Do Kids Deserve Privacy Online?

In the digital age, being a parent is harder than ever. With a new news story coming out every day about a teenager getting caught “sexting” or another teen suicide due to an online viral rumor, it can be difficult to sit idly by and let your kids put whatever they want out on the internet, for all to see.

A recent article in the New York Times outlines options parents have for monitoring their children’s actions online. It’s no longer about simply friending your kid on Facebook and watching his or her status updates; it’s now about installing software that will show you their every move:

If, a few years ago, the emphasis was on blocking children from going to inappropriate sites on the family computer, today’s technologies promise to embed Mom and Dad — and occasionally Grandma — inside every device that children are using, and gather intelligence on them wherever they go.

A smartphone application alerts Dad if his son is texting while driving. An online service helps parents keep tabs on every chat, post and photo that floats across their children’s Facebook pages. And another scans the Web in case a child decides to try a new social network that the grown-ups have not even heard of yet.

The article raises some interesting questions: is this sort of surveillance ethical? Is it the best way to protect our children? Or are we breeding a sense of distrust within our families?

No matter how we choose to monitor our children’s online activities — if we choose to do so — it’s an age-old joke that the kids will almost always be one step ahead of the adults. Parents used to be able to follow status updates on social networks. Now, with new settings that allow users to choose who sees what on sites such as Facebook and Google+, it isn’t enough just to “be friends” with your kid. This may lead some to believe that monitoring software is necessary.

On the flip side, put yourself in their shoes. If they find out that their parents are monitoring them, that can start a whole new argument about the right to privacy. Think about when you were their age; wouldn’t you have been angry if someone had broken the lock on your diary and read it? Some may argue that kids don’t have a right to privacy, but kids are people, too, and they should be allowed to explore and make mistakes, just as adults are. Just a little trust goes a long way.

Personally, I feel that this type of software is treating the symptom and not the actual disease. Monitoring a child’s activity, whether on the internet, phone, or other device, can alert you to problems. It’s good for parents to know if a child is texting while driving or posting inappropriate pictures. However, the real problem is that we are not spending enough time teaching our young people about the perils of the devices and programs they use. If we focus more on education — telling kids that everything they put on the internet is public and searchable in some way, or that texting while driving is sometimes more dangerous than driving while under the influence — we can rest easy that, given the choice, our kids will make the right decisions.

What do you think? Do you think software like this is an invasion of privacy? Would you use it if you had the chance?


Related Stories:

New York City to Track Kids with Electronic Tags

More Than 5 Million Facebook Users are 10 or Under

Kids 13 and Under Could Join Facebook Soon: What are the Risks?

Photo Credit: whiteafrican


Carol Johnson
Carol Johnson5 years ago

I believe that children and teens should be monitored by their parents if they go online......too many bad things can happen to them if they're not careful........

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago

Yes, but parents have the right to monitor their behavior as well. This is not an either or situation.

Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago


Dorothy A.
Dorothy A5 years ago

Today my son is 16. I've always tried to balance his privacy with looking out for him. He knows II can check what he does on line and I'm smart enough to know that he could create another identity with another server and it could take me years to find out, if I ever did. While technology is a new way of communicating, I think kids are still attracted to the same kinds of trouble. Technology just makes our/their world much, much larger. Now we can have friends from all over the world and we can only,judge them by what they tell us. Is that really different from someone you meet at school or the YMCA? Teaching, and using, good judgement is important both on the web and in the real world. When my son and I talk, I try to find out what's going on in his life and I make an effort not to judge or freak out when he tells me something I'm not thrilled about. After all, I want him to tell me.

So yes, I think it's ok to check out what your child is doing on line, but I think you have to make sure they know you'll be checking. More importantly, YOU need to know if your child really wants to outsmart you, they are probably going to be able too, at least for a while. Remember to ask yourself if you really want your own parent to know EVERYTHING? I'm always agast at the parent that raises their child in prison-like environment the when the kid turns 18, the parent is done and the kid is expected to handle everything,on his own. Just like us, our children aren't idiots as

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago


Christine Stewart

A qualified NO! I wouldn't sneak behind a kid's back and read everything they've written, but I would tell them that I would check the history on their computer, and occasionally look in on them to see what they're up to. (I don't have kids, you can probably tell !)

Antonia Windham
Antonia Windham5 years ago

I don't see that children should have any right to privacy from parental supervision unless the parent consents. Parents are responsible for their children's wellbeing and safety. Some children're more worthy of trust than others, but that should always be the parent's call. It's a balancing act and the parents are the ones that need to do the balancing, not the rest of us.

Debra Griffin
Missy G5 years ago

Some kids yes. Some no!

Kelly Rogers5 years ago

Of course, they need privacy. They are little people. It will be interesting to see if voyeuristic crimes increase from this generation. SCARY, SCARY thought

Bill C.
Bill C5 years ago

The images are of small children in that case the child needs 100% monitoring.

We have socially forgotten the rope the parents hold can only be lengthened with trust and respect for the fact the rope can be quickly pulled in.

Speed monitors should be used with rules that the parent realizes they have to keep. Get busted loose the right to the car for X amount of time and required (no social) transportation will be done by parent. Then the child gets to start over and use a drive with only a parent, to a licensed driver to alone.

Parenting is like being a Cop who has learned when to loosen the rope and when to draw it back for the safety of the child.

If you do it close to right in 20 years you will be thanked.

If they forget let me thank you for being a parent who gets the measure we seek is many years away and as a parent you are molding the artistic but useful pot while the pot calls you a moldy old pain in the ass.

Its called love