Parental Surveillance: to Survey or not to Survey

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Contemporary parents’ options for keeping track of their children’s activities and whereabouts are numerous. Most people think of cell phone tracking as the most convenient tool for monitoring their teenagers’ lives, and it may indeed be convenient, but there are other sides to using this and other types of surveillance, i.e. ethical and psychological. How can a balance be attained between keeping children safe and relatively independent and parents – relatively calm?

Technological accomplishments are now available to the masses, and cell phone surveillance is among the accessible options. It used to be that only private investigators and corporate security departments (aside from police, of course) could intrude on people’s privacy and go unnoticed, now anyone can do it with the least amount of effort. If we consider the short-term efficiency, cell phone spying seems like a perfect method for worried parents to make sure that their teenagers are not out of line, but as far as the long-term behavioral effects and psychological consequences go, it is a dubious issue.

A false sense of security?

We live in the times when realizing that your child has left home without his or her cell phone sets off a panic attack in both parents and children. However, the sense of security accorded by the cell phones is a double-edged sword. Indeed, a great number of the threats children encounter today are linked closely to mobile devices and the Internet. Cell phone monitoring creates a feeling that parents can avert all these dangers in the making, but the situation is far from being that simple. Some of the surveillance we now consider a desperate necessity only emerged a decade or two ago, and the need for it is often exaggerated by the increasingly apprehensive atmosphere in the world in general, and, in particular, the marketing strategies that play on the parents’ weak spots, one of which, undoubtedly, is a child’s safety. However, continuous communication with your child or teenager is the key to a better relationship, where sharing is a norm, and no surveillance is required.

Technological options

However, if you do choose to track your child’s cell phone, there is a vast range of software on the market which allows to read messages, turn on the camera and microphone remotely, keep track of social media activity, track current location via GPS, even listen in on conversations. These include mSpy, Highster Mobile, FlexiSpy, and many others, from free to rather pricey versions.

Psychological and behavioral effects

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In any case, the effect that such surveillance has on both parents and children is debatable, to say the least. It most certainly affects the quality of the bond in a negative manner, since the parental lack of trust can not go unnoticed, even if the actual spying is. It will eat away at the parents and make them desire more and more control over the child’s surroundings, even though teaching children how to be safe and independent may be a wiser thing to do. Meanwhile the children, who are well aware that a possibility of cell phone surveillance exists, may become more secretive and less likely to share with parents of their own will. Moreover, keeping your child on a short virtual leash is not particularly conducive to the separation they need to be making from their parents during the teenage years. How will they learn to live independently and make responsible choices if they are not allowed any freedom, which includes the freedom to have their privacy and the freedom to make mistakes? Will they learn that the key issue is whether your behavior is discovered, rather than the behavior itself? It is a very fine line that the parents, as (hopefully) the wiser ones in the parent-teenager relationship have to be very conscious about.

The teen years are the most challenging for both parents and teenagers. We hope that you’ll be able to come up with your unique combination of mechanisms to ensure your child’s safety, including deliberate and well-considered surveillance choices, while preserving a trusting relationship.