Opinion » Cybernaut


Spying out of love



I was pretty lucky growing up – my parents didn’t ask too many questions and I didn’t have to tell them too many lies. As long as I made it to school every day and brought home decent grades they gave me a long leash.

Other friends weren’t so lucky. One friend had to call home at midnight to check in, then every hour after that. Why exactly his parents wanted to be woken every hour I have no idea, but I suspect they didn’t get much sleep anyway when they didn’t know where their baby boy was.

Others friends ran the risk of being grounded, of punishment chores, of lost car privileges, and of generally being torn a new one if they came home even half an hour after curfew or were somehow caught in a lie.

It was usually worse for the girls we hung out with, although they typically got around the rules by having sleepovers at the home of whatever girl had the most lenient parents or whose parents were away.

These days parents, if they choose, can easily regain the upper hand in the adult-teen relationship, thanks to new technology that lets them snoop on their kids through the family car, cell phones and the internet.

Some of the technology is low tech. One company sells bumper stickers that let other motorists anonymously tattle on a teens bad driving habits via a 1-800 number.

More tech-savvy parents can also install web-based GPS locaters in vehicles, allowing parents to see exactly where their teens go, and how fast they drove to get there.

Because they won’t always have the car, parents can also get their teens GPS cell phones that do generally the same thing.

For smaller kids, parents can now buy GPS watches, RFD tags and another devices that let them know when their child leaves a certain pre-defined area. These devices are for younger kids and have less to do with keeping kids honest than the fear of kidnapping.

Another way parents are snooping on kids is through an array of software programs that track websites their teens are visiting, as well as record e-mail and chat conversations. Growing concern about sexual predators hanging out in teen chat rooms or venues like MySpace.com are fuelling interest in these programs.

It’s an interesting and unprecedented development in the always-evolving parent-teen relationship. Most parents don’t want to spy on their teens, but don’t always trust them or their judgment. They’re also concerned that today’s world is more dangerous and depraved than the world they grew up in.