A Parenting Dilemma – Why it is okay to “spy” kids while they are online?

A guest post by Michael A. DenBlaker, Founder www.imview.com

Three years ago before we even started developing imView I had absolutely no opinion on monitoring kids computer usage.  After all, my focus had always been on corporate consulting and I had very young sons and my business partner’s children were all under the age of 10 at that time.  However, once we started our research into this space, I soon realized the pressing need there was for parents to gain awareness as to what their children were viewing and more importantly who they were talking to online.

We identified two major challenges though.  First, it is a very simple fact that today’s kids know more about the computer than their parents.  As an example, I am 39 years old and with the exception of typing term papers in college I never used a computer until I had my first “real job” at 23.   Then there is my 6 year old son who already knows how to open a browser and access bookmarks to get to the Curious George website!  It is just amazing how much kids know already.  The second issue is related to privacy of children.  Traditionally, I have many socially liberal views and was at first philosophically against this so called “spying” on kids.  However, after much research into this market we soon realized that there was a large business opportunity.  So for the sake of commerce I quickly put my personal views aside.  Funny enough though, my opinion quickly changed.

When we rolled out the first release of imView we not only had a large pool of beta customers, but also ran the product extensively on our home computers.  At the time my business partner’s daughter was 13 years old and actively using the family computer.  She is an accomplished artist and spends much time on related websites.  On one of the sites there was the ability to chat with other artists and she soon engaged with one individual over a period of several weeks.  Of course, she knew what her father did and that she was not supposed to be chatting online (but we all know how kids are).

So, one day after her father discovered what she was doing he printed out all the chat exchanges from the past weeks that had been captured by imView and laid them out on the kitchen floor.  What started out as very innocent, over time turned into his daughter giving out several pieces of personal information.  Now, I am not saying that the person on the other end of the chat was an online predator or even an adult, but over the course of these chats the information given was quite extensive.  The other chat participant was able to gather information such as name, age, town she lives in, school, and personal interests!  What is important to point out again is that this occurred over several weeks and several chat exchanges.  I DO NOT want to be an alarmist because thankfully nothing scary ever happened here but the simple parenting mantra remains –  we don’t want our kids talking to strangers let alone give them personal information.

Obviously, this question of kid’s privacy is brought to my attention on a daily basis.  Three years ago I had much different opinion than I do now.  The bottom line is that children are innocent and trusting and they need to be watched online just like we watch over them on a shopping trip to the mall.  The Internet brings strangers into our homes and as parents we need to arm ourselves with the tools necessary to keep kids safe.

So, when it comes to privacy I vote for keeping them safe by knowing what they are viewing and who they are talking to online.

For more information please feel free to contact Michael directly at Michael@imview.com

Michael’s Blog:  www.knowtheirworld.com

3 thoughts on “A Parenting Dilemma – Why it is okay to “spy” kids while they are online?”

  1. Michael,

    Child protection involves many things in today’s society, and parents absolutely must know what their children are doing online. Protecting our children is not spying. It is doing everything within our power and ability to keep them and our families safe.

    Not everyone our children come in contact with turns out to be a predator, but how would parents know that if they aren’t paying very close attention to what their kids are doing online?

    One of the scariest things about the “advances in technology” is the number of children and teens who have those darn webcams attached to their computers. Many parents don’t know the dangers of webcams, but typically focus on telling their kids not to go to chat rooms etc.

    Children and teens have webcams in their bedrooms, where predators know how to turn on the webcam by remote, and the kids don’t even know they’re being watched.

    It’s great that the situation you describe did not turn out badly, but more and more kids/teens are talking to adults online without knowing it and the situations don’t end up nearly as well.

    Parents, you need to know what your kids are doing online at all times.

  2. I totally agree BUT also believe creating a set of rules and telling them all computers in a household are watched. They are children living at home and home is run by the parents. Computer usage is no acception. Talk to them about the monitoring and explain why you want to know what happens on the computers in your home. Its better than betraying them with evidence. Also when you catch undesirable behavior or conversations begin by asking them about their computer friends and review the rules about giving out info or meeting strangers. Sometimes a trust is built up with a cyber friend and the child innocently opens up as well. Talk to them about the dangers and to not trust everyone. Just as you would warn them about strangers in malls or cars etc. Use the tool to help parent not keep a police state! You might even find your child is screaming for help by writing certain things and this may be your only key to intervention and help. How many parents of suicides and child abductions only wish they knew more about what was going on.
    Tell them you have the software installed.

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