Protection vs. Spying – Where do we draw the line?

I am often asked by our parent clients if they should let their kids know that they are using our services and that they are being monitored.  My response is always the same.  “Yes!”  I, of course, move on to explain that we believe that the best protection a child can have is an open and honest relationship with their parents and knowledge of the dangers that keep parents up at night with worry.  I also explain that Cyber Watchtower was not created to spy on anyone, but our job is to protect our clients.  In every client home I am in, I make sure that the client knows we are here to help them keep up with what is going on and to protect their children.

The truth is, we do live in a day and age where it is much easier for kids to live a life outside the realm of their parents knowledge and most of that is thanks to the ever-increasing advances in personal technology.  Most teens today have their own cell phone, tablet, or laptop.  Many have more than one personal device like these that allow them an element of privacy and communication with the outside world that was unheard of in any previous generation.  Therefore, it is not an outlandish thought that parents would like to have some visibility into these devices and what they hold so that they have an idea of what their child doing and being exposed to, as well as protecting them from it.

The debate however, still stands about how much spying on one’s children can damage the parent-child relationship.  Consider this: If a parent were to just use our monitoring and protection services without talking to their children, it very easily can be construed as “spying”.    This is where the communication comes in.  The best thing you can do for your children is talk to them.  Educate them.  We will even offer advice as to how to begin the conversations about our monitoring so that people can feel comfortable initiating the talks.  That’s how important we see this part of the process.

Research shows that once a child thinks he/she is being spied upon by their parents, trust is broken in that relationship and breaking trust is the exact opposite outcome most parents want to see.  From what I’ve seen though, most parents are so concerned about protecting their kids and knowing what is going on, that becomes their focus.

Kirsten Weir, a freelance writer from Minneapolis, wrote an article this year talking about this very issue.  The article, Parents Shouldn’t Spy on Their Kids, had in it some fascinating research centered around the invasion of privacy and personal space by parents and how that impacts the ultimate development of our children into adults.

There is no doubt in my mind that parents need some visibility into their children’s lives.  After all, it is our job to protect and educate them.  As they grow however, it is also our job to teach them about trust and that begins with we the parents having a certain element of trust in their kids.  Not just trust to go into the world and behave how we’ve taught them, but trust in their ability to understand the dangers they will face in the world.  Remember, whether they admit it or not, they trust us to protect them.

Austin Bynum
Chief Watchman
Cyber Watchtower

In addition to running Cyber Watchtower, Austin Bynum is also the proud father of teenage twin daughters.

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