Parents as Undercover Cops
Spyware is any technology that aids in gathering information about a person or organization without their knowledge. On the internet, spyware is programming that is put in someone’s computer to secretly gather information about the user and relay it to advertisers or other interested parties. In this case, the ‘other interested parties’ are parents. Parents are becoming more and more protective of their kids. Many are now becoming open to the idea of putting spyware on their children’s computers when previously that was unthought-of. No matter what ones particular outlook on this subject is, there are pros and cons of each side, and most seem to lean largely on one side or the other, as opposed to being more in the middle. There are many harmful traps on the internet, but does that justify tracking children’s every keystroke on their computer? Harlan Coben believes spyware is more than justified. In Coben’s article, “The Undercover Parent,” Coben states that parents are overprotective of their kids in many other aspects, such as knowing their passwords to their phones, supervising them at all events, and so on. So why give them their independence when it comes to the internet? I understand what he means and even agree with his reasoning in some ways. Coben says that the ones doing the surveillance are not some government officials; they are loving parents trying to protect their offspring. This argument is valid because it shows that the parents who choose to put the software in computers are really just trying to keep their kids best interest in mind, and those who compare it to being surveyed by a government agency or something of the like is ludicrous. Some children are at risk of being harmed through the internet, and do require that surveillance. The children that are unknowingly communicating with a pedophile, or the “43% of teens [that] have been victims of cyber bullying in the last year,” could have had a possibility of being helped if their parents had spyware software downloaded onto their computer. (Stop Cyber Bullying Before it Start’s) Of course, ‘what-if’s’ are always going to be asked, and there is no way that spyware can solve these problems fully. Pedophilia and cyber bullying are both serious issues and need to be stopped. Yes, spyware could help the problem. Yes, spyware could alert or notify a parent if one of these two activities is going on, which could be extremely beneficial. I agree that spyware should be used in these very specific situations. Coben also believes that having this program reinforces to children the fact that the internet is not a haven of privacy. In an academic journal article regarding Facebook, a website that many children and teens are using, it is written that “We need to teach them that NOTHING IS PRIVATE online, especially their social networks” (Fodeman). All children need to understand and acknowledge that the internet is not private, but even more so those who use social networking, because once something is typed and sent, uploaded, or anything, it can never be taken back or deleted. Sure you can remove certain things, but somewhere it is still out there, and it can be retrieved if deemed necessary. Everyone has access to posts online, and if the reason they are not misusing the internet is because of their fear of the spyware, then so be it. There is a fine line between being responsibly protective and irresponsibly nosy, Coben argues. If a parent is going to have spyware on their children’s computer, they need to be doing so for the correct reasons. Doing so because there is a harmful behavior being engaged without another way to stop it is sufficient enough of reasoning. However, trying to be filled in on the latest gossip and happenings in the child’s life is not going to cut it. Parents are supposed to be responsible and looking out for harmful and negative behaviors. They should not be abusing their powers or the tools given to them to...
Cited: Coben, Harlan. "The Undercover Parent." New York Times 16 Mar. 2008: n. pag. Print.
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