Podcast 396: Does modern parenting require spyware?
In this episode, Ben and Ryan chat about the tools available to parents who want to keep tabs on their kids while they are playing games or using apps. What roles do developers play in determining the ethics of these situations, and how do software savvy adults manage child rearing in an era where life is increasingly lived online?
The conversation was inspired by Epic’s decision to make it’s Kid’s Web Service’s parent verification free to all developers.
Ben has been grappling with these questions since 2013, when he wrote about allowing screen time into his young son’s life.
One thing that old article does remind us; how incredibly indestructible the original iPad was. A true tank of a tablet!
Thanks to our lifeboat badge winner of the week, javimuu, for explaining: How to get a Thumbail / Preview image from Server Video Url in Swift 3.0monitoring, spyware, survelliance, the stack overflow podcast
This is not an ‘ethical’ problem, it’s a life/death problem. Just look at the number of teen suicides attributed fully/in part to social media. Parents would be crazy not to check up on their kids (and no, teens are NOT going to tell you when they’re being bullied).
It IS an ethical problem. Don’t be deluded into thinking ethics don’t apply in a practical sense. That’s what they’re for. If you betray people and intrude upon their privacy, you’ll be teaching them to be betrayors. That will not end well for anyone involved, including greater society.
While I’m not advocating for or against this issue, it’s not betrayal if the kids know in advance that you’re doing it. A lack of privacy, yes. A breach of privacy, no.
Parent – child relationships do not always follow the normal societal rules of how adults should interact with each other. In some ways family life is a microscosm of society at large, and that can be a great teaching tool. But in some ways (very important ways) it is not and shouldn’t be. You can teach your kids how to foster trust and respect amongst adults and also teach them how to be good parents. They are 2 different things.
This is my slightly controversial take:
As a 19yo boy, I can say that if I was a parent, I wouldn’t allow my child to access social media, or any site which allows them to connect to anonymous people until 15yo. I will allow them instead to play any game or watch some more mature film while explaining to them the sensible things. Or use the PC offline, while not ignoring the homework. Especially in the formative years.
That’s the age I started having a Facebook account. It’s not because of porn or games or films. These are less harmful . It’s because the Internet is still a wild place and promotes extremist, radical thinking. Echo chambers, Cesspools, misinformation. A lot of junk online. Also people don’t have remorse for their online insults. Even adults get corrupted by reading all that stupid crap. I am thankful for God for giving me a little wisdom. Also I am thankful to my parents for giving the right amount of freedom and appreciate Critical thinking.
No tracking app will stop kids use devices. They might just buy a really cheap phone or find really old devices. Might also go to other friends that allow them. Kids can be really desperate and are not stupid. The best approach in my opinion, is to be a humble parent, to be transparent and honest with your child and also encourage him to be honest. Also you should educate him why is it good to listen to you.
If you are underage, you still need some guidance because life has some challenges that can be easily overcame with education. Also parents should let teenagers have freedom gradually.
PS: I know I still have to learn a lot. My opinion might change, who knows. Also sorry for my broken English.
great take, you are humble.
Thanks for raising this topic. This is an extreamly important subject both for families and for society. Unfortunately as a parent i fell like it is a hard fight.
As a parent i play all alone against the greatest minds of our time. They are payed to use their incredible talents pull my kids to the funnel of clicks and views. There are tons of brightest people payed by trillion dollar companies to get attention from your kids and make sure they never leave the screen.
So it is not about me or my kids. 20 years and even 10y ago it was. Also it was possible to be protected by a common sense and a critical thinking. Not anymore. It is not a winnable fight for the kid.
And surely from other side we have governments in many countries who will be happy to jump on a censorship opportunity.
Unfortunately we as parents are all alone here to protect our kids. Protect just for a little while, just to make sure they develop their critical thinking and be somewhat ready before they get unlimited access to all of that.
Without engaging with this content at all, I can answer that question:
I think the question should be asked the other way around – does spyware require modern parenting, because good parenting surely wont require any spyware. The need for spyware is a sign of bad parenting and bad parenting is surely a consequence of too much technology, which in return is easier to be abused by solutions like “spyware”. I have heared that mothers hold less eye contact with their babies because they look too much at their phones – maybe setting up the spyware. Its actually funny how developers think for every problem there has to be an algorithm, a technical solution. This misunderstanding about life is the core of all those problems. So put your phone away before you install any spyware
Well said, Dean. There isn’t always “an app for that”. Parenting isn’t a plug and play, set it and forget it thing. There’s no doubt a use case for using software to curb negative side effects. Some people are letting the algorithm be the driver. And it shows.
Funny you should mention chipping – Black Mirror did its own take on that some 4-5 years ago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arkangel_(Black_Mirror)
We have a number of questions on this on Parenting Stack Exchange, and on Information Security Stack Exchange. As a parent of 3 I am keen on making life safer for my kids, but as an information security professional I would never ever install spyware on my kids devices. It presents a massive risk to their safety. Much greater than any supposed benefits. At best, parental spyware adds vulnerabilities to communication with your kids. At worst it can be actively used to track or video or even communicate with your kids! If your kids are smart, they can subvert tracking spyware, or use burner phones etc
Of far greater importance, and one I am actively involved with, is educating children. Help your kids understand risk – there is ample info out there (see Channel 4’s “Cyberbully” starring Maisie Williams) and help them know they can trust you if things happen.
My advice – be a parent. Don’t delegate any of that responsibility to an app or device.
Speaking as a former child who was constantly spied on through my cell phone. No. Good parents should absolutely avoid abusing their own childrens’ trust… How is this even up for debate? If you’re paranoid about the government spying on you, then think of how paranoid you’ll make your kids when they discover how creepy you are… That’s how you create serial killers. If that’s what you want, then I guess there’s no rules on how to parent… but I’d think most reasonable people don’t want to violate their own children and force them to grow up with severe trust issues…
What about putting cameras in your kid’s bedroom. Would you consider that acceptable? How about in their bathroom? Their shower? Why are some people creepy enough to even consider spying on their children??? Please do the world a favor and castrate yourself.