Technological Parenting

Salon has an interesting article about parents turning to technology to monitor their children, instead of to other people in their community.

"What is happening is that parents now assume the worst possible outcome, rather than seeing other adults as their allies," says Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology at England's University of Kent and the author of "Paranoid Parenting." "You never hear stories about asking neighbors to care for kids or coming together as community. Instead we become insular, privatized communities, and look for technological solutions to what are really social problems." Indeed, while our parents' generation was taught to "honor thy neighbor," the mantra for today's kids is "stranger danger," and the message is clear -- expect the worst of anyone unfamiliar -- anywhere, and at any time.

This is security based on fear, not reason. And I think people who act this way make their families less safe.

EDITED TO ADD: Here's a link to the book Paranoid Parenting.

Posted on August 3, 2005 at 8:38 AM • 42 Comments

Comments

DLAugust 3, 2005 9:24 AM

Bruce, what part of this is security based on fear? Is it the use of technology, or the entire idea of distrusting strangers that you do not like?

Grant HutchinsAugust 3, 2005 9:25 AM

I remember hearing recently about one of the missing Boy Scouts that disappeared from a Utah campsite a few months ago.

The reporters were talking about how his chances of being found were greatly increased if he didn't adopt the "Never talk to strangers" mantra that parents so commonly teach their children.

I believe the suggestion was that it makes more sense to teach children about in which situations children should not talk to strangers. I wholeheartedly agree. The emphasis should probably be put more on the buddy system and what tactics to use to avoid talking to people that specifically seem dangerous.

Bruce SchneierAugust 3, 2005 10:08 AM

"Bruce, what part of this is security based on fear? Is it the use of technology, or the entire idea of distrusting strangers that you do not like?"

Both. It's relying on technology instead of people, rather than relying on people that make use of technology. And it's the mistrusting of people.

xtAugust 3, 2005 10:30 AM

I only got one paragraph into this article before Salon wanted me to register to read more, but I think I'd had too much of a scare from that single paragraph to want to read any further.

Now I don't mean to start flaming, so forgive me if I do, but I'm concerned for the future of the generation thats growing up in this 'lock-down' style of parenting. There was this article on CBSnews:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/10/01/...

that said the Echo Boomers are a generation of kids who have "never ridden a bike without a helmet, ridden in a car without a seat belt, or eaten in a cafeteria that serves peanut butter".

Now they are the generation of Jason and Ashley Pratt from Gardern State, NY, whom the whole internet just found out who they are, where they live, and the embarrassing detail that Mommy and Daddy have them being constantly tracked by satellite. What kind of sick, twisted civilization are the older generations trying to create here? Which part of life is it that kids like this are going to actually LIVE?

If these kids go to public school, I hope they manage to tune out the jeering now that this has gotten on the web. At 13 and 15, kids are mean. Of course, in light of this kind of ridiculous parenting, odds are that they're home-schooled anyway.

Pardon my bitter sentiment, its probably obvious by now that I'm just another angry kid ;-)

Rob MayfieldAugust 3, 2005 11:16 AM

We cant expect society to excuse us from expecting to do to each other, those things that we choose to do to our children. The things we can get away with imposing on the most vulnerable of societies members define the true norm of what we will really be prepared to accept for everyone.

BrettAugust 3, 2005 11:25 AM

@xt

I agree, it seems that the "right" way to raise a child today is to be way over protective. Instead we want to keep them inside playing video games.

I have a 4 year old, to him everyone is his friend. He is like me, he trusts first. The hard part is that we know there are bad people that would do him harm. In respect to “strangers��?, we are trying to teach him that he can talk to them if we (or other responsible party) are around. That you do not go anywhere with anyone without our permission and if anyone tries to do something to him that he run, screaming towards other people.

He knows all of our neighbors, as do my wife and I, they know him. We know their kids and would fight to the death to keep any of them safe. This works better than any technology could.

LobsterAugust 3, 2005 11:26 AM

What is so scary about this tech?

How different is the 400 yard radius different from watching your kids in the yard, and then going outside to check on them when they moved out of your field of view? Each is moving from a safe place to a more dangerous place and requires a change in parental supervision. Older kids, more freedom, but still parental overview.

