A survey from AVG found that the majority of parents covertly spy on their kids' Facebook accounts 60 percent, to be exact. While some parents can completely justify spying for safety, others are appalled at the lack of trust in the family. So who's right?
As a parent, your results will vary depending on the level of privacy you give your child. Some kids can totally handle the freedom, while others can find themselves involved in dangerous and even deadly behavior. This begs the question: How much is too much when it comes to spying online?
Safety. It's no secret that some teens lack reasoning skills. Most adolescents under the age of 18 think about the here and now rather than future consequences. That's where some kids get into trouble online. By posting personal information, sending racy pics and even associating with shady characters online, they put themselves at risk. Spying parents can often nip the problem in the bud, which creates the perfect opportunity for a dialogue about what is and isn't okay online. If you don't know where your child is going late at night, using something like a GPS tracker may help keep them out of danger but it may also spoil trust.
Trust. If your child or teen finds out that you've been spying online, signing into a private account or checking out a web browsers' history, you could have a serious power struggle on your hands. To teens, privacy is a valuable commodity. Breaching the trust relationship you had could make your child less likely to share personal information with you. Covertly spying could land you in hot water, even if you think you're doing it for the greater good try explaining that to a hot-tempered 16-year-old!
Embarrassment. For some parents, online spying isn't just a way to keep kids safe; it's a way to lay traps to catch kids in the act. Like the guy who filmed himself shooting his daughter's laptop after she posted whiny remarks on her Facebook page, other parents have been accused of taking spying too far, and of using it as an excuse for public humiliation.
So where does a parent draw the line? The smartest way to monitor your child's behavior online is to keep in touch. Make sure that you're a Facebook friend and arrange for permission to check your child's account every now and again. Talk about what's okay and what's not okay online, and reserve the right to check the sites your child frequents, their online friends and their internet history. That way, spying becomes open monitoring, rather than a covert operation that could completely backfire. By talking to your child about online safety, it becomes less of a prisoner-guard relationship and more of a teamwork atmosphere.
If you do catch your child participating in unsafe online behavior, take a moment to get all of the facts (such as who initiated the activity, how it could have been prevented, which websites were involved and so forth) before you have a discussion. Jumping to conclusions and starting an argument could result in further trust issues and more problems with online monitoring.
After all, cut your kid some slack. If you've done a good job teaching internet safety and making sure that your child's computer is an open book, you should be able to monitor activities without having to go into James Bond mode.