front about it.

    In fact, when I was a kid, that’s pretty much what my parents told me. (I don’t know if they ever did follow through on the monitoring; I don’t really care.) I never felt distrusted or betrayed – I felt MORE trusted because they DIDN’T hide it from me. “No secrets in the family” was the rule for everyone: both myself to them and them to myself. In fact, it got to the point that, when I first got a smartphone, I signed myself and them on to Google Latitude specifically so that they could stalk me: it was easier than texting to say when/whether I’d be home for the night.

    • … Not sure its trust just because you tell your kids you dont trust them to keep themselves safe upfront lol.

      • It’s trust because you’re only monitoring their behavior, you’re not controlling it. Also, by making it overt you give them the choice of doing their private browsing elsewhere (like on a public terminal at the library).

        I think it’s a level of trust – a bit like, just because I trust my kids with money, doesn’t mean I’m going to make them a signatory on my credit card.

        • Right.. Like the NSA trusts foreign citizens by just keeping an eye on them lol

  • How about you build a good relationship with your child so they feel comfortable with talking to you about anything?

  • I’m so passionately against parental secret surveillance, I can’t seem to write a proper comment without it turning into an essay. But I wanted at least one voice in the comments section to say “no” – here’s mine. The whole idea of secret surveillance makes the assumption that both parents and children are perfect angels.

    Garry’s 13 and noticing while all his mates are interested in girls, he’s more interested in boys. Garry deserves the right to discover who he is and reach out to counselling services online without being spied upon by his parents. He deserves the right to one day come out to his his parents in his own way, in his own time.

    Jenny F–ed up, she knows it. She’s 15 and she slept with a boy she thought loved her and wanted to be with her happily ever after, but it turned out he just wanted to get his end wet. Now she has these odd sores around her private area. She googles it, suspects it’s herpes, and makes an appointment with her doctor. Mum, devoutly religious, sees the browser history and kicks her whore of a daughter out to go live with her demon-laden father. Like father like daughter – they can all go rot in hell. Maybe Jenny commits suicide a couple of weeks later

      • I am laughing to tears alone in my car you bugger! Someone’s gonna come and ask me if I’m okay in a minute…

    • First: ROFL @ your last paragraph.

      However, in your scenario, I blame the religious mother, not the information.

      Now let me find some common ground: I’m opposed to secret surveillance also.

      However, I’m an advocate of overt surveillance. There is nothing wrong with “spying” on your children, employees, customers as long as they are aware of it.

      Overt surveillance of citizens (a la NSA) is a more difficult issue, because unlike customers, employees and children, they don’t have any choice or ability to avoid it; but the fact is that is just a new fact of life. Governments surveil. Asking governments to pass laws removing this new-found power is as bound for success as asking Australia’s state governments to pass laws recognizing that they are an unnecessary level of government and hand their power to the councils & commonwealth.

      That whole privacy horse has gone, lets stop chatting about the world that could’ve been, and teach our children an important life lesson: Everything you do online is public. Everything. If you don’t want it public, don’t do it online.

      If you need some privacy, learn about wifi hotspots, encryption and burn-phones.

      Just because I can read your email, doesn’t mean I do. It’s hard enough getting through my inbox, I’m not interested in getting through your inbox as well. That is, of course, unless you’re doing something you shouldn’t.

      Trust, but verify.

      So to summarize: yeah, I think it’s fine to “spy” on your kids. The sooner they get used to it, the better.

  • Depends how old your kids are.
    I’ve no issue in casually monitoring my daughters (11yo) Internet, the same as I would with tv, etc. She’s aware that I might check, but knows that I don’t sit there monitoring everything. That would obviously change as she gets older.

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