When my 14 and 17 year old want to go somewhere, they have to tell me where they are going and what they are doing. Guess what, I have to check up on them. What, I checkup on my kids? Well, yes, I am the parent. And they are kids. If technology allows me to discover when they aren't doing what they said they'd do, I'd call that accountibility not security through fear.

As for trusting the community, well, that would be great. But we no longer have static communities situated around where we live. Of my 5 closest neighbors, only 1 on them have lived next to me more than two years. Knowing you neighbors is good, but trusting your children to them is something else. Sorry guys, the 50s with a mom at home in every house during the day is long gone. We've created this two working family economy, now tech has to help us adapt.

And come on, I'd pay money for a teenager's car that that had enough smarts to alert me and the authorities when it was in an accident and transmit the current location. Autos are one of the biggest killers of teens.

It's easy to put the big scare on location tech, but parents are responsible for their children. Not the government, not the community. The parents.

So, I'll get up and scream and yell with you when they try to tag adults for tracking. But I'd love to know that my daughter has arrived safely at the mall with her friends and isn't embroiled in some life altering automobile accident.

StephenAugust 3, 2005 11:32 AM

The problem with this, as well as with schools and universities blanketing their campuses in cameras, is that it raises children with the mindset "you're not safe unless someone's watching you" rather than teaching them to be independent and make smart security choices. They'll grow up, move out, and settle down in gated communities.

DLAugust 3, 2005 11:37 AM

Maybe the question at hand here is, "What makes a good parent?" There are many possible definitions and reasonable people will disagree. (I like to think that putting in the time and being involved in your kids' lives is what counts.)

The one thing about parenting I have seen first hand is that it is way easier to criticize how someone else is doing it than to do it right yourself. (Hey, sounds like security, no?)

Cell phone tracking is not a parenting silver bullet, but there might be people who feel more comfortable giving their children greater freedom in exchange for this tracking. If parent and child agree and the system works for them, who are we to condemn it?

So, is the decision to rely on cell phone tracking instead of watchful neighbors a good one? Wouldn't you have to know the parents, the children, and the neighbors before you could say? It seems to me that there has been a rush to judgment here.

xtAugust 3, 2005 11:52 AM

@ Lobster

It isn't the technology itself that is scary, although one could argue that it is, depending on how much you value your right to privacy and the right to lie to your parents about what you're up to -- and come on, don't tell me you never did ;-)

"Security through fear", the way I interpret it, means that it's a security measure that precipitates sheerly out of a paranoid fear of danger, not out of a rational decision about your own safety.

Lobster: "Autos are one of the biggest killers of teens... So, I'll get up and scream and yell with you when they try to tag adults for tracking. But I'd love to know that my daughter has arrived safely at the mall with her friends and isn't embroiled in some life altering automobile accident."

Knowing that your daughter has been in an automobile accident does not make her any safer from actually getting in one. She's not more secure through this kind of measure, but your fear would've gotten you to pay for this extra security measure, or to vote for legislation that favored it. That's security through fear; it's a business and it's a political platform, neither of which benefit you.

Erik WessingAugust 3, 2005 12:04 PM

@xt

I admit that this is a hot issue for me, as an adult who was home schooled. But I really found your comment pretty prejudiced.
Most home school parents are not whack jobs. Some of them just want to give their kids a better education than the public schools can provide (which in many locations isn't all that difficult to do). There are plenty of traditionally-schooling parents who would do this. And plenty of home schooling parents who wouldn't. I'd guess the ratios are about the same, in fact.

Davi OttenheimerAugust 3, 2005 12:23 PM

This is a brilliant example of how short-term false-hope solutions are bred; ones which will seem destined to lead to a worse (less-secure) future.

Do we really think that kids will just roll-over and accept technology-based surveillance any more than traditional forms? So here's an interesting conundrum. What if children really take this fear-mongering to heart and the technology teaches them to distrust EVERYONE, including their parents? Trust is bi-lateral, so it is just a matter of time before a failure on one half causes the other to back away. Does this mean future generations will be hardened from an early age with sophisticated detection and evasion techniques? Will they develop methods to band together and develop a protective system to evade persecution by authorities, including their elders (e.g. P2P and IM)? If we think we have insufficient intelligence gathering methods today, this trend is sure to back-fire in a BIG way by training the new generations to be ultra-paranoid of any monitoring, like a self-fulfilling arms-race.

