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Spying on your kids Internet activities: two extremes, the truth somewhere in the middle.

Terry Cutler Digital LockSmith Inc.

By Terry Cutler

We at terrycutler.com have always said that structured surveillance of your children or teenagers while online is the key, and also limiting the time online. This works, yet there are always those who believe that tracking, monitoring and checking out their activities is just as feasible.

In other words, parents who instinctively protect their kids are being encouraged to spy on their Internet activities.

What parent wants their child harmed, harassed, hassled and victimized by the unscrupulous? We always talk to our kids about drugs, drinking and smoking, and we expect curfews to be respected. Don’t  talk to strangers applies to online activities as well as on the street.

We do know, of course, we cannot always be online, and we also know that humans are social in nature so contact, through face-to-face or online will happen.  To spy, would mean a 24/7 type of activity – Iphone, tablets, websites, text messages, and then finding any teen chat sites, like Facebook, Twitter and so on. The once failsafe protection was isolation in his or her room, and surely won’t work. Then we begin to think about the computer at a friend’s house, or at school, or on the bus? What about those WiFi hotspots?

So as parents we are at a crossroad!

How far is too far?

I’m sure the message is clear – you cannot be on top of things all the time.

Then comes their possible resentment of you, and you are in a lose/lose situation. Further, they will find ways around the spying (which usually requires installed software). I am exaggerating. It is presumptuous to think that all parents spy and all children and teenagers resent it and then defy the spying.

It is a tough call for parents.

It is an assumption that talking with kids or teenagers about the potential dangers online is enough to ensure children will delete, block or ignore strangers online. It is also an assumption that every child out there is irresponsible and looking for new ways to trick Internet filters and then purposely visit sites that are inappropriate.

But the reality, as many are pointing out, is that Internet filtering and parental control software are made these days so that parents don’t have to be computer experts to use them. Here is an interesting debate from 2013. Some filters can be customized allowing all traffic through while flagging parents when a certain flagged activity takes place, like inappropriate words during IM chats, new and unknown incoming email addresses.

We have no argument that talking with your child about the growing dangers that are present on the Internet is a must. So that middle ground is to cultivate a relationship of honesty and communication, not always easy, a given.

We don’t think that spying will ever be effective. An effective solution is to talk to your children. Learning from a young age our children will understand that people on the Internet could be deceptive, and that there is personal information that shouldn’t be shared.

What do you think ?

To help protect your child:

  • structured surveillance of activities can go a long way towards protecting our children
  • limiting their time online
  • Terry Cutler offers courses on Internet Safety for Kids
  • Terry Cutler can provide advice and training to parents looking for more information on Child Online Safety
  • Our kids have never been more connected. Everything has an internet connection: Iphone, tablets, websites, gaming, text messaging, etc

However, it can reach a point of being over-bearing:

  • Parents are encouraged to spy on their children’s activity 24/7
  • When does it become snooping?
  • Don’t children have a right to privacy to some degree as well?
  • Filters can be customized allowing all traffic through but alerts the parents when something suspect has been flagged by the monitoring software.
  • Things to set up an alert for: inappropriate words via IM chats, new email addresses or phone numbers, words of a sexual nature, etc
  • Just having a discussion with your child is a good place to start when it comes to improving Online Safety

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