Parents as Undercover Cops Spyware is any technology that aids in gathering information about a person or organization without their knowledge. On the internet, spyware is programming that is put in someone’s computer to secretly gather information about the user and relay it to advertisers or other interested parties. In this case, the ‘other interested parties’ are parents. Parents are becoming more and more protective of their kids. Many are now becoming open to the idea of putting spyware on their children’s computers when previously that was unthought-of.
No matter what ones particular outlook on this subject is, there are pros and cons of each side, and most seem to lean largely on one side or the other, as opposed to being more in the middle. There are many harmful traps on the internet, but does that justify tracking children’s every keystroke on their computer? Harlan Coben believes spyware is more than justified. In Coben’s article, “The Undercover Parent,” Coben states that parents are overprotective of their kids in many other aspects, such as knowing their passwords to their phones, supervising them at all events, and so on.
So why give them their independence when it comes to the internet? I understand what he means and even agree with his reasoning in some ways. Coben says that the ones doing the surveillance are not some government officials; they are loving parents trying to protect their offspring. This argument is valid because it shows that the parents who choose to put the software in computers are really just trying to keep their kids best interest in mind, and those who compare it to being surveyed by a government agency or something of the like is ludicrous.
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Some children are at risk of being harmed through the internet, and do require that surveillance. The children that are unknowingly communicating with a pedophile, or the “43% of teens [that] have been victims of cyber bullying in the last year,” could have had a possibility of being helped if their parents had spyware software downloaded onto their computer. (Stop Cyber Bullying Before it Start’s) Of course, ‘what-if’s’ are always going to be asked, and there is no way that spyware can solve these problems fully. Pedophilia and cyber bullying are both serious issues and need to be stopped.
Yes, spyware could help the problem. Yes, spyware could alert or notify a parent if one of these two activities is going on, which could be extremely beneficial. I agree that spyware should be used in these very specific situations. Coben also believes that having this program reinforces to children the fact that the internet is not a haven of privacy. In an academic journal article regarding Facebook, a website that many children and teens are using, it is written that “We need to teach them that NOTHING IS PRIVATE online, especially their social networks” (Fodeman).
All children need to understand and acknowledge that the internet is not private, but even more so those who use social networking, because once something is typed and sent, uploaded, or anything, it can never be taken back or deleted. Sure you can remove certain things, but somewhere it is still out there, and it can be retrieved if deemed necessary. Everyone has access to posts online, and if the reason they are not misusing the internet is because of their fear of the spyware, then so be it.
There is a fine line between being responsibly protective and irresponsibly nosy, Coben argues. If a parent is going to have spyware on their children’s computer, they need to be doing so for the correct reasons. Doing so because there is a harmful behavior being engaged without another way to stop it is sufficient enough of reasoning. However, trying to be filled in on the latest gossip and happenings in the child’s life is not going to cut it. Parents are supposed to be responsible and looking out for harmful and negative behaviors.
They should not be abusing their powers or the tools given to them to help ensure their loved child’s online safety and protection. I do tend to agree with the various arguments that Coben uses to validate his claims, yet I have two different opinions on the use of spyware technololgy. If ones child is dishonest, engaging in suspicious or risky behavior, install the spyware. If a parent has real evidence that their child is harming him or herself, then the parent has a responsibility to help and protect the child even though their child may not want the watchful eye.
It is more than fair for parents whose children have engaged in some kind of dangerous behavior, to tell them “If you don’t meet your responsibilities to take care of yourself and to stay safe, then I’m going to take whatever steps necessary. If that means looking in your room, looking in your drawers and looking on your computer, that’s exactly what I’m prepared to do” (Lehman). That way the child will know there is a possibility of a spyware being put on their computer and are not caught off guard if something from the spywares report were to be brought up in the future.
The safety of one’s children should be number one on the parents list and they need to be able to do what is deemed necessary in order to protect. Reading emails, having the knowledge of what they search for online, and seeing all of their communications may be necessary for certain situations. The situations where spyware should be put on children’s computers are only in extreme cases of dishonesty, incriminating behavior, or suspicious activities. Spyware may not be the most effective way to protect children, but in such cases the spyware could definitely help the situation.
Besides extreme cases, ultimately parents having spyware on their children’s electronic devices without their knowledge are more harmful than beneficial. A survey conducted of undergraduate students in the United States showed that “64% indicated they strongly disagreed with the statement that ‘spyware is more beneficial than harmful. ’”(Freeman) The main reason putting spyware on a child’s computer that has done nothing wrong is harmful, is because the relationship between parent and child will most likely be impacted negatively when the child figures out there is spyware on their computer.
If parents have children that meet their curfew, take care of their responsibilities, and the like, there is no reason to snoop on them. Good behavior should be rewarded, and telling your child that the lack of interference in her personal space is a direct result of her good behavior reinforces the trust given to that child. Spyware does not aide in creating independence or individuation. A goal of parenting should be to raise a young adult who can make independent decisions and who can have a life of their own. Teenagers are always trying to be individuals and want more independence.
