As a parent, I want to be actively involved on how my kids interact with the world and how the world interacts with them. Whether these interactions are on the sports field, the academic classroom, the religious centers, or in the online world, I want to set the best environment I can then let me kids wander freely. This doesn't mean that I control their every action, nor does it mean that the walls are padded and the food sterile... it simply means that I will not tolerate sporting parents to badmouth from the sidelines; I will not tolerate academic environments that simply disregard science or those that use the phrase "97% of scientists agree therefore so should you"; I will not tolerate a religious or spiritual environment that is not all-inclusive; and I certainly will not tolerate online predators, scam artists, thieves, or others wishing to take advantage of me of my kids.
I've had notes on this data breech for a few weeks now and have put some serious thought into how I justify not actively monitoring my kids online. If I'm at a soccer game, I can simply take the kids to a different club if I hear other parents destroying the game. I can change schools or churches if I detect some philosophy that goes against my desires to give my kids all the tools they need. But how do you monitor online use to know if your kids are being abused online? That was my first approach to this thought, but I think I had the wrong frame of reference.
In my other examples, I wouldn't simply join a soccer club then monitor the behaviors -- I would research more about the club before I joined. Afterward, I wouldn't actively seek out those traits I do not like, because you're guaranteed to find them. However, if those traits surface enough that I recognize them, they aren't the traits I want around my kids, and then I leave.
The same goes for online activity. I wouldn't simply plug in a router and a laptop and say "have fun". I would set the environment through research and monitor for anything that makes me concerned. In this case, I would build a separate net for the kids and have their devices only connect to that protected network. I can easily set up parental controls like time of use and content filters to definitely keep out "accidental" clicks for data. I would also teach my kids how to use the web so they know what it means to "click here to claim your $1,000 gift card" or download a game from an untrusted source. I would also tape over the web cameras... all of them... do it! Do it now!
One thing I would NOT do is to install monitoring software on their devices. You would think that at any time, you could simply open your app and see what your kids are doing online. Truth is, you would probably miss all the subtleties of the generational gap and given the 24 hours in a day, you would miss the 10 minutes they are looking at inappropriate content. You would also miss the fact that since you can see what your kids are doing, so can everyone else.
"...where hundreds of gigabytes of files, chat logs, location records and other data was dumped after the company reportedly declined to comply with extortion demands made by hackers who’d broken into mSpy’s servers. Included in that huge archive is a 13 gigabyte (compressed) directory referencing countless screen shots taken from devices running mSpy’s software — including screen shots taken secretly by users who installed the software on a friend or partner’s device."
We seem to fail to grasp the concept that anything online will be online forever and that access to data by one person means that it is physically possible for another person to see that same data. In the wrong hands, your kids' photos, snapchats, conversations, contacts, email addresses, telephone numbers, *LOCATION DATA*, and other identifying information can be spread around the world with a simple post to a message board. I'm not worried about some pervert on another continent, I'm worried about the pervert that realizes the geolocation data is 3 miles away. I'm worried that high-end thieves are scouring that same data build intelligence models for a property or an area so they know when to strike. I'm worried about future employers doing social media scans and not hiring because of data that was leaked online under the pure intent of protecting my kids.
So I am against actively monitoring your kids. I would suggest other ways to get much better information about them as people... talk to them. Ask questions about what they do online. Get specific information about people, places, and information they encounter. If there is a problem, you will know it through direct admission or through obvious ambiguity. I wouldn't take the chance of providing the information to someone you don't ever want to have access to this information.
If you have questions of concerns about how you can protect your kids online, please contact me. I offer seminars for church groups, schools, and other organizations where parents want to be in charge of their family's online safety.
For more stories about data leaks from online monitoring, please visit http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/uk-spying-software-used-more-countries-monitor-463280. [Article image downloaded 14 June 2015]