As kids use technology more and more--and at younger and younger ages--to connect and interact, a world of opportunities--both positive and negative--opens up to them. Most parents realize this and feel torn between the thrill and the threat posed by the savviness with which their kids navigate an online community.
Armed with a gamut of spyware and other technology monitoring resources, the question inevitably arises: Is it a good parenting practice to monitor the online actions of kids?
This very question was the topic of the New York Times' most recent parenting roundtable, "You Can Track Your Kids. But Should You?" On the one hand, such oversight can be equated to child protection. On the other hand, this type of parental involvement is seen as everything from a stark invasion of privacy to, at the very least, an affront to such privacy.
Contributor Ellis Cose sums it up: "The only meaningful question, therefore, is: How do we best protect our children without violating bonds of trust or undermining their own sense of independence?"
For Lynn Schofield Clark and Emma Llanso, the solution lies in establishing a dialogue about the dangers that online freedoms engender. "Because [...] the best way to protect children online is to discuss the issues and teach [kids] how to help themselves. Ultimately, surveillance is no replacement for digital literacy."
We love this answer, and not because we think digital literacy is the end-all, be-all of 21st century kids' success. We like this response because of its subtle promotion of emotional literacy. We like it because it encourages parents to foster an open dialogue with their children. Most of all, we like it because it reframes a discernible parenting dilemma into an opportunity for the cultivation of trust and frank exchange.
In the end, when children can talk to their parents about their thoughts, feelings, and actions off-line, parents will be less compelled to monitor what they do online.
Image from Microsoft Office