Should parents use NSA surveillance techniques to spy on their kids?

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden have revealed details of NSA surveillance programs including those that monitor email and other Internet activity. These revelations have invigorated the debate about sacrificing privacy under the guise of trying to increase security. This is a debate that happens on a smaller scale in the minds of many parents. Should parents spy on their kids' Internet activities in an effort to protect them from others as well as their own potential bad behavior?

Over the past week Mathew Ingram has published a series of articles on GigaOM about what he learned after snooping on his kids' online behavior for a decade. The series provides insights on the pros and cons of spying on your kids online. Here are the posts:

pedobear watching kids online

Original image by kid-josh / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Honestly I'm not comfortable with spying on my kids with keystroke loggers and other spying software or demanding they give me their social media passwords. Kids have always had ways to keep secrets whether in hidden diaries, notes kept in their lockers or even just what stays in their heads. I believe in privacy even (*gulp!*) for my children.

Of course, that's easy for me to say when my kids are just 2 and 4 and only use the Internet to watch videos via apps curated especially for children. Honestly I sort of hope that we are living in a post-technological dystopia by the time my kids are tweens. Sure, it will be a pain to have to kill to defend our food supply and siphon gas for as long as we can find it, but at least I won't have to worry about my kids' sexting pics going viral!

Assuming that there is still an Internet a few (*gulp!* again) years from now I intend to

  • talk to my kids about the risks on online activities;
  • restrict computer use to a public area where I can at least see their reactions even if I'm not actually watching what they are doing; and
  • not allow cell phones in bedrooms at night.

That's what I think now. Maybe when the time comes I may go all NSA on them, but I hope not.

Do you have kids? Do you monitor their online activities?

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