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Protecting Your Children

NJ Cop Thinks Parents Should Steal Their Kids’ Facebook Passwords

OK, I think this is going a bit too far. Yes, I think what children do on a computer should be generally monitored.  Yes, I think you should learn what parental controls are available to you and utilize some of them.  However, there needs to be a level of trust.  If you try to keylog what your child is doing, or if you try to block a site, that child is just going to find a way around it.

This isn’t several years ago, where computers were rare and it was easier to control what computer they got on.  I remember growing up that I had general access to 2 internet-ready computers, one at home and one at the high school library which was shared by all students (i.e. getting time on that computer was sometimes rather difficult, and very rarely was I able to use it without someone looking over my shoulder).  Nowadays computers and internet-enabled devices are everywhere, and by the time my own child is old enough computers will have permeated society even more.  Put key logging software on your home computer? They’ll use their cell phone if they have one, or a friend’s computer, or the multiple ones at school, or the library, or the local cyber-cafe, etc.  They will find out that you installed the software, and if you compromise their main Facebook account they might just create a fake one.

How do I know a child would do this? Because that’s what I would do!  Heck, I was the “good” child and I wouldn’t have thought twice about creating a secondary Facebook account if I knew the main one was being watched.  I would have also spent a lot of time thinking about ways to get around the restrictions put on me.  Again, I know I would because I did.  Was I being malicious about it?  No!  Generally, I tried to circumvent the restrictions just to find out if I could, and when I was able to circumvent those restrictions I behaved like I normally would.  Had Facebook been around when I was a teenager and I created a fake account my friends knew about but my parents didn’t, I’m fairly certain that I would have just posted stuff similar to what every other teen was posting, but I would have reveled in it because every word wouldn’t have been scrutinized by my parents.

Am I advocating that parents shouldn’t try to protect their children?  Of course not!  As I said above, I think parent’s should learn about what parental controls are available to them and use them appropriately.  If nothing else having those restrictions helped me hone my computer skills.  But I think parents need to internalize that they are not going to be able to protect their children from everything, and that’s OK.  Shouldn’t we, as parents, try to help prepare our children for the world at large?  You can’t do that by protecting them from everything.  I still remember this section from the movie Finding Nemo:

Marlin:  I promised I’d never let anything happen to him!

Dory:  Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.

Marlin:  What?

Dory:  Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.

It’s better watched than read, but the point is still there.  If you were somehow able to completely protect your child all the way till they left home, do you think they’d really be better off?  Age alone does not beget wisdom.  And how do you think they’d feel, seeing all the things they were missing?  Let me put it this way, how would you feel if you were stuck in a glass room, unable to interact with the world but being able to see what everybody else got to do?  If every move you made was watched and scrutinized, your hand smacked if you did the wrong thing but not knowing what is right or wrong, so eventually you become scared to move in any direction?

A exaggerated scenario, yes.  But that’s what using keylogging software on your computer would be like for your child.  No privacy.  No trust.  Yes, it is a parent’s duty to try and protect their child as they can, but the Golden Rule of “Do unto others…” isn’t just for other adults.  If you would hate it being done to you, odds are they are going to hate it being done to them.

True, sometimes that’s the only option open to you as a parent.  Sometimes you just have to say no.  But if you have a teenager and they want to have their own private Facebook account, do you really think the right thing to do is fully invade their privacy, just because you are afraid of anything and everything that might happen to them?  Or maybe, just maybe, would it be better to sit down with your child and talk to them?  Talk to them about all the dangers they may face, and come up with a reasonable compromise?  Wouldn’t that be better than losing your own child’s trust in you?

Just a thought.