Spying on your kids

March 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Is it OK to spy on your kids? Danine Manette, criminal investigator and author of the book, "Ulimate Betrayal," looks at what is within reason for parents.

Ethical debate: Is it right or wrong to spy on your kids

Con Argument: The only way to really know what's going on with your kids is to have open, honest communication and dialogue. You will never completely know what's going on in their lives, but if you show them respect and dignity by not snooping through their things or intruding on their privacy, you will have a better chance of having open, honest communication. Spying and sneaking around causes resentment and does not build positive, productive parent child relationships.

Pro Argument: The first thing to know is that you are not snooping or spying, you are staying informed and "monitoring" your child's activities. Now, a complete cavity search is not necessary, however if your child is exhibiting signs or symptoms that something is not right: change of appetite, excessive moodiness, hanging out with strange new friends, grades dropping, extended absences, or anything else your gut tells you is abnormal for your child and not explained by puberty, you need to do some investigation. It is your responsibility to raise your child into adulthood. The human mind is not even fully developed until 25, so as a parent it is your duty to protect and monitor your child in whatever way you deem fit.

Setting boundaries:


-Keep computers in visible public places: Kids are less likely to be involved in dangerous online activities if there is a risk of mom passing by and saying, "Oh, what site is that?"

-History: Make sure kids know you will be regularly checking their computer history and monitoring their computer usage beforehand. That way, self monitoring kicks in and they will be less likely to be involved in inappropriate activities if they know you'll be checking.

-Activities: Google their names and email addresses. This can help you to identify which online groups, forums or communities they belong to.

-Spyware: Always make yourself the administrator on their computer so that you have full access to all parental controls and search history. If necessary, install a program such as Net Nanny which prohibits certain sites from being accessed. Additionally, if you have a reason to be really concerned install a program such as Web Watcher or eBlaster which block access to certain things or record what is occurring online. These programs take real time snapshots of what is on the screen of the computer they are monitoring and emails the parent if certain words are used or images are accessed.

-Video Games: Be careful of video games that open up live communication between your child and other gamers until your child fully understands online safety.

Cell Phones:

-Keep track of the cell phone bill so that you can at least know what times text messages are being sent and received, i.e.: during math class? At 2:00A.M.on school nights? These are things parents need to be aware of, even if they don't know the content of the messages.

-Parental Monitoring Services: My Mobile Watchdog.com. For $9.95 per child you can get full access to all text messages and can be alerted if messages are coming from unapproved sources.

Old School Common Sense:

-Get to know your child's friends and especially their parents. Just because your daughter is not telling you her boyfriend is abusing her that does not mean her best friend did not share that information with HER mother. Establish a parental network which will help you keep better tabs on what's going on at school and elsewhere. Danine has both of her children as friends on their Facebook and MySpace accounts. She said, "I don't make any noise there, but it does allow me insight into what is going on within their circle of friends." And importantly, never reveal your information source it will close opportunities to access information from that source in the future. -Make time to talk with your kids. Go out for pizza on Friday's or have a day where there is no ipod or radio on in the car on the way to school so you can talk. You will never know what's happening in their lives if you don't make the time to find out first hand. This may avoid the need to investigate on your own. Remember, when dealing with teens, time is something you MAKE, not something you have.

- The bottom line is this: Do not hesitate to do whatever checking or searching is necessary if you believe there is something deadly, dangerous or destructive going on in their lives. You do not want to be the parent who stands around at your son's funeral bragging about how you two were best friends because you never pried, even though you knew he was hooked on drugs. Perhaps if more parents made themselves aware of their children's activities we'd never have heard of a little school called Columbine.

About Danine Manette:
Danine Manette is the author of the popular book Ultimate Betrayal: Recognizing, Uncovering and Dealing with Infidelity."

Danine Manette received a Bachelor's Degree in Social Welfare from the University of California at Berkeley and went on to earn her Doctorate from Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, California. She has worked as a Milieu Therapist, a Juvenile Probation Officer, and currently works in the field of Criminal Investigations.

Her ability to confront the topic of deception and betrayal is rooted not only in her educational and professional experience, but most notably she is a living testament to the effectiveness of the tactics and information presented to the reader.

Buy the book on Amazon: Ultimate Betrayal

For more information, visit www.ultimatebetrayal.com.