Fear not only makes it hard to process thoughts normally and think rationally, as you are forced to deal with bogeymen above all other concerns, but it conditions people to believe that thinking might actually be unsafe compared to acting on impulse even in every-day situations. Granted, in some scenarios fear is warranted but what ever happened to the "Cry Wolf" lesson?

The article suggests "Harry Potter-crazed kids would gladly give up a bit of their privacy to have their very own version of the Weasleys' magic clock in their kitchen."

Yes, but that assumes children still trust their parents are operating in their best interests. One misstep, or once kids develop enough to recognize that they are being raised on a diet of manipulation based on illogical and irrational fear, I somehow doubt they will gladly do anything without factoring the risks. We're not talking about Santa Claus here, but a pervasive system of distrust based on parents' response to externalities. I suspect at least some children will be able to more calmly and intelligently process the risks themselves and will therefore see their own parents as a threat to family safety. On the other hand, I must readily acknowledge the fact that truly insular families, and even larger social groups, often all succumb to the same base racist and/or xenophobic traits.

As an aside, I find it fascinating to look at how fear plays a role in the election race for the second congressional district in Ohio. The seat is hotly contested by a Marine who served in Iraq (Democrat) and the daughter of a wealthy banker (Republican). The former says Bush is the biggest threat to American Security, while the latter says Americans should worry most about bin Laden. In this context will the voters choose the voice of reason or the voice of fear to represent them? Many of them might have a tough decision today, since they still have some inherent trust of authorities, but children raised through a system of virtually constant false alerts and surveillance will certainly have a different view...

xtAugust 3, 2005 12:26 PM

@Erik

My intention wasn't to say:
"Some people home school, this makes them whack jobs."

But rather to say:
"Some people are whack jobs about their kids' safety, and they probably don't even let them leave to go to school."

Either way, it was an angry and entirely speculative remark -- thanks for calling me out on it. I told you I might flame!

Also, your point is certainly valid -- I'm sure we could both fill an encyclopedia on some of the problems in the modern school system, but thats not the topic of this "forum" ;-)

LobsterAugust 3, 2005 12:35 PM

@xt

xt: Knowing that your daughter has been in an automobile accident does not make her any safer from actually getting in one. She's not more secure through this kind of measure, but your fear would've gotten you to pay for this extra security measure, or to vote for legislation that favored it. That's security through fear; it's a business and it's a political platform, neither of which benefit you.


Your right, she isn't more secure. She would still be in the accident. But in life threatening situations, emergancy services response time matters. Having emergancy personnel at an automobile accident 5 minutes faster can be the difference between being alive or dead.

Oh, and I'm not voting for any legislation here. Just voting with my dollar. I'll take the invasive services I choose to purchase. Otherwise, not interested.

Colin YoungAugust 3, 2005 12:38 PM

@xt

re. automobile trackin: while being notified that your child's car was in an accident wouldn't prevent it, knowing that they are being monitored might prevent the dangerous behaviour in the first place. Kids tend to take more risks than adults because, depending who you ask, their brains haven't developed to the point where they are able to rationally assess danger or they have just not aquired the knowledge through bitter experience. You can't be with your kids 100% of the time (and it probably wouldn't help their development), but if you can get some ability to monitor dangerous behaviour (and car accidents are apparently one of the leading causes of death of children), it makes sense to use it if it will prevent the behaviour. I tell my daughter all the time "don't touch that it's hot" or "be careful" or "don't do that" or "the cat's going to bite you." She doesn't listen. She's 2-1/2. One day she is going to hurt herself, and hopefully it won't be serious (the cat has a pretty decent bite). And maybe a light will go off in her little head and she'll think "hey, maybe that big guy does know something."

That said, the article did pick a number of excessively paranoid parents, who, unfortunately are not, in my experience, atypical, and there are less intrusive ways that could be used for monitoring (e.g. only report in when speeds exceed a certain threshold, etc.).

