Technology that has driven a wedge between parent and teen has at the same time provided parents with tools they can use to keep tabs on their troubled teens.
Today’s parent, whether worried about their teen’s well being or just plain nosy, can use software to track their child’s every move, keystroke, and Facebook post. It’s a controversial parenting tactic that could sabotage a parent-child relationship or save a teen from making a life-changing mistake.
Teen Tracking: Is it Spying on Your Kids or Simply Good Parenting?
Danine Manette is a criminal investigator and mother of two who comes out clearly on the side of what she calls “monitoring” teens.
Manette says parents are obligated to look out for the welfare of teens whose brains are not fully developed.
“It’s not about trust, it’s about the fact that we’re in a new world and every time you turn on the computer you’re opening up your home to millions of strangers,” she told ABC’s The View recently. “This is a new voyeuristic era where it’s not important to do unless you’re being watched doing it.”
Manette monitors her own two teens but is open about the fact that she will be “checking up on them.” She advocates tracking to investigate unusual behaviour – from failing grades, to extended absences, excessive moodiness, or a change in appetite or friends.
Parent and digital media and marketing executive David Churbuck says there’s a fine line between monitoring a teen’s Internet use and spying. He believes parents should limit “snooping” to making themselves administrator of their teen’s computer, knowing their passwords, and checking the browser history to see which sites they’ve been on.
“Use it (the browser history) to back track into the closed sites,” he writes in his blog at www.churbuck.com. “Look around. Use your judgment. A photo of junior with a crack pipe or posting a recipe for how to cook crystal meth from Sudafed is worth talking about.”
Churbuck says open communication between parent and teen is the best way to keep kids out of harm’s way.
“The best thing you can do for your kid is tear out clips of recent articles exploring the phenomenon of employers and schools looking at what candidates and applicants say online before making hiring or admission decisions,” he says. “Letting a kid know that their Internet presence can follow them forever is the best favour you can do for them.”
So what are these so called “tracking” technologies and how do they work? Here’s an overview of just a few on the market today.
Cell Phone Tracking With Mobile Spy
Installed on a cell phone, mobile spy records all phone activity including incoming and outgoing text messages, photos, and sounds. Teens can delete their call and message logs but they will still appear when parents log on to the Mobile Spy website to review their teen’s cell phone activity.
Reading Teen’s Messages with Computer-Monitoring Software
Programs like eBlaster and PC Tattletale provide parents with a glimpse into their teen’s secret life on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Keystroke recording technology allows parents to see what their child’s password is and to read all messages posted, received, or sent through instant messaging.
Tracking Your Teen With Family Locator Plans
Many service providers sell cell phones with Global Positioning System receivers that track a user’s location. Companies like Teen Alert Alive offer plans that track a teen’s location as well as the direction they are traveling and how fast. Another program, the Sprint Family Locator, sends a text message to parents whenever their child leaves a designated area.
Car Tracking Devices
Vehicle tracking devices come in two varieties including permanent GPS installed under the dashboard to record not just speed, but distance, and hard braking. GPS technology installed in a cell phone can also be used to track where a teen is, how fast they’re traveling, and in what direction.
*Article provided courtesy of Venture Academy, a residential behaviour treatment program for troubled teens.