The Ethical Implications of Digitally Spying on Your Children

06/14/2016 03:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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In a perfect world, we are all kind and compassionate and honest towards our family. We respect our elders, understand our children and care for our peers. But this is not a perfect world, is it? This is a world where children lie to their parents, where parents abuse their offsprings and where the closest we can get to a solution for a muddy relationship is a divorce. There are about 1.5 million cyber attacks each year, which means about 3 attacks per minute. These so-called cyber crimes include hacking, phishing, scamming, spying and so much more. While cyber crimes can victimize any person of any given age, teenagers are the most vulnerable to this type of crime due to their constant involvement with an uncensored social world. The social media is no longer limited to haughty entrepreneurs looking to spread business through social media marketing, it is now the heart and soul of every modern human being. In fact, according to the Telegraph, 4 out of every 10 teens are bound to fall prey to some form of cyber crime, be it major or minor. With this rate of criminal activity, it is almost impossible for the law enforcement alone to tackle this crisis, which is why common people are being encouraged more and more to come forward and take a step to secure themselves from cyber attacks.

As adults, we clearly understand the need for cyber safety. But what about our children? According to a study conducted by NetMums.com, most children start using the internet at an average age of just 3 years. If that is truly the case, we need to implement certain security measures to ensure that our kids are safe from the violent and unruly world outside, but the question is how. In the digital era, it is not only impractical but also illogical to bar your children from using the internet, given that it is required for almost everything nowadays. What, pray tell, is the solution then? Restricted access? Digital spying? Or perhaps just proper counselling?

There is no shortage of ways to monitor your child's activity online. You can check their browsing history, configure the home router to keep a record of all sites visited, or simply use a software to record the sites visited while your kid is online. And if that isn't controlling enough, you can always install a popular software like Kaspersky Internet Security or Quick Heal Total Security and use its parental control options to dictate which sites your child gets to visit online and which sites they do not.

But that's just the computers. What about cell phones? The center of all teenage activity and adolescent socialization? Having a master key to your child's smartphone is like having a VIP pass to his brain, where you can creepily lodge his every thought and observe what he does all day. Of course, there's software to help you do that too. Mobile Spy, XNSpy and Mama Bear that will provide you with all around solutions to spy on your children in the most inconspicuous way possible. It is important to understand, however, that these softwares are not simply mediums of invading into the privacy of your kids, they are important tools that are to be used in order to regulate unwanted behavior within your family or employee base. But that doesn't mean they cannot be used in an unethical way.

I already see a lot of red flags the moment I used the word "unethical". Allow me to explain. I am not against proper parenting. And sometimes, as a responsible parent, you must find a way to regulate what your child sees and does online. He is, after all, new to this concept and easy to victimize. But there are lines. It is important for every child to learn to individualize in the course of growing up into a youth, and if you over-intrude, you are at the risk of not only disrupting a healthy growth procedure, but also alienating your own child and creating an unwanted distance. It gets even worse when it turns into demeaning game of cat and mouse with you secretly snooping on your kid and him slyly sneaking out the window to go to a friend's party. That is not the relationship between a parent and a child, that is not good parenting. If you do need to monitor your child and use a firewall to direct what they visit online, you can do so, but make sure that you ask for their consent first. If they have nothing to hide, they will probably agree. If, on the other hand, they feel emotionally devastated at the idea of you not trusting them, they are probably more sensitive than you thought and you should take a step back and apologize. If you do indeed believe that your child is engaging in wrongful behavior and playing you for a fool, consider contacting the right authority, in this case, a relationship counselor. Sometimes, you don't need to do any of these and a simple and honest talk with your kid regarding suitable online behavior is enough. Treat your kid with respect, only then can you expect it back. If they are indeed using you or betraying your trust, you will be the first to know, and there are positive ways to handle that too. They are, after all, children.

And to a bunch of unnamed parenting blogs that said that children don't have a right to privacy in their own house, that it is indeed a privilege granted by their parents, hear is a quote from the official website of the UNICEF:

Article 16 (Right to privacy): Children have a right to privacy. The law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their families and their homes.

I won't say that it is wrong to monitor what your kids do online, under some circumstances, it is even good parenting. But be wary, do not be so obsessed about protecting your children that you end up losing what's most important: their trust.