PaulAugust 3, 2005 12:53 PM

The difficulty with constant technological monitoring is that it makes it impossible to build a relationship with your child based on trust. If the child knows that you explicitly do not trust him (your monitoring system) he will NEVER reciprocate trust. Instead, he will find ways to circumnvent your system, and if he is intelligent, will suceed quite well. This is the same problem you experience with things like cybersitter and other "internet monitoring programs". Any technological monitoring system can be bypassed, and like it or not, intelligent teenagers with a lot invested in suceeding will usually find a way.

For cell phone tracking, the easy solution would be to wrap the phone up in tinfoil, and then claim to be in an area of no service. With a little ingenuity, it would be relatively easy to train the parents to expect spotty or no service when the teen is at the mall. Then the teen can drive to the mall, wrap the cell phone, and then do whatever they please for the duration of their "mall trip". An even easier idea would be to allow the cell phone battery to run down. Or perhaps train the parent to understand that sometimes the phone just doesn't ring, even if it shows as in-service area (this does actually happen with some cell phones now), and then throw the phone in a friend's trunk for a while. That way you have motion to and from accepted locations, and the odds of getting parental calls in that time are relatively low.

The point is that technological monitoring creates a barrier between the parent and child that requires the child to trust the parent without getting any reciprocal trust. This does not promote maturity and accountability.

Davi OttenheimerAugust 3, 2005 1:01 PM

Just one other thought, when I read statements in the Salon article like the following, I can not help but think that humans look to technology first to solve their own personal inconveniences for somewhat selfish reasons:

"But what I do know is if we'd had TAA, it would have saved my wife and me two days of agony, searching and knowing something was wrong and not being able to do anything."

Fine. So you would be able to reduce your own suffering, but at what cost? Is this a reasonable trade-off? Are there other ways to reduce your suffering without also impacting liberties?

Or more to the heart of the matter can power (of adults) even co-exist with liberty (of children)? If we look to some of the leading thinkers in early US history, Madison, Hamilton, and Wilson all argued that power and liberty are not mutually exclusive if they are properly construed and limited. But do parents typically care about caveats such as these, or even whether children should have or enjoy liberties? Perhaps it was because of this that Jefferson (who's views seem to be the most celebrated today) insisted that there was a permanent and irreconcilable conflict between the two.

DLAugust 3, 2005 1:07 PM

"The point is that technological monitoring creates a barrier between the parent and child that requires the child to trust the parent without getting any reciprocal trust. This does not promote maturity and accountability."

If you have not established a foundation of trust by the time your child is a teenager, you have already failed as a parent.

Cell phone tracking is neither good nor bad. It is just one tool in the toolbox for parents. It may work for some and not for others. It is just like a curfew or any other low-tech control. It has to be used wisely and only when it makes sense for the particular child, parent, and relationship. You cannot know what will and will not work for all parents, everywere. There is no such thing.

RichAugust 3, 2005 1:23 PM

"while being notified that your child's car was in an accident wouldn't prevent it, knowing that they are being monitored might prevent the dangerous behaviour in the first place"

Or it might give the child the incentive to hack the tracking device. There's a fine line between protecting them and trusting them. I'm not saying I have the answer, but I think that's the crux of the question. At one end of the scale, we let them do whatever they please. At the other end, we keep them in a bubble. At what point does our fear inhibit their growth and ability to manage their own risks?

This is not your normal security cost/benefit analysis. If we were locking a door, we'd compare the cost of the lock (and inconvenience to open) with how long it would take an attacker to open it. Here, it's not a matter of the cost of the lock. Too big a lock can damage the asset.

pdf23dsAugust 3, 2005 1:30 PM

DL:
"If you have not established a foundation of trust by the time your child is a teenager, you have already failed as a parent."

Certainly. And if you have that foundation of trust, monitoring your child through their cell phone will deal a huge blow to that foundation, either lessening their trust or creating distrust. Children will view it as an Orweillian measure.

"Cell phone tracking is neither good nor bad."