Part of having a life of their own is having a space of their own. When parents spy on their responsible child, the message they are sending is that even though the child has not done anything wrong, the child still needs to be watched and is not trustworthy. Also, children and teenagers usually know an awful lot more about computers and technology than adults do. Because of the difference in generations, most teens and children know how to check for spyware, how to disable it, and how to get around it, more often than not without the parent knowing what has happened.
It is impossible for a parent to keep tabs and know absolutely everything their child does, which they should not, and sometimes it is better this way. Even if a child does not find a way around the spyware, are parents really prepared to know their child's secrets that are not harmful to themselves, such as sexual activity, although can be harmful in some cases, or sexual orientation? Sometimes it is best to be ignorant. Parents should not go looking for things that if they knew would cause issues in the family tearing them apart.
What is the worst that children can get into on the internet? Parents have to understand that their kids are human, and in turn let them be human. They are going to want to try new things, and exploring the internet is probably going to be one of those things. What is so bad about that anyway? It will not corrupt them; nothing "corrupts" people but other people. It is not the internet doing the corrupting, it is those behind what is being shown and put out there, those that are typing in chat rooms and writing their blogs.
It is easy to view kids as possessions, like pets that have to be pampered and hidden from the world, but they are people just the same, and they have to make their own decisions even if they aren't "good" ones. A teenager deserves their privacy just as much as anyone, including their parents. I believe that if parents have taught their children well, with morals and the ups and downs of life and the internet, they need to trust that their child has been taught well enough to not misuse the internet and all of its capabilities.
Joe Kelly, founder of a national advocacy group called Dads and Daughters, states that “Markets play on this fear that something horrific is going to happen to your child, when the odds of that are minuscule. It might happen, but to have their whole childhood predicated on this remote possibility is, in the aggregate, even more damaging. "(Crary) Spyware really undermines all of the trust that the parent and child have with one another. In a survey of 1,006 AOL users, “74. 2% said they perceived spyware to be a personal threat. (Poston) Spyware is seen as a personal threat to so many citizens because of its demoralizing and disrespectful nature. I would not want it done to me, my parents would not want it done to them, and I do not think teaching children that it is okay to have a spyware on someone else is healthy or just. The choice between installing spyware on a child’s computer or not too, can relate to one another and meet in the middle. In some extreme cases where there is no longer an ounce of trust, spyware should be put on children’s computers to protect them from themselves and others.
Although in most cases, spyware is not acceptable because of the harm it does to the relationship between parent and child, and the toll it takes on trust, individualism, and privacy. Parents should have some type of control over their child’s internet usage. Blocking some sites, such as porn or self-harm/suicide related sites, is beneficial and sufficient. Having the computers in the house being put in open areas, such as an office or living room, can also control what children do on the computer because of the fact that they are aware that anybody can walk by and see what is on the screen.
There are also parental controls that make it so the internet is only available at the times set up by the parents. Parents that are still uncomfortable with these alternatives could also have a password set up that one would need to log onto the computer, and only the parent would know that password. That way, if a child wants to use the computer, the parent will always know if they are on it. You should also talk to your children about the dangers of the internet so that they recognize suspicious behavior or activity.
In order to teach more about internet safety instead of simply trying to avoid it, parents need to “Discuss the risks of sharing certain types of information (e. g. , they they’re home alone) and the benefits to only communicating and sharing information with people they know. ” (Householder) All of these alternative suggestions, used solely or by incorporating them all, is a much more useful tool in monitoring computer and internet usage rather than using a spyware. The alternative to spyware does not damage trust, lets the child have needed amounts of privacy, and yet still lets the reins be in the parent’s hands.
Works Cited Coben, Harlan. "The Undercover Parent. " New York Times 16 Mar. 2008: n. pag. Print. Crary, David. "USA TODAY. " USATODAY. COM. N. p. , 05 Sept. 20122. Web. 17 Mar. 2013. Fodeman, Doug, and Marje Monroe. "The Impact Of Facebook On Our Students. " Teacher Librarian 36. 5 (2009): 36-40. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. Freeman, Lee A. , and Andrew Urbaczewski. "Why Do People Hate Spyware? " Communications Of The ACM 48. 8 (2005): 50-53. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. Householder, Allen, and Mindi McDowell. Security Tip (ST05-002). ” Keeping Children Safe Online. US Department of Homeland Security, 16 Feb. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2013 Lehman, James. "Newsletter Signup. " Empowering Parents. N. p. , n. d. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. Poston, Robin, Thomas F. Stafford, and Amy Hennington. "Software: A View From The (Online) Street. " Communications Of The ACM 48. 8 (2005): 96-99. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. "Stop Cyber bullying Before It Starts. " NCPC. com. National Crime Prevention Council, n. d. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
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