Keeping track of your Kid, How far should you go?

Last night I had an opportunity to see how an op/ed letter I wrote to my local paper impacted a reader. It was at the end of my son's Boy Scout Troop meeting, and the Scoutmaster usually closes the evening with words to ponder. In this case he talked about a letter that a parent wrote about the insanity of a new trend of surveillance devices that are being marketed to parents so that they can monitor their child's every move.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I realized the Scoutmaster was reading my letter. "Our job as parents is hard enough without the added pressure of having to know our kid's every move at any given moment. It used to be (and still should be,) that one of our parental duties was to instill moral behavior in our offspring, so when our children are out of our immediate control, they would know how to control themselves. It's nuts to expect parents to shadow their kids at all times. We're only teaching them to be fearful."

Specifically the message the Scoutmaster was imparting to the room full of Boy Scouts was for them to be responsible for their actions at all times, whether with a parent or not. It was gratifying to hear my parental wisdom from the words of this youth leader.

But let's go back to that original opinion article by Ellen Goodman that riled me up in the first place. (URL is listed at the end of this article.)

Ms. Goodman was not advocating these surveillance devices; she was alerting us to their existence. Here are some highlights of the companies she noted:

  • Bladerunner offers a GPS equipped jacket that lets you track your kids every move within 43 feet. (Oddly, this item is marketed to parents of toddlers, not teenagers who are more likely to end up in more mischief.) Which begs the question, why wouldn't you know where your toddler was at all times? Perhaps the parent is too distracted talking on their cell phone? Instead of dishing out about $500 for this ridiculous item, hold your little one's hand.
  • Wherifywireless.com has a Wherifone that allows you to track anyone, anywhere. It's a little scary, this selling of fear in the name of peace of mind. What happens when an abusive spouse uses this device to keep track of his/her mate?
  • IMsafer.com offers one stop source to monitor your child's online profiles, which also has red flag software that looks for conversations that go "astray". You can also network with other parents to share information on potentially dangerous people. I see that this service could easily be abused as well by controlling individuals.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for keeping all children safe. But I find it unnerving that society is relying more and more on outside surveillance devices. Where will this lead? I see a society that will become inured to privacy violations. I see a society that doesn't have trust in anyone, and is fearful of all.

Personally, I believe that we're straying away from our basic instincts and intuition. We're not teaching our children to be aware of their surroundings by attaching devices to them that are supposedly there to keep them safe. We are not teaching them to be self-sufficient. We are telling them that they cannot be trusted to be on their own and that no one out in the world can be trusted.

However, if we put down our cell phones, logoff the computer, and shut off the TV and video on a regular basis and spend real time connecting with our children, we can teach them the value of trust and honest communication.

Let's stop all this fear-mongering. Yes, there are real dangers in the world, but how about we approach these challenges with real solutions and awareness. Let's talk to our kids and bring them back into the fold; a perspective of viewing the world through love, not fear.

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