This claim needs support. It isn't trivially true. Even simple tools can have inherent goodness or badness based on the number of potential applications, and how many of those are bad applications. A tool that is much more difficult to wield with responsibility than it is to abuse is a bad tool. Cell phone tracking might be a good tool, but what I hear people saying is that no matter how it's used, it damages the parent-child relationship, (and makes the child less trusting in general,) and that in itself makes the child less secure. For the monitoring to be positive overall, the benefits reaped through the monitoring in situations like kidnappings and auto wrecks and the child getting stuck in wells and mines and such would have to be greater than the damages caused by the very presence of the monitoring. Since those situations are rare, and the usefuless of monitoring marginal in the more common cases, (and the number of false alarms and outright abuses add further to the cost,) it seems that this kind of monitoring is a net loss.

ZwackAugust 3, 2005 1:37 PM

Davi said...
'The article suggests "Harry Potter-crazed kids would gladly give up a bit of their privacy to have their very own version of the Weasleys' magic clock in their kitchen."'

But in the latest book the clock points to "Mortal Danger" all the time for all of them no matter what they are actually doing (actually it flicks to "Travelling" briefly). While no plots against the Weasleys are mentioned in the book they are still in "Mortal Danger". This is not helpful. Knowing that someone is in trouble doesn't help if you can't do anything about it.

Knowing where your kids are isn't going to help against all possible problems. Yes it might help if they are kidnapped. But if they are shot by mistake as part of a drive by shooting?

While trusting your kids is good, what do you do when they abuse that trust? I'm afraid I don't have all the answers. There are times when it would be enough just to know where your child is, and other times when you're more interested in what they're doing, what is going on around them. If you can't trust them does it matter if they said they were going to Joe's house and they are now there? Are they making out there? Are they doing drugs? Are they doing their homework? You don't know you just know that they are where they said they would be.

Unfortunately no technological sensor can tell if a kid is "doing the right thing" or not.

Z.

Davi OttenheimerAugust 3, 2005 1:42 PM

"Unfortunately no technological sensor can tell if a kid is 'doing the right thing' or not."

That's coming out next year...I think it's based on the electroshock episode on Cheers where Cliff asks people to zap him when he says something that might be construed as offensive.

DLAugust 3, 2005 1:47 PM

Cell phone tracking does not need to "deal a huge blow" to trust. In fact, others have pointed out how a wayward teen could defeat the tracking mechanism, so the parent must still trust the child.

Some of you are talking about parent v. child relationships like we're talking about criminal v. law enforcement. As a child and a parent, my relationships have been nothing like that. My parents put limits on me and I do the same.

What if the whole family has these tracking phones so we can all keep track of each other... parent to child, child to parent, and parent to parent? Is this a blow to trust? Of course not.

You can only say "cell phone tracking is bad" in the same way that you might say "grounding a child is bad" or "letting a child go alone to the movies is bad" or "spanking is bad." No matter what you say about any of these, many parents will disagree. All these things are neither good nor bad because it all depends on the parent, the child, the relationship, and the circumstances.

Davi OttenheimerAugust 3, 2005 1:59 PM

"You can only say 'cell phone tracking is bad' in the same way that you might say 'grounding a child is bad'"

Yes, in the most basic sense of good/bad discipline. But the issue is really about handling space/time relationships in a different way with new technology. The technology is new and different enough that some parents might operate under the mistaken assumption that they only need to address "undesireable" symptoms via surveillance instead of dealing with the core issues.

And even beyond that, discipline such as "grounding" and "spanking" are simple enforcement mechanisms, not to be confused with surveillance (a detective control). Surveillance rarely succeeds as a preventative measure, as already discussed above, because it depends so heavily on social engineering.

abcAugust 3, 2005 2:03 PM

Rich said:
"Or it might give the child the incentive to hack the tracking device."

Well, in that case at least they learn a good lesson in computer and/or electrical engineering.

PaulAugust 3, 2005 3:10 PM

@DL:

"Cell phone tracking does not need to "deal a huge blow" to trust."

You completely missed my earlier point. It does exactly that by demonstrating very concretely to the child that trust does not, in fact, exist between the parent and the child. Trust implies a certain amount of faith in the trusted party. When that faith is removed, it becomes apparent to both parties that the trust was a fiction to begin with.

To avoid this difficulty, you could argue that it might be better to use the system without the child's knowledge, but this presents very obvious problems: if the child finds out, they will lose almost all their trust, and if you DO notice something from the tracking, you can't act on it without betraying that you know more than you should.

