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Social media monitoring: Is it good or bad parenting?

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What about a call or text?

Sure there are times, such as after a natural disaster (Life360′s developers invoke Hurricane Katrina in their corporate story) or if someone’s being stalked, when family members need to keep track of each other. But most of the time, is it not enough to call or text? What kind of message are we sending our kids when tracking their every move? How do they respond?

Actually, MediaSmarts found that constant monitoring can have the opposite effect parents are seeking: “The teenagers who did share the details of their lives with their parents were the ones who were not routinely monitored. Trust in this case was mutual,” indicating that “monitoring alone may work against open family dialogue.” So it’s a balance we need to strike. I love the way media professor and parent Henry Jenkins puts it: We need to watch their backs, not look over their shoulders.

Finding the right balance is never easy, but it’s good to know that constant tracking hardly helps us find and maintain it. And if the motivation is fear, what impact does that have? It could make a child more fearful or send the message that it’s okay to let fear rule. It could also reduce our credibility and parent-child communication (if the child feels the fear is irrelevant or overwrought) and send a kid into stealth mode or into seeking workarounds, which is all too easy online and with portable, pocket-size devices. And, of course, delivers exactly what marketers of surveillance tools are looking for: a bigger market.

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