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Social media monitoring: Is it good or bad parenting?

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Reuters Photo/Beck Diefenbach

(Read caption) Social media monitoring and surveilling your child's online activities requires a balance. Xavier Schmidt of Menlo Park has his picture taken by his parents outside Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, the night before the company's IPO launch, May 17, 2012.

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"Reflecting on a cellphone app developer’s claim, I’m thinking that tracking our kids’ movements, moment by moment, isn’t the best way to enhance “family awareness.” Those are the words of Chris Hull, CEO of the company that developed the Life360 tracking app, in an interview for Time. Is that “awareness” as in “surveillance”? Oddly, Time interpreted Hull’s reference to family awareness as “familial communication,” a stretch the app marketer doesn’t even make.

Here’s what Canada’s premier media-literacy organization, MediaSmarts.ca in Ottawa, found in its research about digital-age “family awareness”:

“The parents we spoke with were beleaguered by fear of danger and exhausted from the burden of constant vigilance. Although the exact nature of [the] danger is poorly defined, many parents told us that surveillance is now equated with good parenting, and that the days of trusting their children and providing them with space to explore the world and make mistakes are long gone” (linked to here). I so agree with MediaSmarts.ca’s co-director Jane Tallim that surveillance “runs counter to the mutual trust, confidence and communication between parents and their kids that is so essential to helping children develop the skills they need for digital life.” That’s the foundation for safety that lasts way beyond childhood.

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