"a wayward teen could defeat the tracking mechanism, so the parent must still trust the child."

This is the problem with your thinking: you assume that if there is any level of trust (i.e. "I as a parent trust you to not circumnvent these technological measures") that it is the same as "I as a parent trust you to make correct decisions". They are very different, and the technological measures ENCOURAGE circumnvention, whereas the latter ENCOURAGES correct behavior.

All these points are moot if you don't have a good enough relationship with your child to be able to trust them to act correctly on their own, at least the majority of the time. A large part of young adult-hood is spent trying to avoid parental oversight, and I believe that extending parental oversight to this level would encourage rebellion in other, more harmful fashions.

NickAugust 3, 2005 3:12 PM


A question to ask is how well 'kid tracking' and other technological nannies support the traditional goals of parenting - teaching responsibility, critical thinking, and otherwise preparing them for their own adult lives? If the presence of 'kid trackers' only promotes methods of beating the device, it doesn't fulfill its role of enforcing responsibility - the child negates the surveillance, and goes on to do whatever they wish. Contrast this to the old fashioned method of a parent simply asking questions, and perhaps occasionally asking for the teen to call (which puts the burden on the teen) ... where a parent can listen to ambient noise or perhaps discern nervousness in their child's voice. A blip on a screen doesn't convey any of that.

We should also consider how the techno-nanny approach can be hacked, not only by teens wishing to escape being monitored, but by predators. Software exists to allow employers to monitor in-the-field employees carrying GPS-capable phones; why do we assume that ONLY an employer can purchase this software, and what security measures exist to assure that a client can ONLY monitor his/her employees?

A human is not a machine; the model of trust between humans is different than the model of a trusted system. One is dependent on human variables of thought and action; the other has been engineered to conform to the model of trust and cannot, outside of a design failure, external attack, or malicious insider, independently step outside that role.

As for tracking your teen's automobile, the 'extra five minutes' is not based on anything other than wishful thinking. How is the parent notified? Are they personally tracking the car, or is it a monitored service like OnStar? How would a parent-monitored system be superior to another motorist with a cell phone? Again, a car tracking device is being sold as a substitute for parenting - it doesn't answer the question as to whether or not your teenager is responsible enough to drive safely and/or honor their word when they tell you they're going to the mall.

DLAugust 3, 2005 4:16 PM

@Paul:

"You completely missed my earlier point. It does exactly that by demonstrating very concretely to the child that trust does not, in fact, exist between the parent and the child. Trust implies a certain amount of faith in the trusted party. When that faith is removed, it becomes apparent to both parties that the trust was a fiction to begin with."

I understand your point perfectly well. You speak of this monitoring as if it were happening in a vacuum. As if Dad shows up with a new phone for Junior one day and says, "Son, from now on, I am going to be on you like stink on a monkey." But Dad could also sit down with Junior and discuss the pros and cons of monitoring, freedom, liberty, privacy, trust, and mutual expectations. Is there no difference? What if the choice to subscribe to (and use) the service is completely voluntary? Then where is the damage to trust? My point is that there is a right way and a wrong way, as with any parenting technique. Some approaches erode trust while others help build it.

Each parent must make his / her own decisions about what is best. The point I am trying to make is that it is misguided for anyone to presume to tell another how to raise a child. You simply do not have enough information to judge these parents. In your situation, cell phone tracking may tear down the trust relationship. But you should not make the mistake of assuming your parenting techniques are right for all just because they work for you. This is super-annoying, as any parent will tell you. Everyone (especially people without children of their own) always knows better than the parent.

@Davi:

Grounding is not just a punishment measure. One reason for being grounded is that it allows the parent to keep an eye on children. (Oh my, what a blow to the trust relationship!)

Davi OttenheimerAugust 3, 2005 5:49 PM

"Grounding is not just a punishment measure. One reason for being grounded is that it allows the parent to keep an eye on children."

Eh? Given the circumstances, grounding a child is punishment for the child. What difference does it make that it is done in a manner convenient to the parent?

Again, if parents are just going to grab controls that make their jobs easier or more efficient at the expense of the child, technology will have a lot to offer...but if they are trying to make security work properly, there will be tough trade-offs to consider.

