Spying on the Kids: Good Parenting or Paranoia?

Let’s face it, our kids invented nothing. Sneaking out the window after mom goes to bed? Been done. Putting a miniskirt in the backpack to change into at school? Done – over and over. Spending the night with a friend, only to be at a late movie with a boy mom despises? Of course! The things we do as teens seem to bleed over into our own children as they become teens. It’s almost eerie how our children become us, and we become our parents.

As I ponder the thought that perhaps I have become my mother, I can hear the background sound from the shower scene in the movie Psycho. I shudder to think of what names I called my mother in my journals, and how I felt like she was the most evil mother on the planet for not allowing me to run wild in the streets. As I have gotten older, and had children of my own, those thoughts seem silly, but the reality is – my children think the same of me, I’m sure of it.

Even the best of children lie or tell us half of the story, omitting the parts we won’t approve of. Having a teen daughter that’s famous for her half-truths, I check up on her. I meet her friends, get phone numbers of the friends she will be with, and I do call to check in if she will be gone overnight or over a weekend. I’ve been called paranoid plenty of times, but let the record show my daughter isn’t on drugs, using alcohol, or pregnant. There will be a time when she will live her own life, have her own home, and I won’t be able to track her movements. It’s not that I don’t trust her, it’s that anything can happen, and god forbid she becomes a missing person, I will at least know who she was with last, phone numbers for those people, and have some idea on where to start the search.

I will also admit that when she uses my computer to message friends or do homework, I will check the history and view the sites she’s been on. I don’t see myself as unreasonable or overprotective, I see myself as a concerned mother that will get answers, one way or another. I’m still a far cry from buying night vision goggles and following her around town. I see nothing wrong with checking up on kids.

Even cell phone companies are helping us out with phones that have a GPS (global positioning system) tracking device in them. Disney Mobile has a feature called Family Locator that allows you to locate the kid’s phone, and even gives you a map of where they are. There is a virtual demonstration of this feature on the Disney Mobile website.

Sadly, our children are being watched by others when we aren’t around. The website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children even has a cyber tipline to report cases of child sexual exploitation including child pornography, online enticement of children for sex acts, molestation of children outside the family, sex tourism of children, child victims of prostitution, and unsolicited obscene material sent to a child.

Parents should consider using parental controls on their computers as well as their televisions. There are so many concerns that little Bobby will see a woman’s breast on cable, but the reality is, he can see her entire naked body on the Internet for free. Some sites require payment for viewing naked women or videos of them in various compromising positions, but there are just as many sites that will show the same things for free – Google it sometime.

As parents you can never be too cautious. Our children are our number one priority, and they should be. Talk to them. Let them know that you aren’t spying on them, you are making sure they stay safe and return home. Let them go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website and see how many children are missing just in recent days or weeks. Discuss their activities with them, and get a time table established on when they should return home from them. an example would be if Susie has cheerleading practice 10 minutes away, from 4pm until 7pm, and it takes her 30 minutes to shower, change and return home – she should arrive no later than 7:45pm – giving a little time play for traffic or stopping to get gas.

Make sure your kids can reach you. If you cannot afford to get your child their own cell phone, and are going to be home all night, let Susie take your cell phone with her in case she needs to reach you or call the police for help. With some cell phone carriers, you can put your home number on the frequently called numbers list, which means it doesn’t use your minutes to call home.

Keeping track of your children doesn’t have to be a negative experience, if it’s handled properly. Let them know why you check up on them, and why you have set a curfew or a schedule of times they are to be expected home after school or activities. Allowing your children to help you plan the time schedule around their activities will also help them to see that you are a concerned parent, not an evil spy raining on their parade.

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