New Technology Lets Parents Spy on Their Children

August 20, 2011

By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Every once in a while, a rumor crops up on some extreme fringe of the Internet that the government will soon require children to have microchips implanted under their skin for more effective monitoring.

These rumors may seem like science fiction, but the reality is that some parents might just go for the idea, especially those of college-age children heading off to campus for the first time.

“There’s an argument that when kids go to college, it is a rite of passage, a time for increased independence and responsibility,” says Steven Roy Goodman, an educational consultant in Washington, D.C. “Is it absolute independence? Some argue that if the parents are paying, then no, but that it should be some independence. But just how much is the question.”

Goodman says that with technological advances, there is the opportunity to keep in touch with kids when they leave the nest easily two or more times a day through Skype and cellphones, something that wasn’t possible just a generation ago.

The question is, as Goodman says, just how much parents should use technology to monitor their children, who, let’s remember, the law recognizes as adults.

Dr. Fran Walfish, a Hollywood, Calif.-based child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, says that parents who scramble to monitor their children’s behavior and whereabouts while they’re in college may be trying to compensate for not helping their child build his or her own sense of independence. “If a parent hasn’t developed a sense of trust in a child’s character, in their morals and values by then, it is probably too late,” says Walfish.

Sarah Schupp, founder of University Parent, a company in Boulder, Colo., that produces informational materials for universities to help parents deal with sending a child to college, says that she really discourages parents from using technology to monitor their kids. “I encourage parents to allow their children to be independent,” says Schupp. “I think that some of these devises parents may use creates mistrust and is dangerous for the parent-student relationship.”

Goodman, the educational consultant, disagrees – to a point. While he acknowledges there are certain age-appropriate developmental markers that parents should support, there may be times when some amount of monitoring may be useful.

“It’s a little bit like a red light camera or radar,” says Goodman. “If you’ve been given notice, then that doesn’t bother me: If parents tell their children they’re using technology to monitor them, then students have been given notice. I think it’s a two way street, the parents and students should decide together.”

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