NickAugust 3, 2005 6:04 PM

@DL:

"Everyone (especially people without children of their own) always knows better than the parent."

You state that it is misguided for others to tell parents how to best raise their children, but isn't that *exactly* what these companies are doing, whether offering sensible solutions or pandering to parental fears?

dad_and_husbandAugust 4, 2005 12:31 AM

While stories of sexual molestation of children have certainly been sensationalized (especially recalling the McMartin case in the 80's), the sensationalism detracts from the fact that this is a genuine, somewhat quantifiable risk that parents face.

About 35,000 documented cases of sexual abuse of children by non-parents are recorded each year (out of a population of about 70 million, so 50 per 100K.). This is a pretty big number. By comparison the death rate for automobile accidents is about 15 per 100K.
Maybe this means that driving is a heck of a lot safer than I think it is.

When I look at these numbers (I just looked them up), I was pretty surprised and I think that our society is trying to figure out how to deal with a threat model which was clearly incorrect. Of course the GPS/Cell phone transmitter doesn't really address this problem, but it does exploit the fear....

Davi OttenheimerAugust 4, 2005 12:57 AM

@ dad_and_husband

"About 35,000 documented cases of sexual abuse of children by non-parents are recorded each year"

You have an interesting point there, but why exclude parents? I do not know where you found your statistics, but I believe abuse by parents is also a staggeringly common issue.

Childhelp (http://www.childhelpusa.org/pdf/stats2005.pdf) offers the following info, based on research done by the US Dept of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/cm03/index.htm):

"83.9 percent of [abuse] victims were abused by a parent. 40.8% of child victims were maltreated by their mothers acting alone; another 18.8 percent were maltreated by their fathers acting alone; 16.9 percent were abused by both parents."

So, couple that pattern of serious parental abuse with advanced surveillance/tracking technology and you probably make escape even more of a nightmare, if not and impossibility, for the children.

another_bruceAugust 4, 2005 2:05 AM

when you surveil your child, the child will engage in creative thinking to defeat the surveillance as he or she gets older, and this is good practice for defeating corporate and government surveillance. it's all good!

blueMagooAugust 4, 2005 10:23 AM

A lot of this just goes away if you raise kids you trust and associate with other trustworthy people.

Plus you have to come to grips with the risk of allowing your children to go off on their own as they mature. I would gues that they will figure out a way to beat any attempts at monitoring them from a far in very short order, most likely by just using Google.

RichAugust 4, 2005 10:43 AM

I once saw a flash card kit for teaching young children (4-6) about safety. Some of the cards dealt with what do to when faced with a 'Dangerous Stranger'. The only indication of what a DS was seemed to be that they stood in alleys and wore trenchcoats.

Are we only just now realizing that a DS can come in all shapes and sizes? Perhaps our kids need the Iseali Airline Security training that Bruce speaks of!

GregAugust 4, 2005 2:01 PM

I'd be more worried about raising a citizen who was comfortable or at least familiar with being constantly under surveillance.

GabrielAugust 4, 2005 5:28 PM

Cuando comprendí el significado del título del libro "Beyond Fear" pensé haber comprendido en detalle lo importante que es guiarse por la razón más que por el miedo.

Sin embargo, al pensar en mis hijas, ya no es tan claro para mí. Evidentemente, tengo miedo por ellas.

Tengan en cuenta que emigré de Argentina principalmente por la seguridad personal y de mi familia.

Creo que estar compensando el "no hables con extraños" con la idea de que tienen que ser sociables --que es la imagen de gente educada y culta que instauraron en mí mis padres.

When I had understood the meaning of the title's book "Beyond Fear", I thought I learned very deeply the importance of been drived by the reason instead of fear.

However, thinking about my little girls, it's not so clear to me right now. Evidently, I have fear of their security.

Consider I've go to work abroad, out of Argentina, just for security reasons.

I beleive I'm compensating the "stranger danger" with the general idea of they must be highly sociable --that's the concept of educated and high respectable people my parents put on me.

CCAugust 5, 2005 9:34 AM

It seems to me that the goal would be to gain the advantages of connectedness and communication while avoiding the disadvantages of shattered trust and the child feeling like he/she is being watched all the time.

I like the suggestion by a previous poster to have all the family members be "findable," not just the child. That way, it's everyone in the family trying to stay in contact with each other and anyone is always able to contact anyone else in the family, rather than a big-brother "we're watching you" sort of context.

Other ideas would be to frame it as a convenience feature rather than a security feature - "Oh, your sister's driving by the grocery store - let's have her pick up some bread."

Another idea, and I don't know if the tech is set up for this, would be to opt for a less-constant state of tracking. As a parent, I'd be comfortable with check-in pings, rather than constant tracking. If the child can just send out a message like "I'm at the mall," "I'm leaving the mall," "We went to Jerry's house instead of going to the movies," or whatever, that's still in the realm of "just let me know where you're going" instead of "I'm watching you from a satellite."

You could simply have the tracking be voluntary. Tell the child that he can leave the tracking off most of the time, like when he's at school, at home, at a friend's house, etc., but if he's going to be going someplace unexpected, someplace where we wouldn't normally look for him if we needed to find him, to turn it on. And have no punishment for forgetting to turn it on.

And finally, you could always be up-front about your concerns about the effect the tech has on your child's state of mind. Tell the child that if the tech is making him feel that you're too closely watching him, that he always has the option to simply turn it off, no harm, no foul.

The bottom line is that this tech is easily thwarted ("Oh, sorry, I accidentally left my phone at home!"), so you'll still have to trust your kids. You're only going to be able to track them when they want to be tracked. If they're going to sneak off somewhere they don't want you to know about it, they'll accomplish it. So don't even set up a system where you try to exchange trust for tech.

But that doesn't mean that you need to turn away completely from the advantages the technology can offer - having a family that communicates with each other is a good thing, and technology can facilitate that in a world where we're increasingly separated from our kids. You just have to be responsible and empathetic about the way you use it in your household, and be aware enough to know when it's doing more harm than good so you can shut it off.

elegieOctober 30, 2005 8:45 PM

Establishing community may not be easy, but it would likely be better than the use of tracking technology.

If a kidnapper managed to separate a tracking device from a child, they might well leave the device in a different area to misdirect searchers.

BrianMay 19, 2006 8:18 PM

These are all good points for this technology and I even agree that it can be beneficial in the safety and security of our children but it is still a loss of freedom for our children. The future adults and leaders of our nation. Allowing them to experience an accepting this loss ensures that as adult they will be more readily to accept more loss of freedom for them and there future children, a vicious cycle that will continue until there is no more freedom to lose. Fear of danger can be more dangerous then the actual danger especially when it is used to manipulate the public to give up there rights, moral values, and the overall personal freedom for the false hopes of safety. There will always be danger and yes technology can be a useful tool to prevent it, but the best defense for you and your children is knowledge. If you a have that much fear for you child's safety, be a parent. Don't use technology to raise and babysit your children so you don't have to. Don't talk to strangers isn't going to cut it either, you have to get involved with there life and explain why. Why not to talk to strangers, why not do drugs, why not to do this or do that. Explain it! It always gets to me when parents say cause I said so instead of just telling there kids the answer. Children today are much more mature than we were and know more things as high school freshmen then we did after four years of college. Treat them as people that can think and comprehend what your saying, because guess what they can. Studies show that children learn 80% of there behavior by the age of 4, reach puberty by 12, and have had sex by 14, all before they can even drive, if you believe they won't understand why you can't trust a stranger then maybe you should put a tracking devices on them and monitor them 24/7. Or you can get to know there friends, there friends parents, there friends home phone numbers, cell phone numbers, email addresses. With so many ways to contact someone these days there shouldn't be any reason why you don't know where your children are. Or I could be wrong, maybe tracking devices would only help to make the world safer. No more crime because everyone is being monitored 24/7, fewer health problems because the tracking devices can monitor our vitals, instant help to anyone in need, finding missing persons quicker and easier, help identifying threats and preventing them. And all we give up is our privacy, isn't it worth it. I mean seriously, not being sarcastic but wouldn't it be worth it? I don't know myself but it does has it good points, I guess it just how much your privacy is worth to you.

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